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As we gear up for one of our most commercial “holidays” (aka, Valentine’s Day), I was thinking about the whole shopping/fashion thing. It helps the thought processes that this is the beginning of New York’s Fashion Week.
I was in New York City for Fashion Week about 14 years ago – it was only a coincidental business trip that took me there, not Fashion Week itself. In fact, I didn’t even know there was such a thing, until the woman with whom I was sharing a cab from LaGuardia asked me if I was “here for the show”. To cut a long story short, by the time I exited the cab, she was under the impression that I sold leather goods of questionable morality. I was very glad to get out of the cab, and I’m still not quite sure what got into me when I answered her.
That same trip, I got up early to go to a meeting, and headed towards Bryant Park, which I always loved to walk through. I discovered it filled with giant white tents, cameras, lights, and terribly skinny women, and realized I’d wandered onto the setting for one of Fashion Week’s many events designed for divas and ladies-who-lunch. I was bemused and interested, but had to keep moving. I wish I could have stayed; my curiosity would have kept me there all day.
While there is not a person alive who would call me stylish, I used to like to think I had my own sense of style. I had kind of an Isadora Duncan thing going in my first two years of college. The second two years of college saw me switch to vintage mode. I was small and slender and the clothes from the ’40s seemed to have been tailor-made for me. They were more affordable than new things, and they were unique. You’d never see another woman wearing the same thing I was.
Once I hit the serious workforce, it was suits all the way. It was the late ’80s, early ’90s, so we were in the “L.A. Law” style of suits and shoulder pads. But I left suits behind when I left my job when Kelsea was 2, and I’ve never gotten back to business style. As I found myself gaining weight in recent years, I’ve lost any sense of style I had. But as I find myself losing weight now, I have a sneaky hankering to find my new style. I just have no idea what it is. And there’s a problem.
I don’t like to shop.
Yes, I know it’s rare among women. But I don’t. It’s kind of boring. It’s overwhelming. It leaves me with an acute awareness of our the conspicuous consumptive nature of our society, our greed, our materialism, and our attachment to things that are meaningless.
I have what I’ve come to call a “shopping allergy” that sometimes kicks in when I try to shop. My stomach will suddenly start cramping and lurching and wanting strongly to expel things out of various orifices. And when that happens, I immediately get in the car and go home.
Even when I do shop now, I prefer the secondhand stores, for the same reasons I did before: I can always be assured of wearing something different, something that no one else will have – and it’s less expensive and less fadish than the stuff in retail stores today. Although I do run the risk of wearing something that someone I meet might recognize as being formerly theirs, that’s a chance I’m willing to take. If I can get back to the small and slender me of my twenties (hmmm), I might go back down the vintage route, but it’s nowhere near as cost-effective as it used to be, and I’ve really got to consider that these days.
If you take a look at the kinds of fashions that are being shown at Fashion Week, you wonder how women can be duped into wearing them. One of the latest uber-expensive trends is called glunge — a combination of glamour and grunge. And for this women pay megabucks.
Why are women so insecure as to have to “follow” fashion? Hemlines are up one season, down the next. One color is “in” only to be “out” the following year. Heels – clunky like special shoes one season, 4-inch platforms the next. And women spend on it. And spend. And spend. Why? I just don’t get it. (And I am definitely not the most secure woman on the planet.)
Researchers at Melbourne University have coined a term for a psychological disorder called oniomania. It’s a compulsive disorder — a shopping addiction. “Victims” of this condition experience the addicts’ high when spending, improving their self-esteem and making them forget their emotional troubles. Once they’re home with purchases in hand, the high wears off, and as with other addictions, the addict must spend more to get their high back.
People who compensated for lack of affection in their childhoods by substituting material things tend to continue this pattern into their adult lives and relationships. They identify themselves by the things they buy, and their self-esteem is centered around acquiring things. They can’t deal with daily problems or emotional issues and repress feelings of sorrow, loss and failure, by buying things. Shopping becomes a form of self-medication. The shopaholic cannot feel, rely on or acknowledge their own identity.
It’s actually kind of sad.
So-called “Retail Therapy” has been portrayed as a very positive thing – a communal activity, a form of creative expression, a way to assert one’s self-worth, a way to improve the environment, an expression of the gatherer (vs. hunter) core persona of women. I say, hogwash. Women (and men) with shopping addictions are just that – addicts. They ignore their finances and live to get that high.
I sound harsh, don’t I? I don’t really mean to judge. Maybe it’s the whole ’child of depression-era parents’ thing coming out again. My Mother always considered the price of something, and had a mental limit as to how much it was reasonable to spend on a pair of jeans. My Father saved until he could pay cash for any big purchase. Credit card debt and expensive clothes are just not in my frame of reference.
Style at any price? Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather spend my hard-won dollars on this: