“You just end up buying things for them, you never shop for yourself anymore,” said a friend of mine, when I was expecting my first baby. And indeed, lots of other people have echoed that since. Many’s the mum who has had a rare child-free shopping trip, only to find herself shopping for her kids.
I was very interested in this when I first heard it. I wondered about this new selfless version of myself that I would soon meet. I wondered how exactly the therapeutic side of retail therapy would work, if I wasn’t buying anything for myself? And what exactly would I wear, in this new selfless world? Of course, on the plus side, I’d probably save a lot of money.
I remember my first shopping trip when my youngest was six weeks old. I bought her a beautiful dress in Monsoon (it was 2007 – shopping in Monsoon was totally normal Celtic Tiger behaviour). Then I bought myself a dress in House of Fraser. And some jeans in Top Shop. And boots in Aldo. With coffee and cake thrown in, I spent a small fortune, even by 2007 standards. What happened to saving money and focusing on the kids? I have no idea. Ten years later, I still have no idea. Maybe I just love clothes too much.
I do. I really do. All the clothes. I love dresses, and jeans, and jackets and tops. And shoes and boots and sandals. I love what clothes can do for how you feel – the confidence you get when you find just the right dress for an important meeting or a big night out.
And all of this sounds very shallow, and there’s probably never a good time to write a love-letter to clothes, but this has been rumbling around in my head for years, so here it is. I love clothes.
Twice in the last while I saw clothes referred to as a form of art. I like that. That makes me feel good, and it rings true. Or maybe it just gives me an out – an excuse for some guilt-free preoccupation with clothing.
I like what Caitlin Moran said about clothes in her book How to be a Woman:
“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today'”
This I can relate to. On any given day, I think, “Who do I want to be today?” Not every day – sometimes autopilot works just fine, but particularly for out-of-routine days or times when a little more confidence is required.
She also wrote:
“Women speak the language of clothes. Everything we wear is a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, – or, sometimes, just an exclamation mark”
I like that too.
Choosing what to wear is determined by practical realities for sure – an office job demands something smarter than a school-run, which is different again from Saturday afternoon coffee with the kids. But it’s more than the practicalities. It’s about confidence, and about presenting a version of yourself in any given situation.
Who do I want to be today? What do I want the world to see?
I love looking at clothes, touching clothes, trying them on, buying something. Taking it home, keeping it in the bag – label on, to prolong the newness. Then taking it out – a new top, a new dress, or new shoes – and enjoying that first wear. Sartorial bliss.
The Monsoon trips of 2007 are long gone. The underlying addiction is still there, but I’ve been on the wagon for a few years now. I discovered that you can’t have three kids and keep buying clothes whenever you see anything you like, and that it’s probably not a healthy habit anyway.
But the wonderful thing is, buying something new only occasionally is even more rewarding than the weekly Celtic Tiger trips. Finding something that’s so perfect, the justification is easy.
And anyway – they were in the sale. Of course they were.