Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why Do You Shop?

Yesterday's post was inspired by this idea that's been tumbling around my brain for a while...

As you know, I don't have all the space in the world and I don't have a trust fund. I don't work at a fashion magazine or a sexy agency. I do not own a gallery. People don't pay me to dress stylishly. So why do I shop so frequently? More to the point, why do I buy?

Of course, the answer isn't simple. (Arguably the question isn't either.) I shop because I love the activity. You know how some people knit. That's how I shop. It's not some mindless function for me. It's a creative undertaking, a perfect form of mood alteration, a social occasion. Not unlike a fine meal or yoga or sex.

I shop because I enjoy observing beautiful things in their natural habitat. That stripey nautical T in it's spot at Club Monaco. That perfect snakeskin bag at Apt. 909. These items exist so harmoniously with their appealing surroundings that I can't help but to want to experience them for myself. And then, what starts as a theory, when it looks right on me, becomes utterly compelling. Come on, you know that feeling. There's nothing like becoming one with something new (especially if it had another life before you).

Vintage is perhaps the most appealing, not only because of its general pricepoint, but because it's like that badass boyfriend who took all those drugs and fucked those other girls before you. It's lived a life, you know. It was there a long time ago and it will likely outlive you and that is powerful shit.

So that's part of why I shop - who can even quantify the full landscape of reasons - but why do I buy? As people have suggested to me (and to themselves, I'm sure), why not look and touch and try and then walk away? Well, peeps, believe it or not, how much I shop is a testimony to how much I walk away - if this makes any sense at all. I frequently walk. I always buy less than I want. And sometimes that sadness for the objet that got away trails me for miles like a stray leaf caught in the breeze.

Which is why I love shopping with and for others. I am thrilled to search out beauty on behalf of someone else. Occasionally, it even blinds me to the gorgeous things I'd like for myself and I have a true "cake eating" experience. All the creativity, the opportunity to perform a service, a chance to observe someone grow in confidence with lovely new purchases, all on someone else's dime. I know, the selflessness :-)

I'm curious to know why you shop. Do you think you have a "problem" or are you a collector? Do you curate the pieces, treat them with the love and respect they deserve or are they, eventually, creative clutter at the bottom of your drawer? Please share your thoughts...


  1. I think I have a shopping problem because I keep buying when I don't have any money coming in (my internship is unfortunately unpaid). Which is why it was good I walked away from those $300 Prada shoes at Holts last week ;)

    As for why I shop -- I like looking at pretty things. I like being inspired and letting my imagination work a piece into my wardrobe when I'm admiring in the store.

  2. I window shop a great deal--I like to put clothing puzzles together mentally or simply be inspired by color and line. When I was younger I bought, bought, bought. But now I'm happier with a choice piece once in a while that I truly enjoy rather than accumulating things (although binge buying has its place too).

  3. This is so true. Maybe explains why I don't shop online too. I'm tired but I'm gonna come back and read this again tomorrow properly!

  4. I buy when I think something is really beautiful.

  5. Everything you said here resonates with me, lady. I've only recently discovered the joys of being a shopping guide/consultant, but I'm amazed at how rewarding and fulfilling it can be! It definitely dampens the craving to acquire for myself.

    Which, I think, means that I shop to boost my dopamine. I want to feel good - or, if shopping with a friend, I want THEM to feel good which, in turn, makes me feel good. And I mean the lasting goodness of acquiring and styling a beautiful item, not the potentially fleeting goodness of a compliment, a cookie, or a Corona.

    I do believe I have a problem, though. My utter inability to save, my willingness to put myself in a financial bind, and my skewed monetary priorities tell me so daily. I'm not mired in debt, and I don't buy things I don't either need or desperately want. But a friend asked me the other day how much I spend on clothes each month. And I told her, honestly, that if I kept track it would make me ill. So I don't. And THAT ain't good!

  6. I think I shop for clothes to collect pieces of myself. Almost everything I buy is something I am very deeply in love with. Especially when my budget is always tight. I just think we should all buy the best and wear the best of what we can afford to make the most out of life. Shopping to me has to be done everyday (window shopping usually) so that you don't miss out on anything. :-P

  7. Such interesting answers, everyone. I hope we get even more responses because I'm learning from all of you...

    Y: You showed remarkable restraint I may test when we lunch and shop together! The pretty things argument is compelling.

    Miss C: You're like a shopping engineer!

    Rollergirl: Two reads. Wow, I feel complex :-)

    Sal: I love your blog, btw. So glad Enc nominated you for that award because now I know about you... Isn't it so about the brain chemicals?! There's nothing like a glass of wine (not more than one), chocolate mousse and an afternoon in the shops. It's a serious trip. And I hear you on the spend/save dilemma...

    Cordelia: What a beautiful, poetic reason for shopping. I know how attached you are to all of your sparkly purchases.

  8. Wendy: Somehow I forgot to respond to you... Your stuff is all beautiful so you've got a really functional system, obviously!

  9. I think I also shop cause' I love shopping. When I enter I store I look around... see something beautiful and my mind works... how is this piece with other parts of my wardrobe? What combination might I get wearing it? Sometimes it's enough to go through a store and look at clothing... it helps to make me calm and happy!

  10. I enjoy shopping not as process itself. I enjoy shopping because I can go home with beautiful things (not only clothing) which are now offically mine. It's like that I see something on a magazine and it's flashing me, so that I want to get it, as soon as I bought it, I want to wear it as well. I wouldn't mind to skip the shopping process and the final payment ;) There was recently an article about the growing number of shopping addicts in Germany: 800.000 people (about 7% of the total population) in Germany are shopping addicted. THis doesn't include the number of unknown shopping addict. I might shop much compared to others but I wouldn' say that I'm addicted because there is no desire in me to buy something for god sake's buying itself. I want to buy something because I like it and can afford it. Then I'm coming home, I can't wait to wear it asap.

  11. i shop to see what's out there. i like to touch fabrics, see how silhouettes fall on the body, etc. sometimes i don't even buy anything (but usually do.)

  12. For me to weigh in on this is almost a cliché, but I will comment thusly: I really like your way of explaining your own shopping love and experience. It clarified something I felt when I was banned—that I love shopping for and with others. That's a real joy.

  13. Your description of vintage as a "bad ass boyfriend" is spot on. I think that life is one of the reasons I love it so. As for why I shop, I think it is a combination of the treasure hunter in me (studied archeology for a while), and the pleasure that beautiful things hold. Which means that I also have a desire to posess them all, making my world a more delightful place. Its almost as if the wonderful items I find would almost be living a half life unless it entered my world. (Is that odd?)
    I think that's why when I go to museums and galleries I can feel myself reaching for me credit card. Dangerous.

  14. This year, I'm trying to be a better shopper. No more aimlessly wandering around and getting impulse buys. H&M is a major culprit. I just recently shed a lot of crap from my closet that I wasn't getting much use of.

    If there isn't anything that I need to go with my wardrobe, I'm not wasting my time going out for a day of shopping. I can do that at home online. Nearly everyday I window shop or get inspiration from others online. So then I have a goal in mind when I hit the real stores.

    Money (need tuition for going back to school) is a major factor in my shopping habits. I'd enjoy the shopping experience if there was more of it. That's why I can't be bothered with going store to store.

    And I get no pleasure in trying on something that will have to go back on the rack. Why torture myself?

  15. I forgot to mention that sizing also takes the fun out of shopping. Clothes are not cut for my body type. Someone needs to send me on an all-expenses paid trip to Tokyo where I wouldn't have to worry about alterations.

  16. Interesting problems, I shop mostly when im depressed or upset it makes me feel better that's about 70% of the time the other 30% is because I need something haha

  17. I'm loving these comments - you all shop for fascinating reasons and I have more in common with everyone than I could have imagined. In light of this, it's amazing there's any time in my day that i don't spend shopping!

    Nadine: Nothing like a beautiful store to make me calm and happy.

    F: That statistic is shocking - but i can believe it. And I agree with you about seeing something gorgeous and wanting to possess it.

    Jill: It's the tactileness of it that I love. Esp. with winter shopping because I love the feel of knits (cashmere, anyone) and I can just pet things from October to March :-)

    E: Of course, you see this from the flipside. But it's cool to hear about what you missed. Also cool to see how it's changed your shopping habits overall. I think your SINCBM exercise, while insanely difficult (for many), was so valuable...

    SKM: Now that's a great angle - shopper as treasure-hunter. Gives new meaning to "digging for that bargain". Thanks for commenting on the badass boyfriend line. I really feel that way and it's nice to know it resonates...

    I know what you mean, StyleRaven, about not liking to shop when you can't buy. I find that a bit of a torture and have gone through valleys of not shopping because I couldn't take the temptation.

    Jen: Of course, how could I have neglected that key raison de shop? There's nothing like being so low and losing yourself in the beauty of new, desirable objects. And, of course, when your finished all your problems are totally solved! :-)

  18. I'd like to think of my shopping as an expression of my creativity, and like you, I enjoy shopping for others (almost) as much as myself. But I have to admit I'm a bit of an addict, who enjoys the thrill of the hunt and the buy, regardless of need.

  19. J: I can see from your purchases (posted on your blog) that you shop for the love of beautiful objects and the expression of creativity. Just goes to show how prolifically creative you actually are!