May 12, 2010

Serial Returns and Compulsive Online Shopping

One of the limitations of living in a small city is that the lack of retail variety. Many of the stores here don't carry my favorite lines so I find myself lusting and coveting the mere opportunity to see a garment in person, and try it on. To that end, I will occasionally succumb to favorable online promotions, free shipping, and strong return policies, ordering things that might not be kept unless they are purposeful, reasonably priced, and flattering. Lately I've had a spate of bad luck and ended up returning a lot of things I knew were risks. The benefit of this method is that I won't be tempted by low ebay prices because I will know how unflattering these particular items were on me. Exhibit A:
I blogged not long ago about a See by Chloe dress called The Favorite, in a lovely sky blue with ruffled sleeves. I hadn't realized that the bubble shape was held together with an elastic gather placed uncomfortably around the upper thigh area. This caused the dress to hike up quite a bit during any movement. And an already short dress quickly moved into scandalous territory. Back it went to Bloomingdales.com!

But it left me feeling guilty. It is not as though returns are a victimless endeavor. Particularly when you consider the environmental wake of online shopping and transportation of goods. Why had I purchased something sight unseen, anyway? I didn't need a dress. I just wanted it. And that compulsive move goes completely against what my resolution for this year was: To WANT less. But I try to remember that this project is not linear and I have good and bad weeks because I am fallible and human.  It is a good reminder that consumerism can feel so instinctive and exigent when its roots and its objectives are completely the opposite of both those descriptors.  I guess my summer should be spent contemplating: How does one unlearn that wanting? And why/when am I nagged by consumer desires most?

5 comments:

Tien said...

I'm trying to limit myself as well, but not in terms of getting less stuff, although I think it will be a consequence of this new method of thinking. I'm trying to get myself to think in terms of my wardrobe--as in my style. So, whenever I pick up an item, or look at it online, I don't see it as just another pretty thing, but as something that could add to my identifying characteristics: whimsical clothes, nature-inspired accessories, subdued colors, little details, etc. I want my style to be constantly evolving, something that is always breathing, and being added to, and taken away from. So, an itee is held up to the rest, first given the must-go-with-3-things rule, and if it passes, it gets asked, who are you, how are you me, and what would you add to me?

Some of the time, the items that passes all the above requirements are available online only. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a cashmere cardigan from J. Crew. Really pretty sweater. Fit right into my aesthetics, and I was sure I was going to love it. Then, when it arrived, I could't bear to put it on. The color looked like puke against my skintone. I took it back, and the SA completely agreed that it did not work me.

Sometimes, a purchase, sight unseen, speaks to your potential, where you see yourself, who you want yourself to become. The item is physical thing that you can put on yourself to show that. But, often, the item comes and it just underwhelms. Doesn't work for whatever reason. I think my guilt of returning things has a bit to do with feeling bad that that part of me didn't work out. That the vision got shattered a bit.

But when it really comes down to it, clothing is a means of self expression, yes, but hell, it costs a crap load of money. We all work hard for it, and there is no business for an expensive item to languish in the closet.

For what it's worth, I think that See by Chloe dress looks very good on you. With that said, I wouldn't be comfortable with the hem line that shifts up as I move, so I understand your returning it.

Jesspgh said...

Tien, I remember reading on your blog about the disappointing cardigan. I identify completely with your observation about how returning an item can feel as though the vision (general) you had of yourself didn't match with reality. And that is complicating, for sure.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful commentary. It stirred my thinking in productive ways. Your item must "match three things" and "suit my style" before buying are excellent rules to limit ones wants but the challenge for me particularly becomes (to reiterate) when that vision of oneself doesn't match the reality.

Sometimes I forget the (admittedly self-imposed) limitations of my body shape. Being busty and hourglass figured means I should avoid baggy shapeless dresses. But I love them even though they are awful on me. I still gravitate toward them despite knowing the self I envision doesn't link with the self I embody.

Desert Flower said...

I am trying to do something along the lines of what Tien is doing - develop a style that is identifiable and has certain characteristics, in order to ensure that I have some guidelines when I buy things. My shopping habits have tended before now to be willy nilly, and more focused on the item than on whether the item is going to work on my body, for my life and in my current wardrobe.

I feel like this has really reduced my purchasing and I'm finding that I tend to keep more of what I purchase. My returns now are fewer, and tend to be because of reasons such as something fitting too small or too large, which I may not have been able to tell before ordering.

I do still look at things that don't fit into my wardrobe. I'm attracted to silhouettes that I am well aware don't look good on me! I am getting much better at resisting the temptation to buy them.

Little Miss Plump said...

I can really relate what Tien is saying, of wanting to buy things that 'are me' (as I mentioned when commenting on an earlier post). My problem is that sometimes I really like things, and WANT them to be 'me', when they're clearly not. And sometimes I also forget that certain things don't fit my body shape, such as my large chest. This is when buying online can be difficult, because you see what the item looks like on the model, and I find it hard to imagine what it'd look like on me. I suppose I just need a bit of practice on that! But I really like your idea, Tien, of when buying an item only buying it if it can be worn in three ways or work with three other things already in the wardrobe. I'm definitely going to try that!

Also, Jess you're mentioning 'a vision of oneself (that) doesn't match the reality'. I can really relate to that, especially having put on weight recently and so my body has changed quite a bit. And so has what I can and cannot wear (or what looks good on me). I suppose my vision of myself might need re-adjusting...

I shop online quite a bit, because I sometimes find shops overwhelming. Try it on at home, then return to shop if it doesn't fit. I've never felt guilty about it, and I've never thought of the environmental aspects...

Jesspgh said...

Desert Flower, Tien's strategy is a good one, for sure. And I think paying more attention to what my body looks like now rather than whatever "project" I have in mind at any given time or whatever seems aspirational will also help. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

Little Miss Plump, I think that it can be hard to negotiate who we are with who we want to be and this relates to body image as much as it relates to other facets of self esteem. But I definitely think a realistic approach to dressing that positive intentions rather than self-lamenting ones is the most healthy course to take. Thank you for your engagement with the above ideas and your comment.

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