In some of my recent posts, I’ve shared that I have been redefining my style as of late. Cutting back on my shopping has led me to more thoroughly evaluate what’s in my closet. It’s also given me more time and space to consider how I want to dress and how I’d like to be perceived by others. While this sounds like a very positive shift – and it mostly has been – there have been a few negative side effects.
In today’s post, I offer my thoughts on what I’ve termed “the dark side of style redefinition.” I don’t necessarily think this dark side applies to everyone, but it’s definitely affecting me and likely affects fellow shopaholics in similar ways.
I’m sharing my insights today for two main reasons. First, those who resonate with my experience may be able to make positive psychological and behavioral shifts as a result. In addition, others who have been in a similar position in the past may be able to offer suggestions to help me and others better navigate our current challenges.
At the end of this post, I present a few coping strategies I’ve decided to adopt as I continue to redefine my style while also overcoming my compulsive shopping problem. It’s my hope that many of you will find my ideas helpful, but I also welcome any additional tips you’d like to share.
Shopaholic Behavior Patterns
As those who have been following this blog for a while know, I have a lot of similar items in my wardrobe. This is mostly a result of mindless shopping and faulty thinking. Much of the shopping I did in the past was done to alleviate emotional stress. I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into what I was buying, and when I did apply thought to my purchases, it was often misguided. For one, I generally believed that if one item of a given type was good, two or three (or even more) was better. This led me to accumulate an overabundance of pieces in comparable styles, silhouettes, and colors.
So long as we continue to like a particular style, we may not experience many negative effects from our strategy of purchasing multiples. Yes, we may have packed closets, but many shopaholics don’t consider that to be a major problem. However, what happens when we stop liking a certain style? If we’re still shopping at breakneck speed, we generally just shift our buying in another direction and start accumulating alternate types of items. We may or may not purge the less loved styles from our closets, but we do start picking up a bunch of new garments that we feel passionately about.
That is what I did for a number of years. I bought multiples, I wore them (or didn’t) until I got tired of them, and then I bought multiples of something else. I regularly purged my closet when it exceeded my “set point,” but typically maintained a very large wardrobe. This didn’t really work well for me, but it did work on some level – until I decided I needed to change my shopaholic ways. So I’ve been on a journey of transformation over the past year and a half. I’ve been buying less and thinking more. I’ve also been doing a lot of tracking and engaging in quite a bit of introspection and self-expression here on the blog.
What a Fine Mess I’ve Gotten Myself Into…
Now I find myself in sort of a difficult situation. I’ve been refining my style and becoming increasingly clear about the way I’d like to present myself to the world. But then I look into my closet and see a lot of “not that” pieces. I find myself not loving much of what I own and wanting to completely overhaul my wardrobe. I want to rush out and buy everything I can find that fits with my new style statement.
Except I can’t… because I’ve also set a limit for how many pieces I can buy this year – and I haven’t been pacing my purchases very well. I’ve already made some big buying mistakes this year. I wish I could have some “do-overs,” but life doesn’t work that way. We have to live with the consequences of our actions, learn from our mistakes, and vow to do better moving forward.
In my last accountability update, I mentioned that I’ve contemplated raising my item limit for the year. Yet I also see the value in holding to my initial commitment. I may experience some discomfort in not being able to refine my style as quickly as I’d like, but there’s no guarantee that I’d get things right even if I allowed myself shopping carte blanche. After all, I have a lot more awareness this year than in 2013, but I continue to commit shopping errors at a fairly high rate. Who’s to say that same trend wouldn’t continue? Then I’d just end up with more items that I don’t love and won’t wear in my closet!
Can You Relate to My Quandary?
Perhaps you can relate… Maybe you haven’t set an item limit for yourself, but instead have very little disposable income available for shopping. Maybe you’ve “already spent the money” and are now struggling to pay off some crippling debts. You may need to delay gratification for entirely different reasons than mine, but you may also feel impatient that you can’t take your style to a new level as fast as you’d like.
The dark side of style redefinition is that once we outline our desired style, we tend to want to get there right now. We want to wiggle our noses or snap our fingers and be expressing our ideal style personas post haste. Or we may be willing to do the work of purchasing new pieces, but we don’t have the budget to do so at this point in time. Either way, we are impatient and dissatisfied with the status quo. We want to look different and we want to be different. Our current style and our current clothes are suddenly unacceptable.
What’s Really True
Of course, all of our current clothes are not really ready for the trash heap, but we shopaholics can be a very “all or nothing” bunch. What we loved not long ago feels just not good enough today and that creates a vicious cycle. But that’s just a feeling and a not very reliable one at that. While it may be true that we’d like to move our style in a different direction, we probably do have quite a few pieces we can work well with today. We don’t need a whole new wardrobe in order to evolve our style statement.
If I look in my closet when I’m in a rational state of mind, I still see a lot of pieces that I like – or even love. They may not be perfect or exactly what I’d like to be wearing today, but they are still items that work well for my body, lifestyle, and personality. I don’t need to throw everything out and start all over again just because I’ve taken a style turn as of late. I can start with what I have and work from there.
I think I can learn a lot more about myself and my style by being uncomfortable and working through it than by shopping as a means of alleviating my discontent. After all, style evolution is more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s also quite tenuous in its early stages and should probably unfold gradually instead of all at once. Adding a strategic piece or two periodically and remixing that item with current closet residents may be challenging, but it’s also quite educational. We learn what we like and what we don’t better by working with what we have than by throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
A Cunning Plan
In the aftermath of last week’s mini breakdown, during which I stressed about my item limit and tried to bargain with myself, I’ve come up with a new approach. I’m going to do my best to meet my item limit goal for the year while still working to refine my style. While I’d like to go for broke and buy enough pieces to launch me firmly into new style territory today (or within the next few months), I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to do the following:
1. Only wear what I feel “called” to wear
I won’t force myself to wear anything just because it’s in my closet. I won’t worry too much about potential “benchwarmers” or wearing some pieces more than others. I’m just going to wear what I love, even if that means repeating certain outfits over and over again. After all, the same people don’t even see me most days, so why not wear my favorites often?
2. Keep a journal of how I feel about my outfits
In addition to taking photos of all (or at least most) of my outfits, I’m also going to keep track of how I felt while wearing them. I’m going to write about my impressions of what I was wearing – what worked and what didn’t work, whether or not the outfit was in line with my desired style, and what I would ideally change about what I was wearing. This should help to increase my awareness of where I’m headed even more.
3. Be very strategic about what I buy
What I buy for the rest of the year will be based upon the observations I make in my outfit journal. If I find myself wishing I had a particular type of piece to complete my outfits, whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a white topper, that’s what I will buy. I will have to be careful to make the best possible decisions, as I won’t be able to buy many new items this year. I’ll have to make what I buy really count.
4. Shop and play in my closet
Not only will I focus on shopping my wardrobe in the coming months, I will also engage my creativity in the closet. I will take a few hours here and there to play with new outfit combinations, as well as new ways of using accessories to pull my looks together. I probably have a lot more options than I think and taking some time to “play” will help me realize this fact.
5. Use my remaining clothing budget to purchase strategic accessories
While I have limited the number of clothing pieces I can buy this year, I don’t have such a limit in place for accessories. That doesn’t mean I should go hog wild and buy tons of new accessories, though. But anyone who’s been reading Bridgette Raes’ blog knows how important accessories are to switching up our looks and extending the versatility of our wardrobes.
I can add some new pops of color or edgy elements to my looks through my jewelry, belts, scarves, etc. I can also do this via shoes and handbags, but those items will count toward my item limit for the year. In hindsight, I probably would have set the limit for just clothing, but I don’t want to weasel out of my commitment at just past the halfway point. I’m going to make the best of what I’ve committed to for 2014.
All it Takes is an Attitude Shift
I’m still in the same position as I was last week, but I feel so much better. All it took was a simple attitude shift and a basic plan to turn things around. While it’s still true that I won’t be able to shop a whole lot more this year, my style redefinition process doesn’t have to grind to a screeching halt. There’s still a lot I can do to grow and learn style-wise, even if I’m not buying all that many new pieces for the remainder of the year. In fact, I may grow and learn more by having to work with what I have – and make a few strategic additions – than by relying solely on new purchases to shift my style.
If you’re in a similar position to mine, I invite you to join me in adopting my style plan for the remainder of 2014. It won’t cost a lot of money, but it will require some of your time and attention. That time will be spent more in your closet than in the stores or on your computer, but it will be time well spent. If you do choose to join me, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Feel free to comment on any of my posts or connect with me via email or social media.
For those who are already where they want to be style-wise, I hope you’ll decide to follow along and provide encouragement (through either thoughts or words) for the rest of us. I will periodically post updates on how I’m doing with my style redefinition process and share my insights from the journey. I’ll also offer suggestions for those who are working to shift their style without stuffing their closets or breaking the bank.
About the Comments…
Thanks for your support! Feel free to offer your thoughts and ideas in the comments section of this post. For those who worried I might shut comments down, you can rest assured. I plan to keep comments open, but I may not always be able to respond to each and every one, especially on posts that receive many, many comments.
I feel blessed that my blog has grown in its reach and readership. That’s not a bad problem to have! I love that many of you respond to each other and engage in meaningful discussion in the comments section of my posts. I will chime in as much as I can and I will always read every single comment and respond to any direct questions for me. As for the rest, I will do my best. I’m glad you find this blog to be a safe place to discuss the many difficult issues related to shopping and our wardrobes. I hope it will always remain as such, no matter how much it grows!