Sometime not that long ago (which at this point could be any time in the last ten years) there was discussion in the media about the tyranny of choice: the idea that the more options you have, the harder it is actually to make a choice. There's nothing especially counterintuitive about that idea - on the one hand, I suppose you might assume the more options are out there, the easier it is to find exactly what you're looking for. On the other hand, though, the more options are out there, the harder it is to decide what you want in the first place.
Shopping at your standard outlet mall these days brings this concept to life.
There's an outlet mall about half an hour south of my city (and an aside: does anyone else remember when outlets were actual outlets? that is, they sold off the seconds/slightly-less-than-perfect models from the current season, and leftovers from previous seasons? rather than being "factory stores" filled with clothing lines made specifically for the outlets, that never bore any relation to the retailer with which the factory store's ostensibly affiliated?). I spent about five hours there yesterday, and didn't even make it through the whole thing before retreating, defeated. (And I actually like shopping!) There's just so. much. stuff.
Anyway, I've lost a bit of weight and it's amazing how much easier it is to find clothes that fit. Unfortunately I ran into that dilemma where the stuff I really liked, I didn't know how much I'd wear, and the stuff I knew I'd wear was - well, just fine. I ended up with a peasant-y top that I really like, and a pair of tailored dark denim crops that I also really like except they're a bit big in the hips (they may shrink, although doubtless not in the hips). I also got three knit tanks (two with lace trim), which will be useful to have but aren't that exciting, and a white cardigan which is a little bit shapeless, but seemed a useful thing for the summer. I'm least sure about a pair of glen-plaid-ish black/white pants (they fit fine but I worry the cut is a bit dumpy), and two short-sleeved cardigans (citron and light gray) (maybe a bit boxy and quite lightweight).
The thing is, I find it impossible to resist cheap clothes that fit. IMPOSSIBLE. (No individual piece I bought was over $24 and most were well under.) Maybe it's because I've spent a lot of time hovering on the edge of standard sizes, having a hard time finding things that fit; maybe it's because going back to school made me feel like a poor student (again).
The thing is, I'd so much rather be that person who buys one or two carefully-chosen, high quality items that I really love, rather than a bunch of crap that's just fine and serves the purpose. When I was in high school I was sort of obsessive about rotating clothes/outfits, because GOD FORBID I wear the same item more than once in a week (or ideally two). The result was that I wore a bunch of stuff I didn't like that much because it spaced out my "good" stuff (so I wasn't that girl wearing the pink dress every week) (here I'm thinking specifically of my hot pink sweater dress from Benetton. Yes, I had one. And I had hot pink shoes that matched. The 80s were a beautiful time).
I've pretty much given that up, and embraced wearing my "good" stuff more often - I would, genuinely, rather re-wear the same few pieces really regularly and really like them and feel good in them, than wear crap for the sake of greater variety.
And yet: I set foot into an outlet mall and I go mad, picking up this piece and this piece and this piece and this piece until I'm carrying great mountains of clothes into the dressing room. And then, if you're buying one $20 cardigan, why not get a second in another color? If you like it well enough to buy it in the first place? Even if it's not the world's most exciting cardigan?
I was going to say, I suppose the answer is, don't shop in outlet malls (but the cheap! the cheap!). But even outside the outlets, the tyranny of choice can get overwhelming (I had a whole slew of tabs open with different retailers' websites earlier this evening). So maybe the answer is to learn to sew. (Seriously, I wish I lived somewhere you can walk into a shop and have someone make your clothes for scratch.)