testing me testing me
"Surreal shopper" by Herbert Matter in Harper's Bazaar, discovered through Prêt à Porter P
Over the past couple of weeks, there were more quiet spells than usual during work hours that left me with too much time in front of the computer, drawing me dangerously close to being seduced by that general atmosphere of “Shop, shop, shop!”. Bored, I started seeking the thrill of the new, and nearly dropped a lot of money on things I don’t mind owning, but didn’t really want. In the end, my wallet escaped largely unscathed (I did buy a pair of trousers), but I’m a bit shaken by how obsessive the mind can be when it comes to my weakness for beautiful clothing.
I was saved by my distrust for online shopping. I have bought quite a few things on the internet and sometimes it’s worked. But just as often, when the item arrives, I know immediately it’s something I would have never bought had I seen it in person and tried it on first – the shoe is just a little too snug at the toe, the shirt sleeves are bigger than I thought, the material feels all wrong, the colour is just a little off. Or, it just looks overwhelming ordinary.
Things can be elevated to a god-like status over the internet – maybe it’s gets re-blogged endlessly on Tumblr, maybe it’s been worn beautifully by someone super-chic and captured on a street-style blog, maybe it will forever be immortalised on a page in the designer’s lookbook, pristine and perfect on a model after hours of styling and shooting.
This idealisation makes me think that item XYZ can’t possibly be a bad purchase. I forget that life is not viewed through artful photography and flattering lighting, and I’m not that stunningly cool girl on Vanessa Jackman. I forget that I have no idea whether the fabric is going to feel right. I forget how shoes often don’t fit right on me (because I’m between sizes) and they should be tried on for certainty. I fall in love with the image, the branding, the enthusiasm of someone else who already has it, the thrill of the new, and I click “Buy Now”.
Of course, experienced shoppers and ebay experts know how to track down a savvy bargain or a real treasure over the internet. And sometimes I score with brands I’m familiar with and with safe items like tops, or I’ve already seen the item in real life and I’m hoping to find a better deal on the internet.
But otherwise, I think it’s good to remind myself from time to time not to get carried away by what is visually inspiring. So, I will:
- Remember that life does not look like how Garance Doré photographed it,
- Also, life is not a lookbook.
- Close the browser window if there is any nugget of uncertainty about fit.
- Know what parts of my body are tricky to fit and avoid things that are iffy in those areas.
- Not risk buying shoes online unless I’ve tried them on before.
- Remember return shipping is costly and wasteful (shipping anything from the US costs me at least US$35, from the UK it’s some GBP20-30).
- Remember that the thrill of the chase doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth owning
PS: I came across that picture on Prêt à Porter P while I was thinking over this post, and it was so perfect that I had to steal it.