Thursday, January 6, 2011

Do You Remember Your First Time?

It is a one of the major milestones in the journey from girl to woman, and every shopaholic remembers it in great detail.

I'm talking about the First Big Purchase. For some it may have been a Louis Vuitton handbag; for others, simply an item of clothing that was bought at full price from a chain store. A First Big Purchase is not characterized just by its expense; more importantly, it symbolizes the crossing of a mental threshold. Perhaps you believe that you have "made it" or are "worth it". Or maybe you're the superstitious type and place your faith in a certain article's trasformational powers — if you buy it, they will come...

My first time took place in San Francisco in the early 1990s. I was fresh out of college and looking to start a career as a television news reporter. The job I had at the time — assistant to the assistant of paper printing and videotape rewinding — didn't pay much, but I really wanted needed the right wardrobe to show the world I what I was made of. So I put all my money on red. Red blazer, that is.

It was in the window of a Bebe store on Fillmore Street (before Bebe became a ubiquitous mall fixture, specializing in the type of clothing that could only be worn to a nightclub.) My First Big Purchase was a wool gabardine blazer the color of cranberries. Double breasted, with covered buttons and peaked lapels,  the jacket was cut with shapely princess seams back and front. I had to have it.

Back in those days, it was unthinkable to take a purchase home at first sight. Instead, I made excuses to walk past the storefront, going to a certain coffeeshop while there were five others closer to my apartment. One day, I mustered the courage to walk into the store and try it on. The blazer fit like it was made for me. Yet, I hung it back on the rack.

As much as I tried to put the red blazer out of my mind, it was all I could think about. In my daydreams, I schemed of ways to stretch my budget to make it mine: eating ramen every night, avoiding buying gas, and making no other purchases for months. At the end of that summer, it was time to make my resume tape, a video of myself announcing a mock-newscast that would be sent out to hundreds of prospective employers around the country. That red blazer would complete the package.

Giddy, nervous, excited, hopeful, scared... those were just some of the emotions in my heart as I handed over my credit card to the clerk. The price tag: $198.00.

That red blazer was my go-to job interview outfit, and I continued to wear it weekly for years. Although it is probably a bit dated now, the red blazer is still hanging in my closet, a symbol of who I was and who I hoped to be.

Did you have a First Big Purchase? Or am I overthinking a piece of fabric?


  1. My last year in college was focused on searching for that perfect interview suit. I have to tell you that as an accounting major looking to land the big job with one of the Big 8 accounting firms, red was out, blue or black was in, sadly. Red definitely would have been more exciting but would have made for a disasterous first-impression. ;o)
    I do have to say that my first big purchase was a car. In the mid 1980's I purchased a Honda CRX, remember those? In an act of independence, I decided that this was a good car because it came from a friend of my sister who could not afford the payments on the year -old car. It was a reasonable deal, so it seemed at the time. I decided I would do it. My Dad, I think, was a little concerned in the hastiness of my decision, and unknowingly to me, scoped out the cars at the local dealership to figure out what I had done. I think he was a little disappointed that his oldest daughter completely by-passed the opportunity to discuss this big purchase with him.
    I held onto that car for about 10 years. I know I have some pictures around here somewhere of the CRX. I then upgraded to a "RED" Acura. Of course it was good too, because it too was built with Honda parts. I held onto that car for about 16 years and just recently sold it. There are pictures of that one too. I am still a fan of Honda and you will find me driving the mommy bus, called the Honda Odessey.

  2. Linda, I remember all my business and law friends buying those navy blue suits! Sounds like you made a good decision with the CRX, with or without your dad's advice. I'm a Honda gal, too, as you can see from our matching Mom vans ;)

  3. Just stumbled onto your blog from another site, and I can't wait to read more! My first big purchase of clothing was a white (with pink stripes)dress with huge shoulder pads. I purchased it with money from my 16th? 17th? birthday from Hit or Miss (at full price.) I can remember how wonderful I felt wearing it when I went to church AND later when I interviewed and became a Hit or Miss employee. I was devestated when I saw that dress selling for $19.99 at the end of the season. Now I windowshop and pick up the bargains at the end of the season. Did you read Not Buying it?

  4. Tawanda, I've heard of that book but have not read it yet. How is it?

    Yes, I *totally* know how a new dress can make you feel like a million bucks, even though you are the same person inside, as you were without those new clothes. It's all a balancing act, I guess, and I'm trying to figure out what is a healthy appreciation for nice clothes.

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope to hear from you again.


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