Even more shopping parables to demonstrate the value of improvisation

A couple days before the end of 2008 I was standing in line at Joann’s, a crafts and fabric store, waiting to get some fabric cut.  A woman ahead of me had bolts and bolts of trims spilling out of her arms.  When she reached the front of the line she proceeded to drop them all on the table with a triumphant, “Half a yard of each, please!”  As the clerk busied herself, the woman held up the lengths of lace to the light, inspecting them, mental calculations evident on her face.

“What are you making?”  It is the standard question to ask at the cutting table.  This time, though, everybody in line was curious to hear the answer.

She laughed.  “My daughter loves Abercrombie & Fitch.  They have these $30 tank tops with lace on them.  I told her, ‘No … you can have the $8 tank tops instead’,” she gestured to the trim that the clerk was busy measuring, ingredients for tank tops at one third the price.

I admire her approach.  Then again, I’m the one standing behind her in a fabric store, so maybe I’m inclined to admire her approach.  Still, with the recent decline in the economy, I’ve read all sorts of reports of parents who must cut back on teenager’s spending money, how tween stores are not faring as well as they used to; doomsday articles foretelling the psychological damage economic uncertainty will inflict upon impressionable young teenagers, articles fretting about the best way to broach the topic of money with children.  After working with children and teenagers for two and a half years now, I’d argue that our children and teenagers are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for.  Challenge them and they will rise to the occasion.  Parents, put your foot down.

It won’t create a sense of deprivation.  This woman is teaching her daughter the value of a dollar, and demonstrating creativity, improvisation.  She could have brought her daughter along to match trim to tank tops to involve her in the process.  Even without that, she’s showing her daughter that she doesn’t have to stay loyal to a certain expensive retail brand.  She can create her own look.

The thing about dressing to one company is that you’re no longer just buying clothes.  You’re buying an image.  In some ways this is easier; you can achieve instant cool with “the A&F look” or “the Gap look.”  Some careerwomen I know like the cache that comes along with certain expensive suit retailers, and shop accordingly.  In the impressionable teenage years, though, when spending habits are often set, it is dangerous to blindly fall into the trap of brand loyalty.  It is expensive.  You’re not creating your own style, your stamp on what you like and how you view things.

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