For a work-related event recently, I was told to wear something “light and springy.” Although it was the middle of February, this is New Orleans, and the air outside was a pleasant 70-something with not a cloud in the sky; the perfect backdrop to a spring photo shoot.  That morning, bleary-eyed and caffeine deprived, I peeked inside my closet to get an idea of an outfit before I jumped in the shower.  Perhaps this was a bad idea before my morning cup of coffee because I was horrified to realize absolutely nothing in my closet screamed “light and springy”.  Actually, nothing even whispered it, or hinted at it, or gave me a quiet reassurance of it.

I like to consider myself an all-occasion dresser.  I have some staples that make it out of my closet year round and because of this, I admit I choose a lot of neutrals.  My closet is color coordinated left to right, light to dark.  It’s a bit idiosyncratic, I know, but it makes looking for a certain shirt or dress much easier.  Upon further inspection that morning, I discovered the blacks, whites and grays have taken over the rest of the rainbow in that cramped space, and it sunk in that I am in a fashion rut, and have been for quite some time.

This was not a good feeling.  I feel like my wardrobe turned off the beaten path and onto the easy, paved road of predictable, and well, a bit boring.  I mean,  honestly, who needs five white button-down shirts? Three black ones? Four gray cardigans? I tried to chalk it up to finishing school and joining the real world, but quickly relented.

It was that day I decided to change things up, or baby step it at the least.  My crippling fear of color in clothes (not shoes, but that’s another day’s discussion) ended there and I would employ any means necessary to get over it. I vowed to buy not only some colorful duds, but maybe even some lighter fabrics.

I headed to the one place I try to avoid like the plague, the mall.  On an early Wednesday afternoon – to avoid the crowds – I decided to activate “Operation Make Lilith Buy Something not Black. “ Also, I am not Miss Moneybags, so I had to accomplish this on a seriously scaled back budget.  Time to hit up those sales!

A sign at Express screaming discounts on sale prices lured me in and I was instantly bombarded by bright, bold colors.  Fighting off a panic attack, I headed to the back of the store, expecting the entire sale to be winter holdovers no one wanted. However, the sales girl I started chatting up let me in on a great tip of the biz: Lots of manufacturers, especially at the larger stores, send test runs of items very early in the season, which then quickly go on sale. 

Jackpot.  I found some great tops, including a teal deep V-neck sweater in a light spring material, all under $15.  I even snagged a great pair of skinny work pants for $18.  The grand total for five items was about $60, and only one of those pieces was gray. Hey, I said baby steps.

My next stop was bargain-hunting Mecca, also known as Forever21.  I know the megastore has its critics, but it’s great place for picking up trendy pieces without spending a ton of dough.   They also get new items daily, so it’s almost a guarantee everyone won’t be wearing what you buy. I was mostly on the hunt for funky necklaces, but also walked out with a green and pink abstract floral – yes, I said floral and pink – dress that only set me back $22.  I’m going to wear it now with a cardigan and heels, and later with gladiator sandals.  I picked up some sheer tunic-length tanks in jewel tones to boot, each landing at $12.80.  While jewel tones may not say “spring”, they are a shot of color into my sleepy wardrobe.

I decided to say au revoir to mall sprawl and head Uptown a few days later to continue my shopping excursion.  Stopping into Buffalo Exchange, I was overwhelmed by all of the selection.  The racks are crowded and organized only by type (shirts, dresses, shorts, etc.) so a trip here definitely requires time and patience.  I set aside a solid hour or so to peruse.  I ignored the sections of things I already own copius amounts of (although I have found Seven jeans here for $16 before) and focused my energy on shirts and dresses.  What I love about Buffalo Exchange is wide variety of items: not everything is consignment, with many pieces still having store tags on them when a place just has too much of something.  I walked out of there with only two items, but both fulfilled my color and fabric requirements, and I only spent $25.

I’m not going to say two days of shopping overhauled my closet, but it did breathe some new life into it.  Also, many of the things I bought are great for layering, which instantly updates existing pieces.  Once everything was properly hung and put away, I was satisfied that I had made sufficient headway into breaking out of my grayscale bubble.  Of course, I couldn’t resist buying a dove gray cardigan and a thin white tank, but I did manage to score some great deals on colorful, and even a few printed, items.  In grand total, my shopping extravaganza cost me around $200 for 10 new items, not counting the necklaces.  And for the first time in a while, nothing is giving me buyer’s remorse.