Who Are You Really Shopping For?

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

Queen said it in Bohemian Rhapsody and we need to ask ourselves the same question…well, almost the same question. When shopping we must ask “Is this for our real life or for our fantasy life”?

Have you ever considered that not everything you purchase is for yourself…your true self? Exactly who are we buying that dress, shoes, or even book for? Could it possibly be for an unreal or fantasy image we have of ourselves? Maybe we could never really become that image. Maybe we even know that image would not be feasible for our life. Possibly, that image is a version of ourselves that we "think we should be” rather than who we are. In any case, it can be thrilling to imagine that fantasy self and without consciously realizing it, we shop for that fantasy self. Not surprisingly, many shopping mistakes are due to buying for a unreal self and not our actual self. And sometimes we shop too much for that fantasy self and this is the reason why we might end up with a closet stuffed with clothes, but still feel we have nothing to wear. Because the truth is we have tons to wear for our fantasy life but not much for our real life!

I, personally, have multiple fantasy selves (no surprise there as I could never just have one of something). The people I sometimes desire to be are:

  • The chic, confident successful career woman. That Boss Lady who always looks polished in her perfect put together business casual outfits. She can confidently stroll from office to drinks after work with ease and some swagger.

  • The Socialite with a calendar full of fancy engagements to attend. She would breezily walk through the doors in an elegant, trendy outfit ready to take the night by storm!

  • The organized, Talented Chef in her kitchen quickly and skillfully moving about chopping, seasoning and preparing a healthy three course meal that every member of the family will desire and find delicious. She might even consider writing a best selling cookbook of her own containing fancy, delicious, yet healthy recipes that all ages will devour.

In actuality, I am not a career woman. I gave up my once successful, and demanding career to become a stay-at-home mom 19 years ago. I would not change this as I have enjoyed the role that I play in our busy household. Still I have great respect for all working moms out there and hold them in high esteem. I admire how they manage to balance it all and mostly I value that they have a sense of who they are outside of Wife and Mother. Over the years, I have bought a great deal of beautiful business casual clothing items for this fantasy self. I am drawn to blazers, pumps, structured handbags and silk like blouses. I love wrap dresses and cardigans, layered pearl necklaces and colorful silk scarves.

I also love flipping through the pages of celebrity magazines or watching reality housewife shows where everyone is dressed up at some gala, award ceremony, charity event, or simply a nice dinner with friends. I buy fancy cocktail dresses for events that someday I may have to attend. I also love the thought of getting dressed up for a night on the town at a dimly lit, upscale Italian restaurant , or perhaps an evening in Manhattan with dinner and a Broadway play. I have the perfect outfits hanging in my closet so that every weekend I’ll have something fabulous to wear for whatever I may be doing. Truth is we usually don’t do much. We hang at home ordering in food or grilling. Even when we socialize with other adults, it’s usually at the house. We may open some wine and talk. If the kids are around we may watch them play volleyball or corn hole on a warm summer night. Sometimes we will play too. This is what we do…this is what we truly enjoy…and the attire for this is usually jeans, t-shirts, and flat sandals. We do occasionally go out to dinner, but when we do it is usually to casual places. I do tend to use these restaurant excursions to wear something more upscale even if I am overdressed. I am definitely the person who gets dressed up for church every Sunday only to quickly change into something more comfortable once I get home. Trips to Manhattan? Not so much, although I am definitely going to plan one for the Fall!

My cooking is not so glamorous either. I do cook three or four nights a week, but I don’t use any of those cookbooks I have on the shelf. Some of those cookbooks went right from the Amazon box to the shelf without a page turned. I tend to either cook one of several recipes I know by heart or if we are really trying to eat healthy I often get those meals that come with a recipe and all the ingredients mostly pre-chopped. I’m also usually cooking more that one type of meal. I’ll make a vegetarian meal for my husband, daughter and myself, then a meat and potatoes type meal for the older boys and then boxed macaroni and cheese for my youngest. It’s overwhelming and so not enjoyable cooking for the whole family. I don’t think the cooking channel will be knocking on my door anytime soon…actually never.

I learned about shopping for my fantasy self last year and I certainly have improved since then, but I decided to take a quick look into what is currently hanging in my closet (I excluded shoes, bags and jackets in this abridged analysis). Since summer is half over I thought it would be interesting to see how much of what I have in there has been worn and how much remains untouched. How much is still for my real life and how much for my fantasy self? Here’s what I found out:

Wore 25 of 65 tops = 38% worn

Wore 18 of 49 dresses & rompers = 37% worn

Wore 1 of 8 skirts = 12% worn

Wore 2 of 6 dressier pants = 33% worn

Wore 4 of 14 shorts = 29% worn

Wore 6 of 10 jeans = 60% worn

Wore 8 of 11 workout outfits = 73% worn

Total 64/163 = 39% I’ve worn

This has been an eye opener for me. Although I have improved on buying clothing for my real life, August is here and I still have too much in my closet that I haven’t worn and likely may not wear. Looking at the categories that had the most percentage worn it is clear to see that I live a casual life (jeans and athleisure). The categories that have the lower percentages indicate that I likely have bought too much for my fantasy life or just too much in general and that I am choosing the same favorites over and over. This analysis encouraged me to consider what I (and you) can do to avoid further shopping for a fantasy life. Here are three questions that I plan on asking myself before my next purchase:

  1. When will I wear this? If I can’t answer that then I shouldn’t purchase it no matter how beautiful, trendy and “too die for” it may seem. It only makes sense to buy things that I have a place to where them to.

  2. How often will I wear this? I want to have items in my closet that I love but that also get good use. That red sequin jacket may be perfect for my annual family Christmas dinner, but is that the only time I’d wear it? If so, then it’s best not to waste closet space on it.

  3. How soon will I wear this? If I’m not planning on wearing it within the next month then I likely don’t need it. I very much need to resist my pre-season shopping trigger!

I will likely always have some “fantasy self" clothes in my closet as I do wear a business casual outfit once in a while (parent teacher night) and certainly do need some dressier outfits on occasion. Still, I need the percentage of those items in my closet to fall around 25%, not higher and perhaps even less. Most importantly, we need to remember that buying things will never change who we really are. So let’s be more mindful of exactly who we are and next time we are out there shopping let’s stick to only making purchases for our real, wonderful selves.

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