Alternative Ways to Satisfy the Shopping Itch

Good Little Consumer

The advertising of my millennial youth and my current social media feed strongly encourage me to perform my role as a Consumer and go shopping! For a long time I really did feel less-than because I couldn’t have the next best thing, and like that thing would make me feel amazing. For too long this atmosphere of consumerism contributed to my very real anxiety.

I am more than just a walking, breathing, pooping Consumer!

I have (mostly) kicked my bad Consumer habits, but… I still feel that neeeed to go shopping.

Over the past few years I’ve developed a few tricks to scratch that itch that are fun and free and could even be called ‘sustainable’ if you wanted to give them a trendy title.

Reorganise (makeup, skincare, jewelry, clothing)

I put this as number one not because it is the most effective, but because this is my absolute favourite! When I start coveting an item of clothing, an accessory, some kind of skincare, or makeup product I reorganise how I store items in that category I currently own. This helps me get reacquainted with what I own, it gets me thinking about how I can use/wear what I already have, and it reminds me of why I love and keep the things I do have.

You could also call this ‘shopping your wardrobe.’

The Marie Kondo method of seeing everything you have is the best way to do this. Feeling the pressure to Consumer-up and buy a midi skirt? Pull out all your skirts and dresses. Look for items you already own that are a similar colour and that are a similar cut to what you’re wanting, not necessarily both in one item though.

Spend time visualising a few outfits with what you find, using layers and accessories you already own. If you’ve got time actually pull the other items to create the outfits. A full-length skirt or dress could be belted to make it midi, and a dress is a skirt when you layer a t-shirt on top.

When you put the items back into your wardrobe make sure your ‘new’ clothes are the easiest to see and access. If you can, put them near the other items you used in your visual or actual outfit-building.

I find that spending time with my clothing or beauty products, touching them, finding new ways to work with them truly satisfies that shopping craving.

Try some low-risk DIY

In a very real way this post is thanks to @_fran.stevens_ and her recent post with a let-out-hem denim skirt. Seeing that post in my feed this morning gave me the idea for this blog. I saw that skirt and slouchy top and my I’ve-gotta-have-it bell started ringing. Yes, the skirt is just from Asos so it isn’t a big expense, but I am not going to let one photo affect me so much that I actually spend money.

denimskirtdiy

Then I remembered I have a dark blue denim jean skirt that I wear infrequently. I could take down the hem, my favourite detail of the skirt in the photo, and see if I like it and wear it more often. If I dislike the result, I can cut it shorter and fray the hem, and then reassess. The skirt was not expensive and it has been in and out of my giveaway bags for the last year, so this is a low-risk DIY experiment that could have a big pay-off!

Another very low-risk DIY I love is playing with a foundation or face tint that just isn’t working. I try mixing it with other foundations, lotions, primers, or serums to see what happens. There has only been one foundation so bad I couldn’t make it work with one of those things. And bonus: I’ve created several custom foundations that I love!

Research

This ‘trick’ is mostly just procrastination, as the desired result is purchasing something, but it ensures you’re spending money well. What I consider researching an item involves an overview of available products, checking reviews, doing a price/quality comparison, and settling on a few things to keep my eye on.

Even if the ‘thing’ is a simple black t-shirt I will still take some time to decide on how it should fit, oversized or fitted, v-neck or round. I will look at what is available second-hand and what is available from ethical brands. I am trying to get into the habit of not just buying something on impulse.

So, after I research, I wait.

I wait to see if my need or want for the item increases or decreases. I wait to see if I keep thinking about the thing or if I forget about it. (Most of the time I forget about it). I wait to see if the thing goes on sale, particularly if I’ve chosen to ‘watch’ an item that is over my budget.

researching shopping

This kind of research helps me make sure that when I do buy something I am spending money well, getting something that fits my current collection, that I’ll enjoy wearing. It also is a good shopping substitution when the craving hits.

Mix It Up

Similar to my first trick, but much less serious.

This is a fun activity for an evening when you have time and are tired of binging TV shows. Put on some fun music, fix yourself a nice beverage (containing alcohol if possible), and pretend you’ve never seen your own wardrobe or makeup selection.

What would 13-year-old you do with your clothing and makeup? They’d probably go bonkers if they had a cocktail and time to play with your stuff!

I know 13-year-old Rachel would not have the same tired ‘rules’ about which clothes go with each other and what makeup looks best that 33-year-old Rachel does. She is more creative and carefree and she does come up with great outfits.

Playing with makeup one night I mixed up a lovely custom rosey bronzer to gently blend for a fast and subtle glowy colour. I wear this almost every day now.

Now, I don’t want to jinx anything but lately I’m starting to feel the urge to get creative with what I own in these different ways, rather than the old urge to go shopping. I think it is because these alternatives are more creative that they’re such good replacements for trudging through a fast fashion chain. Playing with my stuff also makes me feel so much more confident when I wear it!

Do I still buy cheap things I don’t need on total impulse? Yes. But rarely. Every time I do it becomes more apparent that these things do not fit into the relationship I’ve built with my belongings.

I am no longer a Consumer. I am an adult woman who has a great time pretending to be a teenager and playing dress-up with her own clothes.

Sorting Through the Shit: the Art of the Thrift

An honest guide to adding sustainability to your sartorial selection

My personal fashion/passion project for 2017 was to buy as few brand new clothing and accessory items as possible. I intended to buy from sites like Depop, from physical thrift shops – shout out to my local RSPCA and Oxfam shops for their great work and amazing clothing selection! – and if I did need or want something new I tried to buy from a sustainable, ethical, and affordable brand, like People Tree or Komodo.

I was also keen to start selling my under-worn items, and with their departure what would be left was a wardrobe that would be more sustainable, with higher-quality clothing, and more suited to my personal style.

Like any recovering shopping addict I couldn’t resist browsing the standard high-street shops (both in person and online) to check out the styles on offer. This kind of leisurely perusal is great for inspiration, but this shopping technique is why many people think they are not talented in the Art of the Thrift.

It might not be nice or polite but when thrifting one does unfortunately need to sift through piles of shit to find great items. Aside from having the time and patience for this, the Art of the Thrift is really about having a plan.

The Art of the Thrift: The Plan

Know what you want and commit to it like you’re getting a mortgage together. If I ever open my Depop app with the thought “oh I’ll just have a look” I emerge from a scrolling coma an hour later when my phone gets too hot and, possessing more wisdom than its owner, shuts down the app. Having a plan saves you time because you’re not looking for “something nice” amongst a sea of seasons-old Zara tops, and it saves you money because you’re not buying a cheap shirt because it is kinda cute and was in the sale.

The Plan must be specific. “A new pair of jeans” is not specific enough. When shopping in thrift stores for jeans you need to have a specific fit in mind – skinny, straight, culottes, high-rise, etc – to help you flick through racks of “no” jeans until you grab a pair that fits The Plan and you hold your breath, checking the size. And when shopping online The Plan needs to be as detailed as possible: a pair of moderately high-waisted jeans, straight but cropped leg, in a medium/dark wash, in that fairy tale size between falling-down and unable-to-sit-down.

I have been hunting that pair of jeans for the last three months and finally found a pair worth buying, literally, last night. This is why time and patience are as crucial as The Plan.

I am attending a proper British wedding at the end of June, one with a church ceremony and a three-course dinner. And, determined to stick to my second-hand philosophy, I have already begun to plan my Wedding Outfit Plan.

Yes I plan for plans; yes I have anxiety. Why do you ask?

Check Out

Purchasing an item in a shop is much easier as you can fondle it, check the seams, and check for pit stains. But when buying online you need to examine the seller even more than the item itself. You’re at the mercy of their photographs that might have hidden a snag or stain, or maybe even have a photo filter changing the colour of the garment. So you need to make sure you trust their photos and their description of “worn once, excellent condition!”

You’ll need to check the written reviews of their previously sold items and if I can find a review of a similar item, such as another pair of jeans, that is a bonus. The trick here is to check the prices of their sold items as well. You can compare prices to see how much of a bargain you can ask for.

It never hurts to ask for a discount or for free shipping. Once I’m at the point in my selection and research of an item that I’m messaging the seller I have usually decided I’m willing to pay full price, but I do love the small thrill of getting a good deal on something I’ve long been searching for.

Before either of us start thinking I’m some great deal-maker I should say I’m highly unlikely to negotiate like this in person.

The Happy Ending

On a recent trip back home to the States for nearly the entire month of February it wasn’t until we arrived and I looked through the clothes I packed in a feverish, NyQuil haze that I noticed that most of what I’d chosen to bring with me was second-hand. It is no coincidence that my favourite, most versatile clothing comes from a focused style plan and the will to sort through all the shit to find my favourite thrifts.