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Do You Dread Shopping?

It’s spring and summer is right around the corner.  You can’t wait to get out of your winter clothes and you realize you need a few new things to add to last year’s warm weather wardrobe.  So you build up your resolve, push down your chronic dread of shopping and head out to the stores.  Despite your past shopping experiences, you try to remain hopeful, but when you arrive home after hours perusing the racks and more time trying things on in the dressing room, all you have to show for it is more ‘stuff.’

Sure your purchases will fill your closet, but will they fill your heart with joy to wear them?  Are you excited to get dressed tomorrow so you can wear something new, or do you throw the bag in your closet and shut the door without a second thought just glad it’s all over?

If you dread shopping, you most likely also dread getting dressed.  After each shopping trip you fend off the buyers’ remorse and spend 10 minutes justifying why you bought each item, but no matter how much you rationalize your purchases you still don’t love them.

Yes, that top is functional.  Yes, it goes tolerably well with a skirt you have.  Yes, it looks clean and new.  But, there’s no passion in it!  You sigh…where did you go wrong, you wonder?  Why does every shopping trip feel fraught with anxiety, frustration and end with mediocre results?

Yes, you do need to know what looks good on you and understand the guidelines for how to make those decisions.  But, having a successful shopping experience goes beyond that.  There are other factors to consider that can undermine your success.

See if any of these rings true for you?

1. You dread shopping so you…Buy anything just so you can go home

Shoe ShoppingYou’ve set aside the time to shop.  Your hopes are high and you are armed with your list of what you need.  You are on a mission and nothing is going to get in your way.  You are bound and determined to come home with clothes and check everything off your shopping list.  You have no intentions of shopping for at least another 6 months.

As the hours go by and you aren’t finding anything/everything you want, your energy wanes, your resolve lessens and you start looking at things you wouldn’t normally consider.  You are determined not to go home empty handed—even if it means buying things you don’t love.

Step away from the rack: If you aren’t finding what you want, do not settle for something that’s just good enough.  A client recently told me that the reason she called me for help is that in her last shopping trip she found herself buying something simply because it fit and the last time she honestly took inventory of her wardrobe she realized nearly everything was gray.  She didn’t know what else to buy and it was easy (and at least it wasn’t black!)  She realized, however, that she never felt great in any of it!  She had created a wardrobe of convenience and not one of beauty.  She wanted both!

Buying something you don’t love just because you think you should or just to put an end to the excruciating shopping experience, will always backfire!!  If you are in such an unhappy mood that you find yourself heading to the register with something just to be done, put it back and go home empty handed.  If you settle for a wardrobe that is less than what you want (and deserve), you are throwing your money away and missing an opportunity to enjoy getting dressed every morning. Relax and then take some time to reassess your shopping list, explore some new stores (everyone needs 3-4 stores they can go to with pretty regular success), or get some support.

2. You dread shopping so you…Shop only when you are desperate

Shopping in desperation is never fruitful.  You are already at a disadvantage because your energy screams worry and you are shopping against the clock.

Face it.

The reason you are now shopping at the last minute is that you haven’t wanted to shop at all and have kept putting it off.

Your escalating fear anticipates obstacles—nothing will fit, all the colors are ugly and you’ll only find styles that a 16 year old or 90 year old would want to wear.  Now, gulp, it’s all coming true and you’re down to the wire.  You start imagining what you will you wear if you don’t find something.  To offset this anxiety, you buy something mediocre just to get the job done…and what happens?  You wear it.  You feel terrible in it.  You regret having spent good money on the outfit and you let it sit in your closet for the next 5 years.  Don’t let this happen to you!

Step away from the rack:  Since it’s too late, in this particular occasion, to shop before you’re desperate, take a deep breath and visualize finding something you love.  Your mind is very powerful and when you give it a task it takes it to heart.  If you are sure you won’t find anything that fits, sure enough it will be a self-fulfilling prophesy.  But, if you visualize yourself finding something that surprises you by how beautiful it is, there is much more likelihood that that’s what you will find.  Hey, what have you got to lose?  Worst case scenario (this time around), you buy something you don’t love.  But if you can set the stage for a better outcome, why not give it a shot!

3. You dread shopping so you…Buy something because someone tells you to

Shopping with Best FriendsYour sister, best friend or mother all want to help you look beautiful.  They’ll give you their best advice and help you make the shopping experience more fun—until you get home and pull out the outfits they encouraged you to buy and you realize you feel like you are playing dress up.  Even helpful sales people can make suggestions that just don’t make your heart sing.

Remember this: You don’t have to know what the better solution would be in order to say no to something you know isn’t right.

How many garments do you have in your closet because someone talked you into buying them.  They tell you (and truly believe) that you look terrific and although you are unconvinced you figure they knew better and so you buy the outfit.  Sound familiar?

Step away from the rack: If you love what they are showing you and you feel like a million bucks wearing it, by all means buy it.  If you feel awkward or out of sorts, thank them for helping and politely decline.  Do not buy something just to make someone else happy.  You’re the one who has to shell out the money for it and ultimately wear it.  The last thing you need is something that just takes up space (unworn) in your closet.  And, here’s the clincher: Even if you look good in what they are suggesting you wear, if it doesn’t feel like you, you’ll never feel good wearing it and it will sit in your closet.

How does your dread of shopping manifest?  Do you put off shopping to the point where you’ll regret buying something in desperation?  Are you realizing now that you need to step away from the rack when you feel your resolve weakening and go home instead of buying something just to buy something.  Can you identify an outfit in your closet that the nice saleswoman or your office mate during one of your lunchtime outings suggested looked great on you all the time ignoring your inner guidance that was whispering (or screaming) no?

But what about all the other stuff?  Yes, you need to know how to choose your best colors, feel confident about how to have your wardrobe choices reflect who you are on the inside, know how to find the right fit for your body and be able to put an outfit together to create a finished look that makes you happy.  Having those tools is very important.

I have written about all of those fashion tools many times and you can find articles on my blog or more fully explained in my book, ‘That’s So You: Create a Look You Love with Beauty, Style and Grace’.  But, if your first step is to plan ahead so you don’t shop when you are desperate then start there!

You do not have to dread shopping.  Today’s exercises are a great place to start and gain new awareness about past shopping habits. If you find yourself justifying purchases that don’t make your heart sing, see if one of these situations is to blame and make a conscious decision to do it differently.

Why do you dread shopping?  Share your experiences on my blog or Facebook page and I will be happy to help!


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.