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black september

Two months ago, my husband opened a couple bills and saw evidence of what I spend on clothes.  A black day for all involved.  Before that day, when we got bills, I paid them, and he was none the wiser.  Under that system, I had managed to successfully conceal my spending habits for the better part of our ten-year marriage.

Overnight, I was placed on a “suggested monthly budget” of $150.  As a bonus, the budget came with a lot of blame and acrimony from Tom, plus annoying and irrelevant commentary like “Yoona, the kids will need money someday for college.”  Don’t get me wrong, $150 is not an insignificant sum, but it’s downright insane when you have to buy shoes, workout clothing, socks, and underwear from the same pot.  Tom even had the balls to suggest with a straight face that the $150 should also cover my LUNCHES.  I remember pausing in the midst of my sobbing to feel genuine alarm that my husband was stuck, price-wise, in 1983.

I successfully kept to Tom’s suggested budget for exactly one pious month: September.  For the record, I’d like to note that the worst month of the year to be placed on a mandated clothing budget is September.  September is the beginning of sweater and boot season.  In today’s currency, $150 will buy you approximately one-half of a pair of boots.  Which is why, since October 1, I’ve been reduced to stealing from our joint checking account to make my fashion ends meet.  But, for better or worse, thanks to Tom’s intervention, I have become more mindful of overspending.

The benefits of my newfound enlightenment are many.  For starters, I don’t wake up in a cold sweat worrying about how to intercept my Amex bill in the mail before Tom makes it home.  I don’t spend as much time at the mall returning things.  Well, okay, in September I did a lot of returning, but only because Tom said any money I made on returns, I could add to my monthly budget.  But since October 1, I have spent far less time at the mall.

Pre-mindfulness, I could afford a shopping mistake or two.  Now, I get one shot.  Which means I only get one try to land that perfect pair of red pants that will take me through to the spring.  Red is a great color for fall.  It adds vibrancy and interest to the browns, greens, and denim we often wrap ourselves in when the weather gets cold.  But red is tricky too, because the wrong red will torture you like nothing else.  Too blue, and it won’t go with neutrals.  Too orange, and it can seem jokey.  Both pairs of red pants in the photo at top are red.  But I wish I’d saved my money and taken a pass on the pair on the left.  That shade of red, it turns out, doesn’t go with anything.  The pants on the right, on the other hand, go with all sorts of stuff, as evidenced below.  So, when shopping for reds, try taking the item home and pairing with different colors under different lights before you cut off the tags.

Below, a few ideas on what to pair with a good red.

Silk shirt, J. Crew ($58); skinny corduroy pant, J Brand Mid-Rise Skinny Style 811 (black cherry, $171) (same pair throughout post); faux suede wedge boots, ASOS ($48)

Red and magenta: a killer combo, unless you are a redhead. When the colors are this bright, balance things with a neutral, like olive.

Sometimes stores push a trend that seems generally ill-advised and flattering to no one, but refuses to die.  I’d put capes, leggings, and mid-calf boots in this category.  I fought fake fur for a couple years but finally gave into this number below a couple weeks ago, because it was on sale.  I’m now a believer.  It is soft, warm, and totally a blast to wear.  I’ve tried on a lot of fake fur vests, and the most flattering and seemingly versatile are the longer ones.  The volume and length of this particular vest also pairs well with maxi skirts, but keep the skirt tight on the hips so people can tell that there is indeed a body under your clothing.

Faux fur vest, Sanctuary (Nordstrom, $64.90, on sale); cotton burnout top with thumbholes, Juicy Couture ($60); leather clog boots, Hasbeens ($400, but mine were $149 on sale)

I have a soft spot for ugly sweaters that fit right.  I couldn’t resist the cheesy ladder sleeve on this cotton space-dyed number below.  I think of it as my Alexander Wang, except I got it on clearance last year from ASOS for $19.  Its price per wear at this point is probably something like six cents, a price that even Tom could probably live with.

I’d love to hear about 1) your favorite ways to wear red, and 2) how to conceal your spending habits from your husband.  Discuss.

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9 Comments
  1. tiffinsblu #

    As a former manager of several luxury retailers(and a serious shoe and bag addict)Hi, my name is Tiffin and……..I literally fall on the floor laughing at $150….but as someone who loves the environment and tries to be in touch with what is happening all over….it is a fortune!!!!! So I absolutely love that you post prices and deals, and ideas to splurge…also, absolutely adore the wit and perspective!!! Keep rockin Yoona!!

    November 18, 2011
    • Yes, I try to keep it all in perspective but it’s hard. It helps if I think of my budget as a game. 😉

      November 19, 2011
  2. Yeah that’s where Tom and Jack part ways. Actually I think Tom does notice when I wear new things, but he is not 100% sure, and probably nervous that he’s wrong and I will blame him for never noticing anything about me. For me, it’s not hiding the actual clothes, it’s the damn bags they come in. Thanks for the post, Emily!

    November 18, 2011
  3. Emily #

    One question: are you my ghost writer? Because I feel like you could have swapped the name Jack for Tom and this article would have been about me (minus the college fund part…but only because we don’t have kids yet). The most important thing you forgot to mention is how you conceal the actual merchandise from your husband. I hide mine in the closet (or my car when I’m really desperate), but he always manages to sniff it out. I guess that’s the double-edged sword of having a spouse in the sportswear industry….he’s not totally clueless when it comes to fashion (+) but he also recognizes when something I’m wearing has not come directly from my closet (-).

    November 18, 2011
  4. Peggy #

    It’s called separate accounts, baby. They’re all technically joint accounts, but he has one and I have one, and as long as I pay for the stuff for which I’m responsible (like, you know, school for E), the rest is mine. It’s also frankly called, “Really? Because you bought a MOTOR HOME.” – which kind of trumps any shopping expense I could come up with.

    November 18, 2011
    • I’m going to refer to it as the motor home rule from here on out.

      November 18, 2011
  5. My husband and I recently made a pact to take out a specific amount of money in cash each month that we each got to spend “no questions asked.” I now no longer flip out at the bar bill and he doesn’t need to know whether that new necklace was a bargain or a Big Deal.

    The only tricky part is negotiating what items stay on the “comes out of the joint account and we TALK about it list. That is an ever moving target.

    Totally inspired about red for fall… in a sea of black and brown, red can be a revelation!

    November 18, 2011
    • The communication part does seem to be key. So much stuff falls into a gray area–like haircuts for both of us. Seems like a basic expense, right? Thanks for posting, Trisha!

      November 18, 2011
  6. No red pants for me. 🙂

    November 18, 2011

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