Aha moment: Logic has no place in my fitting room

I purge frequently, and this time around I also made a couple of larger purchases at the same time. The contrast between the "meh" going out and the "omg-love!" coming in made it pretty clear that I am Team Emotional Shopping, full stop. 

One of my goals this year and last had been to work off a list to keep my purchases down. It was a great experiment! But as I look at the things going out - and the things languishing in limbo - and the things working hard year after year - a lot of those targeted, practical items didn't get much play and didn't really ring my bell when they did get worn. Conversely... did I need or plan for pajama jeans and another leather jacket? Nope. But they make me so darn happy that I know I'll be strutting around in them all the time. Other good examples of successful emotional purchases:

  • sparkle booties
  • TR Camerons
  • Tahari jacket I copied from Zap
  • Lulu Helmut Lang lookalike jacket
  • Striped Brahmin 
  • kitty flats

Exceptions are items purchased to go with my emotional prizes and make them work better/longer/harder. Simple linen tees to support statement jeans and jackets, dainty sandals to offset baggy pants. 

So my new plan of attack is this: 

  1. Lust and freak out over item...
  2. ... then evaluate possible redundancy or budget crash
  3. If not eliminated by #2, try on/order
  4. If lusting and freaking out even more, continue to #5
  5. Create outfits, evaluate for "missing links" that would be needed
  6. Keep or return based on cost/benefit ratio

This way, it all starts with the magic moment when I get really really excited! Note that this does not mean "when I get really really bored" and start browsing to kill time (that was a different bad habit I had). 

How about you? I know Anna is also an emotional shopper. Anyone else Team Love Will Find a Way? Or are you Team Plan of Attack?

ETA: I do not mean for this post to be instructional or didactic! Clearly not everyone can function in this way. I was just curious what factor weighs more heavily for you guys.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • deb replied 6 years ago

    I shop that way. Especially with something that I dream about. When you go to sleep thinking about an item and wake up the next morning thinking about the same item, the buy button is a must.

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Thoughtful post, Rae.

    I am an emotional shopper, but I have had that lead to mistakes as well as success.  What I've learned is to stay well within what I know I will wear, even if that means less experimenting and some redundancy.  For example, I feel like the sweatjeans will fit in because I wear my BFs all the time.  The Vince fills an indoor jacket hole that I've been struggling to fill with the right item.  These are items well within my comfort zone.

    I am "wanting" less of what I see (that I don't already have).  I'm not sure if that means I'm stagnating, but I am not smitten with every other item any more. 

  • annagybe replied 6 years ago

    Yeah it's weird, some of my workhorses were impulsive purchases.

  • deb replied 6 years ago

    Una, it is funny you mentioned the 'wanting' less. The past few months I am doing the same thing. I wonder if the styles coming out are just not my thing. Pastels, in particular, have never been a favorite.

  • ironkurtin replied 6 years ago

    This is exactly how I work!  It's funny how I can see something and think OH YES MINE.

    And you had me at linen tees.  Which linen tees?!  I have to restock mine.

  • Thistle replied 6 years ago

    Hmmm, maybe I need to try out this emotional shopping! Seriously, though, I love how you really thought through your process of how things work for you. I think this is the right way for you to shop. Hard to argue with success.

    Besides, the joy of fashion should not be underestimated.

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Deb - or nightmares! Waking up with a pain in the chest worried that they have sold out! 

    Una, yes, I am thankful that is becoming the case for me, too. Was in Crossroads last week and didn't get excited over a thing. The Veda was the only thing in the Rack. Hm, it's like really awesome workhorses are the "hard drugs," and the lesser "gateway" clothes don't give us the same high anymore!

    Dana, I love my Madewell ones. The style I have is on sale. I like this one from F21

  • ironkurtin replied 6 years ago

    Rae, do you find the Madewell ones rather sheer?  That's my big issue with linen knits. I did purchase some pretty bandeau bras from the Gap to wear under, but sometimes I want to be less 80's Madonna.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    I firmly believe everybody needs to bat for both Teams. I do. 

    There is no sense in having a cupboard full of items you "OMG LOVE" but don't work together in outfits. There is also no sense in planning to the extent that you've taken the fun out of the spontaneity. 

    Unplanned purchases can become instant faves and workhorses. 

    The skill lies in Focused Emotional Shopping, or Spontaneous Planned Shopping. 

    Remember that Anna does not have to put outfits together each day because she wears scrubs most of the week. My guess is that if she needed to put looks together daily like you do Rae, she would plan her emotional purchases more carefully. 

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    I need to wear a nude bra with the white, but I can wear a black bra with my heather gray ones no problem. 

    Angie, yes, I hear you! I guess that is the "exceptions" part. There do have to be supporting acts to put an outfit together daily. Where I have not done well is looking over the trends vs. closet, pre-planning what I think is missing, and hunting down an item that way.

  • ironkurtin replied 6 years ago

    Angie, that is a good point.  I try to make my closet one big capsule (as has been discussed).  And I've found that my ZOMG LOVE items must fit into the capsule, or they don't get worn.  So in some ways it is good to know exactly what I like, because often taking bigger risks is a big goose egg.

  • goldenpig replied 6 years ago

    Rae, make room on Team Emotional Shopper and Statement Purchases for me! Do I need a orange slice purse or typewriter bag or dragonfly pumps? No, but they make me smile every time I wear them! Meanwhile I live in ratty T's and pajamas at home because I can't bring myself to shop for basics.

    Sounds like we have the same M.O. Rae! If I wasn't trying to cut down on new purchases I would love to shop with you more!

  • Mo replied 6 years ago

    I find this interesting.  I do some of both, but as we all know, I'm much on the analytical side.  That said, I do choose 'ooh, ooh, ooh!' items in the categories I've designated much of the time.  Having both a happiness factor and a hole filling designation is the best outcome for me.

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Rae, so interesting.  I was thinking about this same thing last night and was going to post also:)

    I was musing over how some of my spontaneous purchases have become beloved workhorses and things I carefully planned for are barely worn.    Some of the spontaneous purchases even came home with me wondering hmmm is this a good choice?

    I try to balance the emotional with the planning and I think I am getting better,  but it is a constant challenge.

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Rae, here is my professional 2 cents:

    • I think the fact that your spontaneous purchases are instantly working is because you have the support act back at home. This is not the case with many  people, which is why I err on the side of caution when it comes to emotional purchases. 
    • I also think you are at the stage where you can do the process more intuitively. You work in fashion - and currently - this leg of your style journey is very focused. So you can think about the additions of trends more loosely and take it as it comes. Most of the ones you love are covered. You are cherry picking, and waiting for the next piece that changes up the landscape of your wardrobe. For me - it was my new green specs. 

    Hope that makes sense. 

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    IK, it's easy for virtually your entire wardrobe to function like one big capsule because of thee things:

    • One colour palette: black, grey, white and ink
    • One dress code: casual and sometimes smart casual 
    • Your primary bottom is denim

    Greg's wardrobe operates in the same way. 

  • Gaylene replied 6 years ago

    Focused Emotional Shopping--I like the sound of that!

  • ironkurtin replied 6 years ago

    It is so funny that of all the people on YLF, Greg is my style twin.  Does he like black boots, too?

    Angie, I have tried several times to incorporate more formal dressing into my wardrobe, and it simply goes unworn.  I have no situations for it!  Weird, but true.

  • cciele replied 6 years ago

    Yeah, totally with you Rae. Logic doesn't enter my shopping approach. I don't plan any purchases (unless there's a specific event I need to buy for). I think I'm in a good place now with my supporting acts, so it's just a matter of zeroing in on the OMG LOVE pieces that work with what I have. And I'm pretty ruthless about quickly returning things that don't work. There's no sitting on a piece and deciding whether it should stay. I either love it and it fits me and my wardrobe, or it goes.

  • fuzzylogic replied 6 years ago

    Bwahahaha, rae! I love a woman with a plan and the 'freak out and lust' plan is the best one I've read for quite a while!

    Your outfits are always so visually exciting to look at without being chaotic- and you wear the clothes (rather than the other way around). So, I say freak out and lust away!

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    High five, Gaylene. 

    Mo, that sounds about right. 

    IK. YES. Greg loves black boots. And he rocks his white and light grey jeans. In fact, ink is what he wears when he wants to wear colour. He is your style twin for sure. He has a brilliant assortment of hip blazers that remix well into both casual and biz casual looks. He is very casual though. I am his dressy accessory. 

  • Sarah A replied 6 years ago

    This is great! And so needed as I am going through some mail orders that have arrived recently and working on K/R decisions. Going to page up and go read it again. Fantastic, I dont think I have very much "OMG love" in my closet... I means it is all nice enough and works but.... Brilliant "Aha"!

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    Angie, yes, it makes complete sense! Especially the fact that a focused look makes everything easier.

    And everyone, just for the record, I am not advocating that we all throw our brains out the window and shop willy nilly. For myself there is a difference between, "I don't have any black tees. This one works." and "I love this black tee! Have I been reaching for one like it?"

    Natalie, we must shop together one day!!

    Cathy, that's good to know about returns. I should be more ruthless about that!

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for popping that on the record, Rae. My heart is happier now. xo

  • abc replied 6 years ago

    I loved this post. So much that I want to open Vizio and draw a little flow chart. HAhahahaha

    I like Angie's names for what we are describing and I like her analysis in Rae's specific situation. I don't think I'm quite there as far as maturity (for lack of a better word) goes but seeing others' analysis always helps.

    Thx for sharing, Rae!

  • Echo replied 6 years ago

    Rae, what you say makes so much sense to me, but Angie's caveats make complete sense, too. For a long time I didn't have the basics in place, and so I would buy lust pieces and never wear them because I didn't really have anything that went with anything. Lately, I've been working on more basics AND buying lust pieces. And coming home and playing with a new item in the wardrobe is crucial, too, because sometimes what I see in my head as working together doesn't actually work IRL. 

    Oh, and I agree with Natalie, too; I wear ratty clothes at home because I am so short on the basics and on loungewear, but I LOVE the statement pieces I have!

  • Transcona Shannon replied 6 years ago

    I work with a list in order to keep my closet orphans to a minimum and make sure I have things that work together but I always allow myself an unplanned love item here and there. It's gotta be fun too right?

  • gryffin replied 6 years ago

    Rae - I really like your thoughts.  I do think the OMG purchases are so important.  But Angie is right, that you really need the support act too.  I do think having a list of things you "need" is key but with room for the unexpected.  I like you list of 6 rules. I think that is a great way to evaluate any purchase.  So I'm off to bookmark your thread so I can come back to this.  I think I also need to be aware that when I see something so great on someone else I really have to filter it through would I wear it in the real world.  Case in point - I finally found the perfect chambray shirt.  It's great, but I really don't like button downs - I OD's on them in high school.  I could make a lot of outfits with them but I dont' want to.  I thought intellectually it would be great and in theory it is, but it never had the OMG love factor.  So I really relate to your thoughts. OTOH my JC booties were a total lust and those babies have done hard labor and make over outfit cooler.  I just wish I was wiser but I guess it's a process and we all keep trying to do better!!  Great list, big help to me so I appreciate you sharing!! 

  • unfrumped replied 6 years ago

    What Una said, and what Angie said.
    I don't have to have all parts of an outfit to make a " love" purchase work out in the end, but I need to see a pathway to that in my real life. Footwear may be the best example- I wouldn't necessarily have to have the right shoes already -- but I would have to want to wear/ be able to wear the kind of shoes the item seems to require.

    Love Angie's phrases! After falling for a Tracy Reese pencil skirt at a local boutique, I returned regularly for what I was calling planned emotional shopping, open to pure fab appeal in items that would fit into my lifestyle but have a wow factor missing from the old reliable basics stores. 3 more items later.... So that speaks to Angie's pint about having a base to branch out from.

  • rae replied 6 years ago

    About the basics, like I said up top, the beloved items help me to know which basics to get. It seems like less things get wasted when they go with something I love. Whereas, when I see that I don't have a crisp white button down and get it because it's a basic... I don't use it very often. Now this is just me. I didn't intend for my post to sound didactic. I was just curious how many of us might lean one way or another. 

  • Echo replied 6 years ago

    ^ Exactly, and this is why I find the lists so many people write or subscribe to not to work for me. I would never wear a white button down shirt, and I have little use for a pencil skirt, yet they are always tops on the list of basics everyone should own. Basics are important; they just need to be the basics that work for you and your lifestyle.

  • Aubergine replied 6 years ago

    I think I'm somehow Team Analytical Yet Unorganized, which seems like the worst of both worlds. I don't really have master lists or anything beyond a vague awareness of holes or things it would be nice to have, but I still shop more for items that check a bunch of boxes rather than starting with OMG-love, then working from there. What I tend to do is either realize there's something I could really use, then do an intense short-term search until I find the best option, or just randomly go shopping, but run everything through a bunch of filters before thinking about taking it home or even trying it on.

    I'm discovering that some of my favorite purchases lately, though, have been things I love enough that I'll try and talk myself past my initial "Seriously?!? You think that makes sense?" reaction. I'm thinking of my drapy Anthro cardigan, for example.

    For another example, I couldn't stop thinking about a cream bag for spring/summer despite knowing that it would be kind of risky for someone like me who doesn't have a great track record for keeping things pristine. So my logical side helpfully kicked in to tell me cream is the one shade that would go with all my clothes while also lightening things up enough to feel like I'm not just wearing the same fall/winter outfits all year long, which is kind of an issue with my default color palette. And then I happened to notice J. Crew had a really pretty cream bag that looks like a good size for me, with a nice, sensible cross body strap and enough inner pockets to keep track of keys/phone/etc. It also turns out it was on sale, plus there was a coupon code, meaning the price is just low enough that I won't feel too frustrated once it inevitably starts looking grungy. Long story short, that bag is now on its way to me!

  • Gigi replied 6 years ago

    I haven't read all the replies, but a lot of what you said I can relate to, Rae. I think that a person can go in two directions: start with the practical side first, or start with the emotional side first. I used to start with the practical side first, but if I was able to "check off" all my boxes related to what I wanted an item to do, I bought the item even if I didn't have great love for it. As a result, the item is just kind of "there" in my wardrobe. I will wear it, but it's not something I get excited about. But beginning this year, I have tried to start with the emotional piece and THEN move on to the practical piece. That seems to be working for me much better. I can still easily nix an item if I have too many of that style of item in my wardrobe, or if the price is more than I'm willing to pay. But I actually buy a lot less this way, because I find I don't have big emotional reactions most of the time. So I often don't get past the first step. I'm also learning a lot more about myself this way. What do I *really* want? So I guess I would say I am a combination shopper.

  • Vicki replied 6 years ago

    I like the way you think, and if you're an emotional shopper, you're really clear-headed about it.  I think I go in spurts, getting focused and then stagnate and I'm not quite sure how to figure in the momentum of it all.

    I love reading the list you assembled, Rae.  That tells me you know what you're doing, logic or no logic.

  • shevia replied 6 years ago

    I understand this completely Rae. For me the fun of shopping is to find a needle in the haystack. But if the haystack is made up of thrift store goods what are the chances the needle will be on my short list? Not big. So I sort of prime my mind with ideas of what to look for, what I want to try, what I am missing and so on and hope my subconscious will take over from there. Plus I have a well stocked closet with which to play mix and match.

  • rabbit replied 6 years ago

    I really relate to Shevia's approach, and my closet is fairly cohesive now, although not honed to a minimal capsule and definitely not all 10's (I'm at the beginning of the style journey/process), so when something calls to me I'm always immediately thinking about what in my closet I could wear it with.  

    I also agree with Rae that it doesn't work for me to buy a basic like a white button down - It would become an orphan even if in theory it could be worn.  Instead I think about supporting pieces that are usually tights, or tanks, a color of belt,  or a plain skirt of a certain length that work with the clothes I already have and love.

    I think the other two things that partly hold me back from expensive mistakes or a closet of orphans are a) the fact that I'm temporarily immersing myself in shopping and clothes which makes less things 'shine' as Rae says.  I get more choosey and I remember everything I have so I don't duplicate.  I also have a sense of what is available out at the stores, so don't jump unless something really stands out, or is discounted below my baseline prices without a quality drop.  

    b) I have very, very low baseline prices which I'm willing to pay.  Also I'm very unwilling to buy anything if it's not discounted significantly - i.e. it still has to be decent quality. 

  • pastrygirl replied 6 years ago

    This is really interesting! I used to be a 100% emotional shopper and ended up with an overflowing closet of meh things (that were on SALE!). I've been working on changing that for over a year and got to a point where I only bought something if I absolutely LOVED IT. I didn't worry about need; it just had to be total love. That actually worked pretty well for me.

    I need a new wardrobe for spring/summer (seasons nowhere in sight...). I have some tops but no bottoms other than two VC tube skirts. I haven't decided if I want crops, shorts, or skirts, or a mix and what kind of mix. I'm going to let emotional shopping lead me, with a purpose. Or as Vicki said above, I'm going to try to be clear-headed about it, knowing that I need some of those particular items. I think it will be fun because it's pretty open-ended, compared to needing new linen tees (not that there's anything wrong with that!). But I will only buy something that is OMG awesome, and that might make it more work and less fun.

  • Janet replied 6 years ago

    Rae, I totally understand! I'm an emotional shopper, and considering my purchases of late, I would definitely say that my best buys were quite often impulse purchases that were not *needs." However, as Angie mentioned, I also have a good staple of basics at home -- plenty of jeans, layering tees and tops, etc., so new fun pieces have an anchor already in my closet. 

    I'm still trying to get better about limiting my impulse purchases because some are not the most brilliant moves. Sometimes it seems I just need to have an item in my closet before I know for sure whether I love it. Hence my dedication to stores with good return policies! 

  • Susie replied 6 years ago

    Although I'm pretty nerdy in how much I like keeping a spreadsheet of the number of wearings, tracking WIW and keeping a running list of purchases, when I actually use those tools for analysis, I see that my best purchases are buying the things that I LOVE.

    I frequently wear black pants, jeans and white jeans. So almost any top I might fall for can probably be paired with one of those things. And most of my clothes are a similar level of dressiness. If I love a piece, it rarely becomes an orphan. When I get something that I think might be good to have but there's no wow factor, I don't reach for it.

    So I guess I use logic to justify my emotional choices!

  • Neel replied 6 years ago

    I am an emotional shopper in recovery. The kind of emotional shopper who bought clothes for someone else's life and body! Really .... Where the hell should I wear the 5 backless dresses that I bought because I loved them madly? I am in the middle east for god's sake! :D I still love them ... And I admire them languishing in my closet o_O. I crazy love knee high boots, the killer leather jackets in all the colors of the rainbow, the beautiful dramatic coats and all kinds of patterned hose. But ..... Its impractical and although I would wear the heck out of them during my 4 months of mild winter, there are only so many jackets and coats and boots I would need! (Killer yellow zara coat, I am talking to you.... I can't buy you. Boo)

    I now plan what I want for my practical lifestyle .... Then go mad searching for it, buy it and enjoy :). I realize this is so much better than the reckless purchases I used to do. I am on team both! Practicality comes first now in my shopping agenda. :). Although I do understand how emotional shopping can benefit when you have your head on your shoulders!

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