Read the first part of this tale.
When I got married I was determined not to accept any help from my parents, but of course it didn't work. We could pretend as much as we wanted that we were independent, but when it came to clothes I was still totally in my mother's hands. Then I was divorced and got a job. My salary was just enough to buy a pair of winter boots, but then the saying was: “May you only have your salary to live on”. Everybody had extra sources of income. I worked as interpreter, translator, reviewer – anything I could get. A book translation could yield as much as three yearly salaries, which was weird, but then everything was weird back in those days.
The huge problem was that the dress code at my work place said: never wear the same outfit twice. So apart from having to show off brands you also had to keep track of what you were wearing and create variation with mixing and matching. But the real solution was to swap. All friends swapped clothes, that's what friends are for! During the periods when I was on speaking terms with my mother, we would swap clothes all the time, especially for parties. She would also allow me to sell her clothes and shoes after I had worn them, and keep the money to get new clothes. By that time I had my own network on the black market.
I also started travelling abroad to the paradise of Eastern Europe: Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, which in our eyes were rich and plentiful beyond imagination. During these trips, I would save every penny, eating as little and as cheap as I could, to buy clothes – although I did go to museums and theatres and travelled around. And I never brought back clothes to sell, at least not until I had got tired of them. During one trip with my work colleagues we brought vodka and cigarettes and sold to a very suspicious shop on the edge of the shopping area. I am still ashamed of it. This is as low as I have ever fallen.
To be continued.