I’ve always had an imaginary life: I think most of us probably do.
(I mean, I hope to God most of us do, otherwise I’ve just made myself sound like even more of a freak than you already thought I was, haven’t I? Great start, Amber, great start…)
In my imaginary life, I’m basically a cross between a Disney princess and Audrey Hepburn. I live in a sunny, warm climate, have legs like Kendall Jenner, and there’s really nothing I can’t wear, if I really want to. Oh, and I have a different party to attend every night at the week: ones I actually want to go to, too! Fun imaginary life, huh?
Of course, in real life, things are just a little bit different, aren’t they? In real life I’m 5’4″, and spend my days blogging from home, which is a small village in the frozen north of the UK. I rarely go to parties – and when I do, the dress code is almost always causal. My real life, in other words, is worlds away from my imaginary one: so why is it that, even after a full year of “sensible” shopping, my wardrobe still reflects the imaginary life much more than the real one? You know, the one I actually NEED clothes for?
Seriously, if you were to walk into my closet right now, you’d find far more summer clothes than autumn/winter ones – even although Scottish summers generally amount to two weeks max: and that’s on a good year. I’d estimate that at least 80% of my shoes can only be worn for a few weeks each year, and I probably have enough evening wear to last the rest of my life: which is pretty silly considering that I can’t even remember the last time I had a reason to wear any of it.
Around this time last year, though, I finally realised that something had to give: I just couldn’t afford to keep shopping for my imaginary life, while totally ignoring the real one, and what’s more, it wasn’t actually making me happy, either. Oh, sure, I got a huge kick out of shopping (I still do, actually. I’m working on it…), and I had a closet full of beautiful clothes: but any time I had to do something that DIDN’T fit with my imaginary life (which was ALL the time, basically), I’d end up feeling uncomfortable and badly dressed – mostly because I WAS badly dressed.
When you spend all your time (and money) shopping for your imaginary life, you end up without much to wear in your real life. And when you’re the kind of fashion magpie who’s constantly being tempted by all of the shiny, glittery, impractical things you know you’ll never actually wear, it can be really hard to break that habit. I can’t claim that I’ve been totally successful in my mission to do exactly that (I mean, you all saw those red peep toes last week, right?), but I have made some big changes to my shopping habits this year ( mostly in a bid to take my own advice from this post, which is where I first brought up the idea of ‘fantasy’ shopping…), and here are some ways I’ve done it:
By being totally honest about my life and figure.
Oh yeah: one thing I forgot to mention in all those words up there is that I wasn’t just shopping for my imaginary life: I was shopping for an imaginary figure, too. Which is just a really, really bad idea, you know? I wrote about this fairly recently, so I won’t repeat myself, but I think the most important thing you can do if you’re an imaginary-life shopper is to be brutally honest with yourself about these things.
In my case, I found it helpful to really stop and think about the types of things I typically do in my life (My REAL life, I mean…), and then ask myself how I thought each new purchase would work for those activities. If they wouldn’t work for ANY of them, I’d seriously reconsider the purchase: I’m not saying logic always won out here, and that I don’t ever buy anything that isn’t 100% practical these days – I do, however, know there are more than a few ASOS dresses which would currently be hanging unworn in my closet right now if I hadn’t adopted this line of thought.
By starting to follow people more like me.
I get a lot of my style inspiration from the Internet, but I came to realise that following all of those Pinterest models, with their Bambi legs and their glamorous lifestyles wasn’t doing me much good: and nor were the pin-up girls, with their hourglass figures and immaculate makeup. Don’t get me wrong, I still follow those people, purely because I enjoy looking at their amazing photography (Er, that sounded a bit less creepy in my head, I promise…), but over the last few months, I’ve also started to follow some people I relate to more: mostly people a little closer to my age group, who tend to have similarly casual lifestyles, and whose outfits I can get actual inspiration from, as opposed to just looking at them and knowing that I could buy the same clothes, but I wouldn’t look even half as good in them. (And that’s assuming I even got the opportunity to wear them in the first place…)
By doing this, my Instagram and Pinterest feeds have become a little more balanced. I’ll still pin photos of girls in tulle skirts and sequinned tops (and hey, I sometimes even get to wear those things, too: I mean, I might not get out much, but I’m not exactly Cinderella, sweeping the fireplace in my ragged clothes, either…), but these days I also see a lot more realistic outfits popping up in my feed, and the funny thing is, I’ve actually started to covet those “basic” jeans-and-sweater looks almost as much as I used to covet the prom dresses and heels.* Who knew it was even possible?
(*I still DO covet the prom dresses and heels, by the way: I just don’t buy them quite as often as I used to…)
By thinking of all of the other things I could buy instead.
The problem with prom dresses and the other kinds of “fancy” clothes I used to spend all my money on is that they don’t generally come cheap. All too often, I’d find myself spending most of my spare cash for the month on an AMAZING dress… which would then hang in the closet for months, because I’d yet again gone and bought a summer dress it was never warm enough to wear, or evening wear for an event that didn’t come. I always told myself these purchases were totally worth it, because ONE DAY I’d get to wear them, and I’d be SO glad I had them! Sometimes I was right about that, too, but in the meantime, I was constantly broke, and I gradually started feeling a little bit resentful about all of the things I was missing out on because of it.
Again, I haven’t managed to totally reverse my habits here, and it’s still probably true to say that most of my money still goes on clothes and shoes right now. Not all of it, though: and these days it’s nice to be able to buy things for the house, or go out for lunch, say, rather than buying yet another dress.
By setting a budget.
Budgeting has never ben my strong point, and I’ll say upfront that mine isn’t a set-in-stone budget, which I never, ever break. I have, however, been trying my best to reduce my clothes spending, and I’ve found that by at least attempting to stick to some kind of budget, I’m much less likely to blow it all on something I’m not actually going to be able to wear. The opportunity cost of that kind of behaviour is just too high, and I find that if I only have a small amount to spend, I have to REALLY want the item I’m thinking of buying before I’ll allow myself to pull the trigger. Or to hit the ‘add to basket’ button, and pray that the Paypal Pay After Delivery option is available, as the case may be.
* * *
As I said, all of this is very much a work in progress, and I can’t claim to get it right every time. I mean, as I write this, there’s a new dress sitting just across the room, which… well, Christmas is coming soon, right? There’s BOUND to be some kind of excuse to wear it then, isn’t there?
What about you, though? Do you shop for your real life or your imaginary one?
Dorothy Perkins scarf