Why I’m Giving Up Shopping for 2015

by | December 7, 2014
filed under My Reality

Front of clothing store with mannequins wearing jeansI enjoy shopping. I’m not too high-brow to admit that. I particularly like shopping for clothes. I am fortunate that I have never had a substance abuse problem, but if I’m being honest with myself, I actually think I enjoy clothes shopping so much that I could be classified as an addict. I consider myself an expert on this topic because I read all those Sophie Kinsella novels about being a shopaholic, and I think I might actually qualify.

However, the thing is I’ve recently realized that I don’t shop for the right reasons. Hell, I don’t even know why I shop.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say I do it because I’m used to it. Because when a friend comes in from out of town, it’s my go-to activity. Because it’s one of the few leisure activities my mom and I still do together now that I’m no longer of the age where she chauffeurs me to drama lessons. Because it feels like a reward when I’ve had a particularly long week. Because I don’t want to be called that terrible insult leveled at women who aren’t up-to-date fashion victims, the dreaded “frumpy.” Because it’s easy to shop. Because all you have to do is click your mouse a few times and remember your Visa online security code, then you’re done.

Because there’s so much cheap and disposable fashion out there that I can afford to own more than I need, but I don’t think that’s a good thing.

I’m trying to get over this feeling that shopping is inevitable. That I do it because I’ve always done it and for some reason I always will. No, I’m not a trust fund baby with her own stylist at Chanel, but the fact that I’m not decked out in couture all the time doesn’t mean I’m not materialistic. Do I really need disposable T-shirts I bought on sale from H & M that fall apart in the wash, just because a fashion magazine told me neon colours were trendy? Do I really need to spend money I could be spending giving to charity – or at least going out for brunch – on buying things I don’t always like and really don’t need?

The truth is, I do think fashion is art, and I always have. But I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t separate the noise of what the fashion industry tells me I’m supposed to wear from what I want to wear. I’m hoping this year-long detox will get me to a place where I dress entirely for me and not for how Anna Wintour tells me I should look.

More importantly, but I’d like to curb my consumption in general. This is my way of jumpstarting that process. Even though I’m a PhD candidate with two jobs who doesn’t think of herself as wealthy, statistically, I am part of the richest 20% of global consumers who account for 76.6% of total private consumption on the planet. For this reason, I think I should probably stop shopping mindlessly, because if the world ends tomorrow, I won’t be able to say I did my part to save the environment. The fact that I take public transit and don’t own a car makes me feel superior sometimes, but then I remember I own six different pairs of jeans, and I feel less righteous.

It’s not just that I think the polar ice caps are melting partly because cardigans I don’t need are getting shipped in from the other side of the world. I’m also uneasy about the fashion industry because it exploits so many people.

Back when I was doing my Master’s while living in London, England, I thought I was the coolest person ever when I discovered Topshop. I spent all my birthday money there so that I could I wear pink tights with peasant dresses and fabulous floral headbands. Everyone complimented my style and the student discount the store offered made me want to buy yet more Blair Waldorf-style hair accessories. Then someone told me that this chain had a record of using slave labour to manufacture its clothes. The love affair ended.

I like looking cute, but I don’t want my desire to look cute to come at the cost of someone else’s freedom and safety.

Finally, on a very selfish level, I want to stop being such a hoarder. I have things in my closet I’ve owned since I was 16. I don’t wear those baggy jeans that went out of style circa 2004, but for some reason, I’m attached to them. I feel like I might need them some day, and that’s reason enough to hold onto them.

I’d be fine with the fact that I still have clothes from 2003 if I had the courage to flout the social norm that dictates all women should wear only the most en trend items, but I don’t. I buy and wear skinny jeans like everyone else. Because of this, my closet is too damn full.

I have storage issues. My highfalutin ideas about escaping the evils of materialist culture are not my only motivation. I’d like to be able to fit all my clothes in my drawers. After all, floordrobe is not a good look when you’re dealing with tiny Toronto bedrooms.

What will I do with all my extra space? I don’t know, maybe I’ll finally master the moves to Gangnam style….

I will be chronicling my abstinence from shopping over the course of 2015 right here, on Gender Focus. You can see if it drives me to smug enlightenment or to despair – my guess is that I’ll experience an aggressive mixture of both. It will be entertaining from a Schadenfreude perspective.

But most of all, dear readers, I ask that you help can keep me honest. If you see me looking frazzled and desperate for a fashion fix at your local Anthropologie, send me home! Remind me of my pledge, because I really don’t need a gold sparkly tutu – I’ve probably still got the one I wore to a ballet recital in Grade 3.

Photo of clothing store by Andy Mabbett (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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  • Jaclyn Parsons

    As soon as I saw the title of this post, I thought, “Sarah needs to purge.” It’s liberating to own less, to be surrounded by less chaos. Fortunately for you, I’m a professional purger! ;) Have you heard of a capsule wardrobe?

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