Is Shopping Still a Thing?

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Without lunch meetings, dinner dates, fancy parties, events, and without an office to go to — what’s the point of even shopping for new clothes

So much of our clothing shopping is tied to public spaces and other people it seems — festival clothing, wedding season dresses, back-to-school trends, workplace attire, nightclub looks — when those things are all off the table and we only have to dress for ourselves, does fashion matter as much as it once did?

Or the bigger questions: Do I need anything beyond sweats? Heck I can’t even remember the last time I wore jeans! But of course at SOME point, all these activities will resume. Will our shopping habits with them?

I have to admit that I was a shopping addict. Shopping was a pastime I did with friends, it was my stress reliever. It was the thing I could do when I felt anxious. I could browse through clothing sites each new season, with the same seriousness I gave to my taxes (okay, fine: MORE seriousness), reading the fashion stories to see what was trending. I had to make sure I was up on the trends — but I have no idea why.

What I do know is that it meant a whole new crop of clothing. Twice a year, sometimes more. My closet is the result of that, wooden rods barely able to hold the weight, two rows jammed packed with little space to move. It’s suffocating to think about. My issue, I used to think was, I just needed a bigger closet. I’ve come to learn that’s not the case. 

Shopping Shut Down

Everything changed with COVID. No more fashion blog reading, no more shopping. This past summer I probably only wore 10 outfits through the whole season, and those were all chosen purely for their comfort.

It’s been a glorious, beautiful, wonderful thing that just happened on its own. I’ve noticed the extraneous stress that doesn’t invade my head. I haven’t had to fret about getting the perfect top to match the new pants I just bought. No thoughts of needing more accessories,  because I haven’t been wearing many!  Purses? Are you kidding me? I have one fanny pack that I use because I don’t have to touch it while grocery shopping.  Spanx? Oh hell naw.

At first during the pandemic, I leaned heavily on shopping as a crutch. I needed something to get me through the transition to being home all the time. And it was right there at my fingertips with Amazon and the dozen other shopping apps on my phone. Every day I could seek out a new shopping high to get me through. Those sites can feel like a less toxic social media app to browse. Browsing, of course, usually leads to buying. Having something arrive at the door was one of those little connections with the outside world to look forward to — like Christmas every day! 

But as the days wore on, deliveries started to feel less special and the financial stress of the pandemic became more the priority. I simply could not afford to keep shopping.

And so I stopped. 

And I survived.

I did other things —  online art classes, crafting, working out more. I started a new business and soon was working around the clock. Shopping was the last thing on my mind. I’d venture a guess to say most of us could actually go the next five years without buying a new pair of pants or shirts and we’d be just fine. 

Returning to Retail

Recently I took my first steps back into a TJ Maxx (one of my old “happy places”). It had been about eight months since I was in the store and I took an hour to get away from the house and unwind. Shopping felt different. It was like my brain had rewired. I didn’t feel the pull of the promise of a new life tied to this purchase. Or of a better version of me to be found hidden within the clearance rack, just waiting for my discovery.  I looked at price tags more and rethought purchases. I put stuff BACK. The weight and burden of what I already own was tangible. How could I suppose adding to it would be a good idea? 

Of course, online shopping is still right at our fingertips and easier than ever with how often we are on our phones. That temptation is still there, I must confess, and I still love the idea of new trends, new clothing lines, a fashion show. I’m trying to reconcile myself the enjoyment of that versus the constant consumption this type of culture creates. We’ve been conditioned to always need new things. And part of me isn’t ready to give that up. Right now it’s been easy to stick to, with less temptations of occasions to shop for. 

#NONEWCLOTHES

No new clothes is not a new concept. There are many women who have written about their experience not buying anything new for a year. It’s a legit challenge. #NONEWCLOTHES has popped up all over social media and blogs as women challenge themselves to move beyond shopping. Most make the exception for socks and underwear and replacement items. Buying a new pair of running shoes when your old pair gets a hole is fine for them, compared to say buying a new pair because you like the color. 

So I pose the question to you. Has staying home more made you feel like shopping less? Have you moved away from needing so much to being happy with just what you have? What still motivates you to keep shopping?

Three Ways to Shop Less

  • Move all your shopping apps into a folder so they aren’t front and center on your phone. The less you see them, the less tempted you’ll be.
  • Tie a purchase into a chore. In order to buy “x” item you’ll need to perform “y” task. Make the task something you’ve put off, so even if you make a purchase it was a useful motivation to get an arduous task completed.
  • Use the “favorite” and “save for later” buttons often. You’ll still have a similar feeling of acquiring, but can give yourself some time (at least 24 hours) to really think over whether you need this item.
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