Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Needs and wants: the euphoria of retail therapy

I came across this old news item in a waiting-room magazine. It's about a study (funded by T.J. Maxx) that indicated that the euphoric jolt of finding a designer item at a discount price is more pleasurable than "eating a piece of chocolate". Depends on the chocolate, I say, but that's another study.

The pleasures of shopping are a fascinating topic; I recall some theorizing some time ago that women enjoy shopping because we are wired to get a charge out of spying the elusive berry, from our prehistoric "gathering" days. Shopping has been much on my mind lately, as the days grew colder and I noticed some gaps in my winter wardrobe. Facing a year on half salary as I write my book, I'm trying to limit spending, and on a strictly pragmatic level (number of items of each type), I didn't need anything.

However. My everyday wardrobe was boring, and not quite warm enough for my chilly house, without layering to the point where I felt restricted. Not only are the colors bland (lots of white, black and brown) but my shirts were tactally unsatisfying flat knits: T-shirts (short-sleeved, long-sleeved, v-necks) and turtlenecks. Each morning, I'd open my shirt drawer and think "who cares?", pull something out, put it on and forget about it. Once dressed, I forgot what I was wearing. To some extent, that's good. I am trying to focus on daily progress on a huge task. But that downer moment with the open drawer was bothering me.

I was also starting to have the jones for shopping. Usually, it's satisfied with a trip to the library or my weekly grocery shopping, but the desire to find that perfect, ripe, sun-warmed berry and pop it in my mouth was undeniable. What's a Nice White Lady to do?

Solution #1: A trip to my favorite thrift store, where, after forty minutes of careful searching, I scored a brand new J. Jill fleece pullover in Neopolitan coconut candy colors (pink, white, brown) for $15 (original tag: $70). It is a particularly fluffy kind of fleece, nearly weightless and very cozy. I have worn it three days in a row, over T-shirts and turtlenecks. Now that's euphoria!

Solution #2: Realizing that I need a sensory blast once the leaves are on the ground and the days get darker, I sat down and ordered two new fleece turtlenecks in bright colors from Land's End.

Bottom Line: I need to add an item to my "ideal consumption" wish list.

My clothes should make me happy, not just covered.

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