“New is always better,” said Barney Stinson aka Neil Patrick Harris’ character from How I Met Your Mother. And while I don’t fully agree with such a blanket statement, I have to say, I’m a lot more like Barney than I’d like to admit.
I love the novelty of anything new.
Whether it’s a new restaurant, a TV show, an interesting art exhibition, a country I’ve yet to explore and, of course, new clothes, the idea of exploring the unknown has always been a huge draw to me.
This love for newness is prevalent to who I am as a person. Based on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test, I’m an ENFP, a personality type that gets easily bored by details as well as repetition, and will often seek out situations that offer an escape from the mundane.
In the Big Five Personality Test, my openness to experience is a whopping 94%, which means I enjoy playing with ideas and discovering novel experiences. And in a ba zhi reading a Fengshui master recently did for me, he accurately predicted that I am very inquisitive by nature.
So when it comes to Chinese New Year, where we basically need new, well, everything to have good luck for the year, I say bring it on. And, hands-down, my favourite thing to do was to buy new clothes.
As a teen who wasn’t really earning her own keep (other than my salary from part-time jobs during school breaks), this was an occasion I really looked forward to. I mean, I’ve gone shopping with reasons such as “It’s Tuesday” or “I saw Cady Heron wear army pants and flip flops so I bought army pants and flip flops”. So an all-expenses-paid shopping spree from my mother in the name of good luck and fortune for the year? I’ll take it.
But as I grew older and had the capabilities to buy clothes on my own (actually, it went more along the lines of my mother yelling at me at the counter, “You’re a working adult! Pay for your own clothes!”), the appeal of buying new clothes during Chinese New Year started to dwindle.
Sure, I still liked the idea of buying new clothes, but now, I no longer need the excuse of an occasion. I could get it any time I wanted. Such is the luxury of having a disposable income.
I still continued the tradition, though. I mean, who am I to mess with Lady Luck? But instead of buying stuff specifically for CNY, sometimes when I came across a piece I’d thought I’d enjoy wearing for the New Year, I would save it so that technically, it was still new.
And while I haven’t completely stopped buying new clothes yet, the constant news and focus on the environmental impact that the fashion industry has caused is something that is hard to evade. Just think of the number of resources and pollutants needed to mass-produce fast-fashion items.
And it’s not just about the environment too.
Chinese New Year as an adult is… expensive. And I’m not even married yet!
While I still embarrassingly receive my fair share of red packets at the ripe ol’ age of 30 (and will continue to do so unless a marriage proposal is in sight), I also do take this time to give a token to some important people in my life.
Both my parents, as well as my helper—who has been in my family for almost all my life and is basically a secondary parental figure to me—receive individual red packets from me. Throw in their additional monthly allowance, CNY goodies, groceries and gifts, this can run in the hundreds. By the time I’ve put aside money for all of that, there’s usually not that much “fun money” to spend on anything extra, much less clothes.
Call it a quarter-life crisis, but 2020 also happens to be the year where I decided to start taking what we call “adulting” seriously. I signed up for an investment plan, starting saving seriously AND on top of that, I made the very un-Asian decision to move out before getting married or finding a serious boyfriend. So, as you can understand, buying new clothes for luck is very much on the last thing on my mind right now—I have to pay my rent!
While I am far from only buying what I need or even stopping from buying fast-fashion (it’s so hard, but I’m trying!), I am trying to take small steps to slowly get there. Maybe my addiction isn’t to shopping or fashion, but rather to newness.
I can’t deny the awesomeness of wearing something fresh-to-death. Especially on special occasions because you get to wear something really extra.
But I can’t keep doing that either.
In the past, I used to look forward to wearing my one good dress that was reserved for special occasions. It was a tried-and-tested piece, with numerous people giving me compliments whenever I wore them. I would feel excited to re-wear it, attaching an emotional significance and reaction to my dress. This made me treasure the item as opposed to going “Urgh, this old thing again?” It also eliminated the clothing fatigue of having to buy something new just for one occasion. This year, I’m keeping that in mind as I celebrate CNY.
So for this year, there will be no Chinese New Year, Chinese New Me.
New luck be damned (OK, don’t take my words so seriously, God of Fortune!!), I’d rather have a healthy bank balance than a negative-sum just to impress some relatives and fuel my need for newness. And according to the Fengshui master, buying second-hand or swapping clothes isn’t wrong either. He told me that the key thing is that the clothes have to be new TO YOU.
Now the only thing that’s left for me to do is to quit my job so that I won’t be tempted by anything fashion again…
(I kid, I kid. Please leave me gainfully employed, SPH.)
Is the team for or against buying new clothes for Chinese New Year? Here are their thoughts.
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