Yes, it's long and texty but I'm hoping to hear about your emotional or rational feelings during shopping.
What follows is probably an outline of some not-right thinking on my part.
Recently, after an impulse bulk buy at American Apparel, I got to thinking about why we buy. I consider myself a relatively sane consumer. I resent the words "nabbed" and "snapped up" as self-congratulatory shopping verbs in most cases and I try not to use them because I think it fosters a shopping-as-sport mentality. I try to limit my consumption and weigh out it's effect on the world - animals, people, the environment. I consider that serious business.
But when I walked into American Apparel to check out their backpacks (I wanted a sturdy backpack larger than my Baggu) I began by checking out some of the staples on my "wardrobe wants" list. Leggings to replace worn out leggings. Trousers because I'm still without a decent pair.
And on the way to the fitting room I found some shorts I'd wanted last season at 50% off. They were much like the shorts I wore all the time last summer, but better and more versatile. Basically, exactly what I'd wished I'd had all last summer.
So there I was. In the fitting room with trousers, leggings and shorts when I had only planned to look at backpacks. It is all stuff I'll use and all stuff on my list. But as I tried things on and decided what to purchase, something came over me. The shorts fit so I wanted both of them - they're on my list and I was inconvenienced all last summer by not having them and having to make do with crappier shorts in one color. ($25 each.) I could use the pants for work, especially in the fall/winter and I've been leaning on non-denim jeans which are on their way out. ($78) Leggings are "essential" and I wear them all the time until they're falling apart. They were buy 2 get-one-50% off so I should get three black pairs to wear under skirts and dresses during fall/winter. Not only did I want all of it (and more - I looked for additional trousers) - but I couldn't mentally knock anything that fit and that I wanted out of the running.
Why shouldn't I have it? I "needed" it to be comfortable and appropriate for work and the weather (all seasons). Some of these would be integral to me having an aesthetic I like. Some of these would make getting dressed easier and give me some dressing flexibility, which will help me feel more "me", right?
I couldn't make myself put a damn thing back - not even the $12 duck brooch I clearly did not need. I was in such a state of mental justification that I was beyond reason. The very idea that I was asking myself to prioritize and limit what I had in my hand actually enraged me. Do I have the money? Sure, somewhere. Was this different when I did not have the money anywhere? No. I just bought the stuff on my credit card and ripped off all the tags as soon as I got home so I couldn't return them because they were mine, damn it. I am not proud of that.
Somewhere along the path of me becoming more responsible with money (and getting out of a lot of consumer debt), I got better at moderating these spending binges. And when I really started focusing on buying clothes that don't negatively impact others (re-use, non-sweatshop, "green" materials and of course animal-parts-free) it certainly limited what I could buy. At that point what I wanted to buy went from a free-for-all (oh, the pleather Payless shoes by the dozens!) to a pretty limited pool. My $80 monthly budget was enough to support it and I tracked it. And, for a while, I was pretty good at it.
Still, every once in a while the Ghost of Consumerism Past rears its ugly head in my life and I end up on a shopping binge. And often that opens the floodgates to buy more, even though these are all still squarely in the "want" vs "need" category. Do I have enough clothing to be appropriately clothed in all areas of my life (socially, weather-wise)? YES. But sometimes the very act of buying makes it easier to buy again. And again. If we're keeping track, I bought not one but two Vaute Couture pre-order coats. (And I own a 1st season Vaute coat already!) Then there was this shopping incident. If I'm being honest, that's a little under $1k in two coats, the American Apparel stuff and a random denim motorcycle jacket I picked up -- all between September and November.
While I'm totally excited to support Vaute Couture's business and I feel okay about buying from American Apparel (here's why)...and just that one jacket was sweatshop, I am not okay with this much shopping and my inability to curb it. It's a ton of new materials, which always have some kind of impact and I'm afraid it'll put me back on the wrong track.
What I can't quite put my finger on is WHY I slip into such mental justification and exactly what I'm afraid of (or what I feel like I'm missing) if I put some or all of it back? What is the big deal about looking a certain way? What is the big deal about feeling comfortable (body-wise and personality-wise) in my clothing?
While this isn't specifically about ethical fashion, it speaks to how some of us consume and that has a direct relationship to how we shop and therefore what gets sold and/or manufactured so it definitely falls into the ethical fashion blogging arena.
And no, I never got a backpack there. (The hardware looked pretty weak.)