Friday, November 25, 2011

How we fall in love with clothes

In a way, buying clothes resembles starting a relationship. You might think that's crazy, but bear with me for a moment - I don't mean I make my girlfriends go ask a skirt if it will please go out with me, because, you know, I sort of like it and uhm, we might have fun, what do you think? Nor do I sit anxciously buy the phone waiting for a new coat to ring, wine and dine my shoes or do I have the habit of buying my wardrobe expensive engagement rings.

What I mean is this: shopping isn't a rational occupation - at least not for most of us. We're guided by feelings, desires, expectations and sometimes fears (how many of you don't buy certain types of clothing because you fear it will make you look fat, or certain colours because you think they wash you out?). We don't always buy the things we most need, we go for the things we want. We even make sacrifices for the clothes we most want. We watch what we eat to look pretty for them. We take care of them. We make good choices and bad. And if we're smart, we learn from our mistakes. Sounds a little like relationships, no? There are different manners in which we buy and deal with clothes, just as there are different ways to deal with men, or women, or whatever floats your boat:

The love at first sight
Once in a while you might come across a piece of clothing that strikes you as absolutely perfect. It's flawless, beautiful, flattering. It's exactly what you were looking for - or it's the piece of clothing that you didn't even know you oh so badly needed. It's the missing link in your wardrobe, even if ten seconds ago you didn't know about its existence. You might cave in and buy it immediately. If you decide to sleep over it, you will want to go back as soon as possible before anyone else snatches it up. In the meantime, you can't help imagining how you will combine it with your other treasures; how people will take notice; how it will transform or complete your style. You'll doodle images of yourself wearing it. You'll start looking it up in lookbooks and on the internet, just to verify if it really was that awesome and get convinced: yes, it was. In other words: you're style-stalking. You're trying to put yourself in the way of what you most desire. If your love is reciprocated (by which I mean: the design of the garment seems to suit your shape and size as well) and nothing gets in the way, you'll most likely cave sooner or later.

Sometimes we don't act on these flights of passion. We're too cautious or our object of affection is out of reach (too expensive, for instance). It then gets stored in our memory, surrounded by a bit of melancholy and a faint longing. The only cure for this is somehow seeing your beau again and realising it wasn't ideal after all. This happened to me quite a few times (with boys as well as clothing, to be honest): you see something back in sales or another person wearing it passes you by in the street and you can't help feeling a bit relieved and a bit mystified. (What the hell was I thinking?) I had my eye on a skirt from Mexx 5 years ago. I liked the colours (blue-ish shades) and the shape. It was bit floaty and romantic, but practical at the same time. I didn't buy it because I spent all my money on other things I needed more (I remember not having any pants anymore and buying jeans instead). Three months later I saw it on sale and noticed the fabric was already falling apart, even though nobody had worn it yet. A narrow escape!

This COS dress and I are still living our happily ever after!

The slow build-up
Some objects get more attractive over time. Maybe they're a little understated, maybe we just didn't pay much attention before. But suddenly we take notice. At first you're just a little sympathetic. You acknowledge something isn't butt-ugly. Afterwards you think it's actually nice. You may be a little surprised: why didn't I see this before?And the more you encounter the piece of clothing, the more alluring it gets. Until suddenly you realise: wait a minute, I want this. After which you go for it. The danger here is that some other woman might have taken notice before you and you are left empty handed. And maybe a little heart broken. Classic chick flick scenario. My Best Friend's Wedding, anyone?

After slowly falling in love with this Manoush dress, I managed to pick it up for 30$ - they usually retail for over 300$, so I was double lucky.

The marriage of convenience
This type of relationship isn't ubiquitous anymore - not in fashion, nor in love. How many people can honestly say they buy things only because they need them? How many women have one pair of good winter shoes, one solid winter coat, one quality purse - and not necessarily beautiful at that, but practical? (Now that I think of it, I only have one pair of winter shoes and one winter coat, but mainly because my favorite pair of boots fell apart and my second winter coat doesn't really fit anymore. Not exactly a conscious choice.) Buying items because you need them doesn't make your heart go pitter patter. They're rarely exciting. Serious, respectable, solid: yes. Delightful, enchanting, mellifluous? Not exactly. Still, this type of clothes is usually trustworthy and you might build a long-lasting quality relationship with them. If it didn't make me sound like some kind of fungus on a tree root, I would describe it as a symbiotic kind of love, based on reliability.

One word: winter anti-slip socks. Gift from my mother.

A winter sweater I bought out of pure necessity about 5 years ago. I still wear it. I mean, it sparkles!

The quickie
The quickie is pretty much the opposite of the marriage of convenience. Quickies are emergency fashion fixes. They're the items that are so hot one season they're bound to be outdated the next. You like a certain trend but don't want to invest in it? Here's your solution! Another example: apparently a lot of women regularly go outfit shopping. As in: they're going out friday night, feel like they have nothing to wear and buy a cheap but hip head-to-toe outfit. Sometimes you just feel like something new, right? And ah, fast fashion, how you come in handy. The downside to quickies in fashion (as opposed to a real quickie, may I hope, unless you're a psycho killer) is that after a while, they tend to clog the back of your closet. They can make it kind of hard to construct your own sense of style. Also, good as it may feel at the time, you might regret it afterwards.

A loyal friend tried to talk me out of this skirt, but it was 5 euros and I felt like I needed yet another skirt. I wore it once and now use it in the house on lazy days when I don't feel like wearing pants.

The 'I don't really love this, but hey, it's around'
Well, the title says it all. This kind of mindset never pays off, be it in love or in fashion. In fashion, it is often a sales related phenomenon. You might not be really into something, or it will not fit you as it should, but it's cheap(er) so you end up buying it anyway. And afterwards it will just be there, in your closet, taunting and frustrating you, because why go through the trouble if you don't end up wearing it? I have a newly instated rule: buy with conviction or don't buy at all!

I bought this Essentiel top in sale and never figured out what to do with it. I wore it once, to an African wedding where I was told to wear colours.

So, do you think I actually have a point or do I just have way too much time on my hands?


  1. What an AWESOME post, really well-written. I enjoyed reading it so much !! And I agree with your analysis. In general, people (people meaning me) tend to make bad life choices.
    I used to go for quickies or the "hey it's around one" because the one I love at first sight are always too expensive. But now I'm trying to go for the build-ups to build a solid wardrobe.

    Your COS dress looks awesome btw. I really like COS, have you seen their spring/summer collection ? I love it.

    xx Absolute B.

  2. Thank you so much, ladies.

    I have way too much 'hey, it's around's too, but I think I've pretty much grown out of it. When I was on a smaller budget and didn't put much effort in my clothing, I was just glad when a pair of jeans or shoes fit and bought them without question. Now I'd rather not wear pants if I don't find any that suit me.

    The dress is great! I like COS, but the clothes look really really bad on me most of the time. They just don't suit me. But once in a while I come across a piece I really love and I never hesitate to buy - the quality is really good. I have another COS dress I've had for ages, and it still looks great! Didn't see the new collection yet, they moved the store here in Brussels and I didn't manage to pass by yet. But I'm curious. :)

  3. Hoi! Wou je even antwoorden - jammer dat je niet mocht beginnen aan UGent! Maar je hebt wel gelijkt dat het idd veel van je vrije tijd opeist - ik zie het nu nog zitten, maar ik ben me er tegelijk ook wel bewust van dat ik het nog een hele tijd superdruk zal hebben. Ach ja, je moet het doen als je jong bent, right :-)

    M'n tas komt van Zara btw, ze hebben ze nu ook in andere kleurtjes, je moet maar eens kijken in hun webshop!

    En P.S. Je kan echt leuk schrijven!

  4. You have a point and the clothes are beautifull!

  5. Great read- nicely written post! I just wrote a post about selling all these impulse buys...

    Bon Vivant + a Budget

  6. I think the way you built your parallelism is genius! And so true...And I think I'm a 'victim' (or should I say responsible?!) of too many "The love at first sight" items...

  7. very interesting post on the psychology of shopping.
    the way i do it: i stay true to what it's on my list, into which i put much thought and reason. i go to in with a mission. the only exception is when i go to thrift or consignment shops, looking to find interesting pieces to add to my existing wardrobe. this kind of shopping must be done rather open-mindedly. i haven't bought on impulse in ages. wearing only black and white and staying true to my aesthetic helps a lot. :)

  8. Great post! I think your comparisons are spot-on and entertaining. I need to get rid of my "quickie" and "hey, it's around" pieces, but I have this overwhelming sense of guilt about both of them that always seems to prevent me from actually doing so. Maybe you can do another post on guilt-free closet cleaning =).

    Hello, Framboise!

  9. Wow, thank you all for the great feedback!

    Odyssey - I'll bet. I always get the impression from your outfits you have a very clear and characteristic aesthetic vision, so it comes as no surprise that you put much thought in it. Very admirable, I have to say.

    Tam - I'm actually thinking about cleaning out my closet. I want to declutter, but I'm the kind of person who's always afraid to throw things away. I'm such a hamster!

  10. WOW what a steal that grey dress was! LUCKY!

  11. haha - i think you had a few points - shopping and all its wonderful convolutions is unfortunately always interesting to me - think i may be a 'love at first sight 'a bit addicted and do i have to 'marraige of convenience' kind of girl - fab post x

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