By Kristina Leftwich
Descending upon the bounty of the clearance rack is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The promises of buried treasure, of discovering that elusive thing that will make everything else in your repertoire sing.
Impending magic holds most of the appeal in the electric chaos of the sale rack. It is the one place where an entire season can converge into one pile of possibility. Lightning may strike at any moment, as you stumble upon an item spotted weeks ago that you never quite forgot, but were just not ready to commit to, and there it is—at half off!
The angels sing, the seas part. “This is meant to be,” you think, as you scoop it up off the rack, knowing that it must be yours—no, that it was fated, written in the stars. All is well in the world for that one second when a wish is crystallized into a sheer moment of splendor.
The shopping frenzy that can be induced by the mere words, reduction, or final clearance is rather stunning. It is as if suddenly the gods are bestowing their permission to indulge. It’s as if their silent approval is whispered in the deepness of the discounts.
At some point in this madness, you must stop and pull yourself together. It is not unlike falling in love. One tends to get swept up in the moment and lose sight of the bigger picture.
There is the first glance, the initial locking of eyes, the sussing out of any obvious flaws. At this point, you either retreat or proceed, depending upon the intensity of the initial connection.
As the first glances are held, and options considered, the dance begins. The object of desire must be held up to closer scrutiny, as hems are checked, and button strength is tested. This is where it is the most imperative to be completely honest with yourself.
No matter how much you have attached yourself at this point, do not overlook even the smallest of flaws. It is the time to realize that while the cut is perfect, the length may not be. Do not compromise. Put it down. Move on. Be brutal. This is a place where compromise is not an option. Do not even consider it.
Passing the initial attraction and compatibility test brings us to the big question of commitment: the fitting room. This is the make-or-break part of the proposition. If it doesn’t fit, there is no going back, and you may already be emotionally invested, having already imagined the ways in which it would fit into your life.
There is no escaping the truth under the glare of fluorescent lights. Either it works or it does not. You know instantly, it hits you like an icy wave of reality. You must be willing to walk away at this point. Do not try to make it work. A belt will not help; a strategically-draped scarf will only make it worse. Admit this to yourself. Know that at the next rack, something better awaits you.
Send style questions or ideas to Kristina Leftwich at email@example.com. Include “ATTN: Elements of Style” in the subject line.
From the October 14-20, 2009 issue