Recovering Shopaholic: How to Shop to Create a Wardrobe You Love

As a recovering shopaholic, we still need to shop. Yes I said it. It is perfectly normal and okay to refreshen our wardrobes if it is mindful, planned and done without going further into debt. This post is not going to be about managing debt as that is a subject for it’s own post. However, I will mention that if you are trying to pay off your debt, then you should avoid using those credit cards for any shopping you may do. If possible, set aside a specific amount of money from your monthly budget to use for any shopping needs.

So how can a recovering shopaholic shop? In other posts I’ve written about how to avoid shopping, but how can we learn to shop with intent and feel good (not guilty) about it? I think we would all like to get to the point where we walk into our closets each day and feel joyful and confident choosing an outfit instead of feeling we have nothing to wear amid all the chaos of clothing we own. The first thing you must do before even going shopping is to clean out your closet. You can read my previous post on tips for purging your closet by clicking here. There are also countless articles on the Internet and books (like Marie Kondo’s), that go into greater detail about how to clean out your closet. Just do it. You will love yourself afterward. I did a major closet purge about a year ago and I’m still getting rid of things as I continue on my journey. But in this post I want to discuss what we can do to never again have an unhappy closet. Of course, we are learning how NOT TO SHOP, but we also need to learn HOW TO SHOP.

First, own less. We don’t need to go to the extent that a minimalist or a capsule wardrobe follower might, but certainly we can own less than what we have now, and be even happier. I believe the key to being happy with less is to love what you own. When we buy something that we don’t truly love, then what often happens is we eventually find something similar that we love more. That explains how years ago I ended up with six black turtlenecks. Eventually, I found the black turtleneck that was perfect for me…soft…ribbed…not too tight or too loose. This turtleneck is still in my closet even though it is several years old, and I haven't purchased any other black turtleneck sweaters since. However, prior to finding it I had bought several other turtlenecks. Each one was not fully what I wanted. It was like the Goldilocks syndrome. One was ribbed, but not soft. One was soft, but too loose fitting…you get the picture. We can not allow ourselves to “Compromise Shop”. Don’t buy something because it is “good enough”, or you think “it will do”. In the end, It will not satisfy you. Like me, you will keep buying the same type item until you find the one you love. I’ve have this same issue with jeans and also black booties!

How to avoid falling into this trap? Here are some guidelines I’ve developed for myself that have improved my shopping. I believe this is good advice for anyone (shopaholic or not) when looking to create a happy wardrobe.

Know yourself well.

It’s important to understand what works for you and what doesn’t. For instance, just to name a few, I like v-necks, cashmere, higher waisted jeans, and warm colors. When I’m buying clothing, I do not try to pretend that something looks good on me just because it looks good on the model, mannequin, or another woman. It must conform to my rules. It’s also okay not to have a specific fashion style. I like many styles and don’t limit myself. In the summer months, I may dress a bit more bohemian, and in the winter I tend to be more classic. I just choose what appeals to me. I don’t usually recommend fashion courses for shopaholics. I’ve taken them, and while I’ve learned a lot, I got too caught up in all the provided “suggested clothing items buying links”. If you need to develop your fashion sense, there is a lot of FREE advice out there. But mostly, trust yourself. I bet you know more than you think you do! If it helps then bring a friend you trust with you when you are shopping. They can provide honest feedback and also help keep you from being compulsive and overshop.

Make Sure it Fits Properly.

A beautiful dress, sweater, jacket, or pant is never going to look good if it isn’t laying correctly on your body. There have been many times in my past when I’ve bought something and every time I put it on I’d look in the mirror and take it off. Something was just not right. I finally learned about “Fit”. This may mean the shoulder is to big, or something is bunching up in an area, or the length is just too long. Experience has taught me not to trust the mirrors in the stores. Perhaps it is the euphoria I experience when shopping, or maybe it’s the lighting, or the mirrors are magically adjusted to make us appear thinner. Whatever it is, there have been so many times I’ve loved how I look when trying on clothing in the store, only to hate how I look in the same item when I get home. So now, I’ve made it a rule of thumb to retry everything I purchase in a store again once I get home (before taking off tags or losing the receipt).

Sometimes clothing simply needs to be altered, and you must consider that. It’s important to know ahead of time what can be altered, and if you are willing to pay the extra to get it altered. I almost always have to alter the length of my pants and also dresses. I know this and expect it.

Compose a list of Shopping rules.

Take the time to write down what you want and expect from the clothes you are going to own. This knowledge is crucial to have when you are shopping, especially if you start to feel compulsive. Referring to your shopping rules will help you to eliminate mistakes and help keep you in check. Each of us will have our own unique set of shopping rules, but as an example, here are a few of mine:

  1. Do not buy crew necks. I do not look good in them..ever.

  2. Only purchase clothing in warm or neutral colors. There are many colors I love and wish looked good on me, but they don’t and I have accepted that and no longer try to “make it work.”

  3. Do not buy boxy styles. This trendy look can look great on those tall, skinny models, but I look lost in the material, shorter, and dumpy. Shapely clothing looks best on me.

  4. Do not buy cheap clothing or inferior materials. First there’s the whole avoiding Fast Fashion reason for doing this. But also, even though a cheap item may look “so cute”, it often is no longer cute after a couple of wearings. The clothing items that have stood the test of time in my closet have always been high quality clothing. Whenever I’ve purchased something cheap, I’ve always ended up buying a similar item again in better quality and then hardly wearing and eventually donating the cheaper one.

Those are just a few of my shopping rules..there are several more (including buying only from certain stores and brands and my preferred fabrics). You need to create your own list and have it handy (on paper in your wallet or stored on your phone). Use this list as your guide when shopping and do not veer away from it.

Do Not Settle.

It can be very tempting to buy something you like, but you must be very careful to make certain you love it…not just like it. I feel like I’m giving marriage advice here! But seriously, this is one of the top reasons we end up with a crammed closet of clothes and still don’t feel good about what we are wearing. When we are eager to buy, our shopping urge takes over and our senses become dulled. We simply want to buy something…satisfy the shopping fix…get the buy high. Here is where we need to be very careful and mindful. You truly must ask yourself not only if you need it, but “Do I love it”? Does it meet ALL the shopping standards and rules you have? Does it fit you well? Do not settle here. If you are unsure about the color, the fit, about anything, then do not buy it. Trust yourself…you know when something looks awesome on you. If you need to seek out the advice of the sales girl then don’t buy it. The fact that you are hesitating is enough to say NO to it.

I remember once being in Nordstrom and there was a woman there trying on pinstriped pants. She came out of the dressing room to ask the sales girl how the pants looked on her (as she was unsure). The girl told her how great they looked, how trendy, and so on. I should have spoken up at the time, and regret not having said anything, but the pants did not look good on her. She had wider hips making the pinstripes fall strangely in that area and thus drawing more attention to her midsection. They were not slimming for her. Deep inside she likely knew this, but had wanted to buy a pair of pinstriped pants and she settled. Again, do not settle. Not every trend is going to look good on everybody…that’s okay. Only buy what you know you love and only what you know you love. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you love.

By using these guidelines when I shop, I now make far fewer mistakes than I once did. Yes, I do still make mistakes, but again, I’ve progressed so much in this area. I can confidently say that I truly love and am happy with 90% of what I purchase. I no longer want to buy twenty pairs of jeans and then find I’m only wearing five of them, I don’t need six white button down shirts. Setting up our fashion rules and sticking to them can help to avoid ever ending up with an overstuffed closet full of disappointing clothing again.

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