July 8th, 2022
An updated rerun

Want vs. Need

Years ago I did a series of posts on this topic and it’s a good time to revisit.

In a comment 9 years ago, a reader referred to “(her) imaginary life trap”, an issue I’ve wrestled with and somewhat curbed. I, too, have those moments of lusting after an item that would serve no purpose in my life, but have learned to take a pass — I don’t have to own everything I love.

The catalyst for this post is threefold — I just sent 6 dresses to be dyed charcoal and black (colors I actually wear), I returned the Gucci bag in cognac because the smooth calfskin gets scratched and stained so easily and I didn’t want it sitting on a shelf like a piece of art afraid to wear it, and I need a pair of shoes for my real life, which means I have to be able to walk around NYC in them. After all the years of doing kic, and having been an editor at both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, you’d think I’d know better. But, sometimes the siren song is just too tempting and I go astray. Yesterday, my guy in the Bergdorf Goodman shoe department tried to convince me that the 4″ wedge is comfortable, and it probably is. However, I’m not sure that walking in them from BG to the MET would be ideal. So, as much as I love and have posted on them, I’m going to pass — for now…

  • Love the Gucci sling back. Please report on dying your clothes!

    LisaJuly 9th, 2022  7:32 AM

  • I really loved this post!

    TerriJuly 9th, 2022  8:03 AM

  • You have several posts that I love to go back and read again and again. This will be another! x

    DebJuly 9th, 2022  8:13 AM

  • Oh, this is good, especially now.

    NinaJuly 9th, 2022  8:27 AM

  • I was in the same boat yesterday. I saw a newer version of an Ann Mashburn loafer that I already have. They were stunning. They were the exact color of my existing pair that I love but rarely wear. It was hard but I passed. https://shopmashburn.com/products/ann-mashburn-summer-penny-loafer-dark-taupe-suede-s63148

    DebbieJuly 9th, 2022  8:32 AM

  • I saved these posts, too! Preston, I appreciate that you dress for your lifestyle with style, but are practical at the same time.

    LydiaJuly 9th, 2022  8:59 AM

  • Thank you for this.

    TracyJuly 9th, 2022  9:01 AM

  • Couldn’t agree more with it all, with the possible exception of the box leather. I love it if one has the patience to really wear it and have it develop that great burnished patina over time, that makes it really “yours”. To walk from Bergdorf’s to the Met you need sneakers.

    KathyJuly 9th, 2022  9:09 AM

  • Who did you send the dresses to? I have some things I would like to have dyed but haven’t had any luck with my search. Thanks

    CBJuly 9th, 2022  9:13 AM

  • Love that phrase “imaginary life trap” and I struggle with it too. Now that I have moved from the NY suburbs to Denver and my job has changed radically I have to be aware that I don’t forget the casual life I lead. Objects look shiny and pretty in the moment but in the rear view mirror are useless; saying no can be a challenge. Thank you for the reminder.

    BetsyJuly 9th, 2022  9:20 AM

  • I have also tended to fall into the trap of “imaginary life purchases.” I have also tended to buy multiple lower priced items instead of the one item that I really love. These tendencies are better but not yet totally controlled. I have taken to heart a fashion expert’s advice to spend more and buy higher quality for the items one wears the most, rather than the special occasion items. So logical-one should truly enjoy and love the clothes we wear every day.
    However, there is still that side of me that loves whimsy, frivolity and impracticality. So I have decided to not be afraid to dress a bit more imaginatively when going out to a concert, the art museum, dinner, etc ( wearing items I already have…) A similarly like minded friend and I are discussing holding cocktail parties and soirees that require proper attire (attendees should have a fun and fashionable mindset).

    RebeccaJuly 9th, 2022  9:28 AM

  • I too, enjoyed this post. I ask myself when I am shopping, “does this item do something for my wardrobe that other items don’t do (be it style, function or just excitement,) if the answer is “no,” I need to pass no matter how wonderful that item may be.

    karenJuly 9th, 2022  9:31 AM

  • I still think it’s okay to fall into the ‘imaginary life trap’! I think your imaginary life is very telling of what you crave more of in your life (it’s usually glamour isn’t it?) and dressing for it can be a powerful catalyst for change or inviting more of it into your life. It’s only a trap if you don’t wear it and sometimes we don’t wear the things we dream of ourselves in because it’s out of our comfort zone. Wearing them expands your comfort zone and when you wear it you embody the imaginary life!

    It’s not about impulse purchases but taking the leap sometimes tells me alot about who I am and want to be.

    SundaeJuly 9th, 2022  10:05 AM

  • These two most recent posts are brilliant and I couldn’t agree more with everything said. I am constantly battling the fantasy me when I shop while you and the KiC community have helped immeasurably. I also read a stylists comment recently that I use as a kind of mantra. She said to think very hard of three words that describe your style, whether as it is or as you wish it to be. When you are shopping, consciously decide if the item fits those three words and if it does not, give it a pass. One other thing I do because like Rebecca I sometimes cannot resist the sirens call of trends that I know will fade. They cannot be too expensive. Not cheap or fast fashion but not high design either.
    Great decision about the bag, sure you feel better. Have a great weekend.

    SueMJuly 9th, 2022  10:41 AM

  • CB- I sent the dresses to a woman in Florida and will post on them when they come back.

    PrestonJuly 9th, 2022  10:55 AM

  • I’m here for this content! More keep & returns please! ❤️

    susanwPBJuly 9th, 2022  1:40 PM

  • I often fall into the trap of buying clothes for a life I do not lead. My casual clothes at home are constantly worn and older, yet I crave buying the glamorous stuff I rarely wear. I have boxed away lots of items into storage this year. The result is an extremely curated closet of items I wear constantly. I can now see missed items, a few things I will attempt to utilize, and holes in my wardrobe that I actually need. My closet is like a month vacation worth of clothing. It’s been interesting.

    On a side note, do you use just a regular dry cleaner for all your beautiful designer clothing? I just wore that beautiful gray/ beige 2019 Prada dress you posted awhile ago for the first time. It’s quite delicate and I wonder if you have any thoughts or input on clothing care.

    KimJuly 9th, 2022  3:09 PM

  • Well said, and well done, Preston. Will be interested in hearing/seeing how the clothes dyeing goes.

    Sharon StoneJuly 9th, 2022  3:14 PM

  • Such a great post! Perfect reminder before I buy a few things for Fall. You mentioned you get rubber tabs, etc put on your shoes (loafers). Can you explain what this entails? Do you get the entire bottom of shoe redone in rubber? Or just heel tabs, etc ? And do you get it done when they are brand new? I would like to get a few of mine done to keep them nice. Just nit sure what to tell the cobbler.
    Thank you for such a wonderful blog!

    KDMJuly 9th, 2022  10:22 PM

  • This good post has been rolling around in my head for a couple days. I’m preparing to spend some time away from the city, so I’m imagining a time where I reach for less jackets, more sweaters. (Even though the siren song of jackets is still calling to me as I shop!) If anyone has a favorite source for cashmere sweaters—especially well-cut crewnecks that last and last—I’d be interested in what works for you! My go-to source no long works quite as well for me.

    RMJuly 10th, 2022  9:01 AM

  • Sundae makes an excellent point. Dressing for the person we want to be and the life we imagine might be as important as displaying the manners and behavior we wish others had – and hope that it will spread.
    Recently convinced my husband to pull out his beautiful silk neckties again for every-day office. As the senior member of his group (literally and professionally), I have no doubt that others will follow his lead. Almost all of America sees our country on the wrong track and going a bad direction; people of all ages are yearning for a better scene in every way, and making a small effort with how we dress/present ourselves in public is step one.

    PaulaJuly 10th, 2022  5:03 PM

  • So wise and thank you for sharing. I too have mad similar decisions. I have also learned to tweak mine. The YSL sky high Tribute sandals are no longer of any use in my life. However, I quite enjoy and often wear the mule version instead as they are far more practical.

    C. Jenna SondhelmJuly 11th, 2022  10:21 AM

  • Yes, to all of this! I too suffer from “imaginary life syndrome,” buying the dress perfect for a summer wedding…in the Hamptons…when I know no one and nowhere in the Hamptons! I’ve gotten better with age and experience, but it requires constant vigilance. Sundae is right – it’s usually a longing for glamour. I’ve learned to find it in the perfect modern basics that are also wearable, luxurious, and versatile.

    Lisa MacJuly 11th, 2022  10:09 PM


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