Bohemian Season at Brocante

By alison November 11, 2010 11 Comments 5 Min Read

Choose Quality over Quantity.
Does this command ever make you feel rather depressed? It does for me, so I had to think about why…
I was raised to be a penny pincher. (Thanks for that, Mom!) I’ve ready many a books about frugality and ways to stretch a dollar and many of them include an admonition to “Choose Quality over Quantity”. But it often comes in what seems to be a rather depressing flavor: Beige.
In one’s wardrobe, for instance – the advice is to invest in a wardrobe of coordinates that consists primarily of classic, staple pieces that will never go out of fashion such as blazers and suit skirts and khakis in neutral colors such as camel, grey, black and white. Buy a slimming black wrap dress instead of a wildly printed one. Buy classic penny loafers and black pumps instead of the purple booties.
These admonitions to rather Spartan, classic, simplicity sometimes come to us from voices we feel we “should” listen to – such as the long-lauded epitome of chic: French women. We are told “French women only have ten items in their tiny wardrobe. Eight of those items are classics they will wear for decades. And somehow they make themselves look chic and fresh and unexpected with just a scarf, a brooch and a belt.” And we then expect ourselves to do the same. Why? Why live up to someone else’s standard? Why live someone else’s life – even if it is that of a supposedly ideal chic French woman that we all dream of being?
But the tyranny of quality doesn’t just invade our closet. It invades the rest of our home as well. Buy the beige sofa instead of the red one, or white towels instead of blue and white polka-dotted darlings from Cath Kidston. Choose the plain dinner service over hand-painted plates from Nathalie Lete or classic wine goblets over gilded Moroccan tea cups.
I’m all for practicality, but sometimes it feels smothering. The underlying motivation seems to be fear – fear that you will only be able to buy one sofa in your lifetime or one pair of shoes for the next five years and if this is the case, that one thing must be classic, must last forever. Even if you don’t “love” it now, at least your lukewarm like of it will remain constant over the years. We are afraid if we buy something we absolutely love that there will come a day when our feelings have faded and then what? We’ll be stuck. And that is fear. Fear that when that day comes that we need something new to love, that we will be unable to choose it.
And maybe it’s not just fear, but a little bit of perfectionism too. We think we should make the “perfect” decision. That we “should” be able to pick out a sofa and never have any regrets and that somehow if we make a mistake or change our mind later, something is wrong with us. So we stick with beige, afraid that any other choice is too risky.
I’m all for buying quality out of a desire for quality itself – because you want something well-made and long-lasting. But I don’t like the idea of taking your hard-earned money and using it to buy things you perhaps don’t like because someone else deems them classic. Why wake up every morning and wander into your living room feeling rather sad about your beige sofa or putting on your classic black pumps and feeling a little dull?
So I’m advocating for a new point of view on choosing quality over quantity – a new perspective on quality itself.
What if choosing “quality” means choosing something that makes your heart sing, choosing some small addition to your life that will make all the difference in sheer joy? What if choosing quality means choosing little tiny bits of luxury, just for you, instead of choosing dull classics that are made so well that you’ll have them forever and wish you didn’t? And quality needn’t be just long-lasting or well made – it doesn’t even have to be pricey – just something that uplifts your soul and expresses your true self.
Maybe it’s a frivolous pair of shoes that makes your entire wardrobe come to life – a pair of shoes that’s worth a hundred camel blazers. Maybe it’s a ridiculously expensive Jonathan Adler pillow embroidered with the word “Love” that suddenly adds a pop of personality to your living room. Maybe it’s a zebra rug instead of a tasteful sea grass one. Maybe it’s a rose duvet from Rachel Ashwell that would turn your bedroom from a prim and proper space into a bower. Maybe it’s luxurious smelling soap that makes you ooh and ahh when you wash your hands. Maybe it’s a trendy bag in bright yellow that previously you would have passed by for black.
But there’s another problem with “quality” and another reason we often get stuck with beige when what we want is vermilion. Guilt and shame. Oh yes, guilt and shame. We’re afraid of what people will say. We’re afraid of what people will say when they see us wearing animal print ballerina flats. We’re afraid of what people will say when they go into our powder room that we’ve bravely painted peacock blue. We’re afraid people will think us extravagant or trendy or self-indulgent or just too bold. Am I alone in this? Or do you sometimes feel the same way?
So… What do you really love, that would bring a little joy to your life – something you’ve been wanting to try, but practicality or fear or guilt has been holding you back?
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This gorgeous guest post comes to us courtesy of the lovely Valerie at A Bohemian Season. Please show your appreciation by visiting her lovely, quirky site won’t you…?
Read my interview with Valerie here….

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11 Comments

  1. Gill says:

    Totally agree…boring, boring beige and black…especially for XL (+) sizes. Try Gudrun Sjoden for a little blast of colour and style and probably peacock blue booties too!

  2. Gill says:

    Oh, and as its Remembrance Day, I'm going to read my favourite classic, Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery, in which Rilla chooses to buy an expensive ultra- fashionable hat, which she then has to wear every single day until the end of the Great War four years later! The first thig she does when Armistice is announced is to jump up and down on that hat… Gill ; )

    1. Valerie says:

      Hilarious! Love that Gill. I've read every LM Montgomery book at least twice and forgot about that one! It's a great counter-argument though! We would hardly want to be stuck wading through a depression or a war in our most ridiculous shoes, a tulle skirt and a sequined sweater. So I think there should be at least a little bit of a balance between essentials and indulgences.

  3. Carlie says:

    I would really love to have a fancy dinner party. I keep planning simple, casual gatherings but what I really want to do is a gowns and tails evening of sumptuous food and elegant dancing in my own house.

  4. Rachel says:

    Yes, but I can afford to buy lots of fabulous shoes because I have a little black dress that never needs to be replaced. Prioritizing what I want was always my purpose in buying classic pieces.

  5. phyllis says:

    Tunic top/leggings/boots 🙂

  6. Kim says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Valerie. I am definitely more conservative in my choices as I've gotten older than when I was younger. I think the classics are great as a backdrop, but sometimes I go overboard on classic stuff and don't do enough accenting. Great reminder to be fun!

  7. Helena says:

    I love bold, tropical colors that remind me of the Florida Keys, but I don't have enough of them in our home. Our walls are all sand-colored–it was meant to be a backdrop to the tropical stuff, we just never got around to accenting much, so our decor is pretty neutral (and boring).

  8. This was an absolutely fabulous post! It inspired me……and you know what? I've always kind of hated that quality/quantity thing. 🙂

  9. Hausfrau says:

    Wonderful, inspiring post, Valerie! You know, I buy what I like, but also what I can afford. Fun colors and prints have become my "neutrals." I've started to buy more "quality" items, but only if I truly like them.

  10. Cyril says:

    Hi,
    If you like the Nathalie Lete’s work, I advise you to got to this website ( http://www.speightsandfaronboutique.com ) to discover a fabulous range. Tote bags, jewels, stationery, this french artist has made many different items for La Marelle, a french company working as an editor.
    On this website, you can also discover many different french artists such as Adolie Day, Mijn Schatje or Mlle Heloise.
    Have a good one,
    Cyril

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