Retail Therapy – my new page on overshopping

Dear reader

I have recently added a new page to my blog titled “retail therapy“.

On this page I hope to be documenting my journey towards less: shopping less, having less, and wanting less. Please stop by regularly as I will be posting new content at least once a week. If you, like me, also tend to overshop, my posts should be both entertaining and informative for you and I am looking forward to your comments in the comments section. At the same time I will continue to blog about everything style on my main page. I hope to see you around!

Primark, Princesses and the Death of Language

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I’m not sure if alcoholics get a kick out of watching other people drink, but I certainly do get a kick out of watching other people shop. This goes way back to sitting in my best friend’s room after a term break or a holiday and going through all her new purchases with her, me lounging in a deep round chair, glass of wine in hand, watching her reorganize her wardrobe and shoes. Not much has changed to this day: I still regularly ask her to show me any new arrivals to her wardrobe on skype, and TV shows on makeovers are among my favorites as they usually involve a whole new wardrobe for the unfashionable subject of the show.

A whole new wardrobe. *Sigh*.

I haven’t done so well so far at staying away from the shops (damn you, ever reducing, ever seducing Oasis sale!) and not shopping has proven to be excruciating. No seriously. It’s been absolute torture. Whip me with a belt, hack me with a stiletto, throttle me with a scarf but please, please, let me be near some brand new clothing. Oh the smell of new clothes. The sound of ripping off a tag. *Sigh*.

Anyway, something’s gotta give here cause I’m going up the walls with cold turkey. I may not be able to shop but I can still watch other people doing it, right? A sort of secondary kick, clothes voyeurism, shoeporn, call it what you will. It’s a rainy Monday evening and I’m browsing the web for some of the above. My most used search engine terms have lately been overshopping, cheap fashion and shopaholism (yes, that’s a word). I have to admit I get a bit of a sick kick out of seeing people with bigger closets than mine and, likewise, with bigger problems than mine. It makes me feel normal. So on my journey through the blogs and pages of self-confessed shopaholics, I come across a link to what is called a “shopping haul video” on youtube.

Maybe I’m too naive or don’t spend enough time on the internet, but I’ve never heard of such a thing before and in fact I have to put the word “haul” through an online translator. The German translation of haul has a criminal ring to it. The kind of thing pirates get up to. What on earth is this?! I need to know more and give it a click, and here I am, catapulted into some teenagers bedroom somewhere in California.

Tiffany* (*all names changed) is 16, incredibly pretty and has put a lot of effort into her hair and make up. She claims to be “just a teenage girl from California” who happens to live in a mansion; her bedroom is all huge windows, white carpets, 1001 cushions and the de rigeur toy dog. Not to mention the professional camera crew which has been shooting her little video – the camera moves extremely steadily compared to the sort of home videos I tend to produce when I once again film my cat doing something funny. There’s intro music, there are subtitles, you name it, she’s got it, and the whole thing has a feel of a well choreographed MTV reality TV program to it.

So Tiffany*, who I find immediately suspect, proceeds to present me with her “Black Friday haul”. In between a lot of oh my god-s and I’m so excited-s she reveals a moderate shopping spree of 7 or 8 tops, 3 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of boots, some underwear, cosmetics and candles. Flicking through her channel, I realize that she goes on shopping sprees like this one quite regularly. Another one, posted in January this year, comprises of two sweaters, one scarf, one dress, one pair of brogues, 2 pairs of shorts, two tops, one skirt and two pajamas. One viewer has posted below her latest video: Where do you get the money to shop this much? Hm, do you want me to have a guess?

You’ve got to hand it to Tiffany* though – her youtube channel has 1.8 million subscribers and between hauls, she posts outfits, make up tips and DIY room decorations. She is in fact so professional that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if a television channel snapped her up next week. There’s a career in there I’m sure, and best of luck to her with that.

I’m hooked on the hauls now and the next one I click on is Carmen* who starts jabbering into the camera in Spanish, which is enough to make me shut down the window immediately. Lo siento mucho, Carmen*, pero I feel a bit tired sabes y un poco lazy tambien? This by the way is not some weird mix of English in Spanish, it is, in fact Gibraltarian and I am fluent in it. Take that, coño!

Next on is Kelly*, also broadcasting from her immaculate bedroom. Kelly’s* more my cup of tea, as she speaks in a likable British accent and actually asks you to get yourself a nice cup of tea because she just finished a “huge haul” and it’s gonna take a while to go through all the stuff. Cup of tea you say? Let’s make it a glass of red. I return with a monster tumbler of Spanish plonk to join Kelly* in her bedroom while she goes through everything that she bought. Kelly* has bought a lot of stuff, but even better still, she got a lot of the stuff for free. Now we’re talking. I like your style, girl.

There is some appeal to this type of entertainment I have to admit, it makes you feel like you are sociable when in fact you are anything but, stuck alone in front of your screen. Watching Kelly* feels a bit like spending some quality with a girlfriend, just that she does all the talking and you can hang around in a tracksuit and burp without anybody taking offence. Ah the joys of the internet age.

Another few of these videos and it all starts to blur into one big stream of clothing floating across the screen, it’s in fact like watching an hour long advertisement for H&M if there ever was such a thing. None of the haulers seem to be too concerned about quality, how many times you can wash something before it will fall apart or even – and this is the worst bit – how and when they will wear this latest buy. Much more interesting than the Primark jumper that has – would you believe it – buttons, as Kelly* points out enthusiastically, would be to see in how many different variations Kelly* can restyle the Primark jumper. But who restyles in this day and age – the Primark jumper will go out of shape after one wash and probably go in the bin – doesn’t matter, it was only a fiver! Buying and discarding and rebuying has replaced quality, caring for and reusing clothing.

The saddest thing about videos of this kind however is that they will eventually replace blogging and writing, as they speak to a much wider audience: the illiterate! No need to read anymore, and for the hauler, no need to write anymore! Correct spelling will never again be a problem, and you’ll never have to worry again about the number of times you can get away with using the word “like” before you start to sound like a moron. The slow death of written language starts here, so enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Enough from me – join me again from Monday on my youtube channel…

The end of insanity

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Dear all

you and I both know that I love style, fashion, clothes and shopping, nearly more than anything else in this world. Shopping is, in fact, my favorite pass time. I take great pride in my wardrobe and I love my clothes.

Unfortunately, I think, I’ve gone too far down the wrong road. Let me explain.

After Madrid didn’t present much of a shopping Mecca for me, I found myself really going wild in the Gibraltar sales. I am somewhat ashamed of how wild I went. It’s not that I spent a fortune. Everything was offensively cheap. However, In the course of four weeks or so, I bought (and that was after careful consideration and not buying everything I wanted, which was A LOT more):

– One Mango jumper and three jumpers from Oasis, all at least 50% off

– One going out dress from Mango at 70% off

– Two work dresses from Monsoon on sale

– Two dresses from Oasis at half price and one at ten pounds from the summer before

– One pair of shoes from Oasis at half price

– One coat slash wrap from Oasis at half price.

– Half a ton of costume jewellery at 2 pounds a piece in Accessorize.

If this does sound truly indulgent to you, then you know what, I would agree. Some people wouldn’t buy that much stuff in a year, no matter how cheap it was. So go on, ask me.

Are you ever going to wear these things? Well yes – I’m quite good at buying things I like and get some use out of. I buy well fitting, good looking things that are my style. I just buy too many of them.

Was it good value for money then? What do you think – I already own 50 plus dresses and I just bought another six?? I don’t know – next question!

Do you have space for the new arrivals? No! My wardrobe has reached the point where putting something new in means I have to throw something old out. Sometimes I deliberately leave the laundry to pile up a bit because I wouldn’t even have enough hangers to fit everything, if the contents of my wardrobe were all clean at the same time.

And the most important question, do you really need all that stuff? I think I can safely assume that I really don’t need any clothes, bags or accessories at this point in my life. Nothing at all. Not even a pair of socks. Once in a while I approach my wardrobe with pen and paper, and I start counting all the things I have and how much they cost me over the ten years or so I’ve been collecting them. I never finish this exercise. I get too scared, about a quarter into the process.

You might wonder if I’m one of these people who will never pay off their twelve credit cards. Thankfully, I’ve been quite lucky and I don’t have any debt racked up on store or credit cards. Still, I am spending way too much of my hard earned cash on clothes! And it is taking up too much of my time and energy to worry about the next thing I really need and whether I can afford it or not. This has nothing to do with my love for clothes anymore. Wanting, and buying, has turned into a losing game for me. Satisfaction is always just around the corner, once I have bought that last elusive thing that I really, really want. But usually even before I hand over my card to get the famous last thing, I spot something else in the shop. After the last thing, there always comes another. Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of the scary “A” word that none of us likes to hear in relation to our own behavior?

Why stop shopping though?, the little devil on my shoulder whispers. You really enjoy it. You work hard and you deserve it. And you’re not hurting anybody, right? No I’m not hurting anybody – yet. I think this “yet” is exactly the right time to address my spending and consumption habits. I am not a rich person. Maybe my cash would be better spent (or not spent, in fact!) elsewhere. Maybe the resources on this planet are finite and consumers won’t be able to carry on as recklessly as they have done for the past few decades.

I have decided to set myself an enormous challenge. 2013 is the year of change for me. With a number of things, shopping only being one of them, I feel like I have reached a dead end. I have been doing the same things that haven’t been working for me for a number of years – which is, I hear, the definition of insanity. It’s time to take a quantum leap and  really make a change. So this is the deal:

I won’t be buying any new clothes for six months.

This might sound easy for any person who is not a compulsive hunter for the next best thing. But for a clothes addict like me, this may just be worse than coming off heroin. I shop all the time, or at least I look all the time, so if I want to really do this I will have to avoid the shops at all cost – and not only the shops. Websites, magazines, TV, anything that keeps me wanting. A major, major challenge.

Six months will bring me up to the end of summer and, conveniently, the summer sales. But hey, this isn’t what it is all about! I won’t take my abstinence as an excuse to blow hundreds in the sales – what would the point of that be? I may give myself a small budget a little closer to the time, but until then the only caveat to the no new clothes rule are small perishable items like socks or tights.

So stay tuned as I try and master this challenge. No more blogging about the newest purchases, but more blogging about the emotional triggers behind shopping, how to shop my own wardrobe for the next six months and any other interesting projects I will endeavor on to replace all those hours previously spent shopping. I will be honest and own up to any failings here, should they happen along the way, but I am looking forward to meeting the challenge and to really shift things and move them forward.

Don’t worry about me, I’m not about to turn into a fashion loathing frump anytime soon. I’ll still be looking good in the meantime – I have plenty of clothes to fall back to….

Dress to kill

DRESS

Marbella, on the Costa del Sol.

Let’s be upfront about something. The town doesn’t hold much appeal for me. I come here for two things, and two things only: La Cañada, and R’s family gatherings. It’s the latter that brings us here this Saturday, a warm December day that promises tapas, wine and friendly chatter.

Driving into any town is a strain on our relationship. We usually bicker, trying to find a parking space or just trying to find our way. This time round we have a go at each other when we drive into a car park that charges a maximum of 20 Euros a day and I decide to immediately leave again via the other exit. R is anxious to get out of the car and not waste the day looking for parking. I am anxious not to waste 15 Euros I know we can save if we just find our way to the market. Different priorities, you see. You win some, you lose some. As I am the designated driver, I win this one.

Marbella, though posh and at times overpriced, doesn’t score on the style front in my books. Frankly there is some awful crap to be had, for people with more money than sense. This would mean that shopping in Marbella wasn’t of any interest to me, but then, you see, there is La Cañada and having driven for over an hour, it would be a waste not to go there after a few tapas and pinxos with family G. The wine facilitates that R agrees to come along, the wine and my insistence that we need to get him a new pair of jeans. I’m not that worried about his jeans quite frankly but any excuse is good enough. Purchase made, I send him off to do some shopping on my own. Nothing worse than a bored boyfriend following you doggy eyed around the stores.

It’s Christmas though. The shops are full of tack. I find myself in Desigual, of all places, a shop that until recently I used to loathe with a vengeance, and which just about managed to redeem itself by providing me with this year’s best winter coat. But today, I spot something different that gets my heart racing and my head spinning with excitement.

*drumsolo*

It’s a dress.

A dress, okay?

Anyone who knows me knows that I wear dresses pretty much every day. I have many. I counted fifty a while back and the collection has been steadily growing since. Mentally ill perhaps, but also very, very much my style. The dress is buttoned, with a collar and full skirt, and a rather bonkers pattern. This dress is not for the faint-hearted. This dress is for the serial dresser.  When I lure R in to have a look he is magically drawn to it.

“That really caught my eye.”

“Uhu,” I nod, eyes gleaming.

“That’s really you”.

Thank you, R. You totally made my day.

However, there is a problem. The one in my size has a huge rip across the belt. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed, but I won’t buy anything that’s already falling apart in the shop and especially not if it has a Desigual price tag. The second one they have in my size (yay) has bobbles all over the fabric (doh). I have multiple mental disorders when it comes to clothing and OCD is definitely one of them. I won’t buy anything that’s less than perfect. I couldn’t enjoy it. It would make me feel dirty. So, I leave the shop with nothing but a tear in my eye. R tells me how proud he is of me for walking away, but his words just ring hollow in the emptiness of the bereavement I feel inside.

The following night, I have wine-fuelled dreams about the dress. Something’s gotta be good if it follows me to the other side of consciousness, so when we return to Tarifa the next morning I find myself frantically mulling over the options. There is a Desigual section in El Corte Ingles in Algeciras…. however the dress doesn’t appear when I check their website. Bugger! When I check for it on Desigual’s own website, I discover that my size has sold out. At this point I’m breaking into a cold sweat, and not only because I can still feel the aftermath of last nights one brandy too many. I am cursing Tarifa now, if this was Dublin I’d be out there right now getting my teeth into this dress in one of its many temples to consumption. But this is small town Spain, it’s December and it’s Sunday. What I’m saying is, it’s dead out there. Totalmente muerte. All I can do is search every nook and cranny of the web. I finally find the dress on Amazon.co.uk. God bless a good multi billion dollar online operation.

Why am I telling you this, you wonder? Because small towns are full of surprises. As I write, R has left the house to witness a “pig stabbing” – his words, not mine. Apparently there is a traditional slaughter festival going on in the Alameda square of the town this afternoon. As a vegetarian, staying at home seems sensible. Also, my dress has arrived from Amazon and I need to spend a good half hour going over it for quality control purposes. It actually has a small printing error on the fabric but I think I can live with it. Did I mention I have OCD?  Later this afternoon, I chance leaving the house for a trip to the local supermarket to pick up some (non-pork) dinner supplies, hoping not to run into any pigs being chased by men with pitchforks. No pigs, however another otherworldly sight has me mesmerized as I turn the first corner onto the Batalla del Salado, the new town main street which is littered with trendy surf shops. It’s an apparition. It just has to be.

My dress, the exact dress I ordered all the way from England, on display in a shop window less than a two minute walk from my front door. I blink but the image just won’t go away. I blink again. Then I walk on briskly, feeling utterly foolish.

Let’s just never mention the carbon footprint of my purchase again, shall we? I promise I’ll make up for it by loving and wearing it for a very long time. But let’s mention at this point that it is indeed safe for vegetarians to come and visit our beautiful home town on Spain’s Southernmost tip. As R confirmed, no pigs were harmed in town today (they already arrived dead, bless them), and if you’re looking for a dress to kill, Tarifa’s as good a place as any to start looking.