Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic: Do Your Possessions Define You?

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I saw this film last week and was not sorely disappointed. Alright, so it’s cringingly cheesy, and cut’n’paste Hollywood, but it was fun. A girl driven into debt by her shopping habit, only to land herself a job at a savings magazine beneath the most adorable boss imaginable – you see the delicious dilemma? Though, aside from the plot details, what I wanted to talk about today was the message: do our possessions define us?

A lot of popular blogs, particularly fashion blogs, often aimed at students and those in their early 20’s (not likely to be the most well off) are desperately materialistic; and I’m not singling Charade out because I fall into the category too, what with all my cheeky Polyvore sets. But what is behind this? Why do we covet celebrity and Chanel? What is it about a fashion splurge that heightens our senses to the point of pure delight? Why does a wardrobe full of glitter bring us so much joy? And why are we breaking our backs to afford it? Of course, in Hollywood, Rebecca Bloomwood eventually recognises her addiction and we get a formulaic happy ending, but we know all too well that a happy ending doesn’t tend to land in our laps, and what of those of us who ruin their lives accumulating mountains of debt attempting to maintain such a lifestyle?

I think we’d all admit that material possessions are not the root of happiness, so why do we go so crazy over them? Even to the point where we do drive ourselves into debt, or work away at jobs we can’t stand, just to fund our habits. Are we substituting fulfilling relationships for a fulfilled closet, as Ms Bloomwood seems to have done in the movie? Is it a matter of self-assurance? Or are we simply showing off; trying to win a little respect and make a statement of ourselves in a Madonna-esq ‘material world’?

I ask you, fashion bloggers of the globe: does a covetable closet define someone? Does that scarf, or ‘it’ bag or pair of killer heels define you? If you were stripped of all your material possessions, who would you be? I'm interested to know your thoughts...

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熊貓girl said...

This is something I tend to struggle with... buying things that I don't really need >_<...and going crazy in search of them...Material possessions don't define someone though! I think they just reflect your inner personality!

Sherin said...

This is a really interesting post. Its true that all those clothes and accessories don't make us all that happy. But I was reading in a magazine a few weeks ago that getting ready in the morning is the most creative thing a lot of people do. So maybe thats why we feel the need to have a full wardrobe: so that we can be creative, and make a statement without saying anything.
I guess what we wear is part of our personalities as well.

Jackie said...

Interesting thoughts.

I like to think my material possessions don't really define me. At least, not the possessions that I wear. I'm an interesting individual (or so I like to think) but my wardrobe and accessories (or rather lack of accessories) would suggest I'm plain and boring, both of which I'm certainly not.

Really, I'm too frugal to splurge on material items. I bought a pair of boots last Tuesday for the first time in...oh gosh, I can't remember.

Leia said...

Great post. But do you really think there are *that* many people who drive themselves into debt just to fund a shopping habit? I think (or hope, rather!) that most people are sensible enough to fit their fashion finds into their monthly budgets.

And why do we need these material things? Maybe being surrounded by beautiful things makes us feel more beautiful. As for designer products, there are those that spend their money just to show others that they CAN, for example by buying a handbag with a signature print or logo (a case of "I lack self-esteem so I am going to try to prove that I am better than you through possessions.") There are those who buy designer products simply because they can afford to, and enjoy the luxury and durability that they provide.

And I agree with Sherin when it comes to creativity. I'm not a very good artist. I play the piano, but I can only play pieces that composers have written; I'm not a very good composer myself. Getting dressed is something that everybody does (assuming you're not a nudist :P) and it can be an outlet of creativity; a way to tell the world, "this is how I want you to see me."

I would still be the same me if I were stripped of my material possessions. They are fleeting and ever-changing expressions of how we portray ourselves - without them, we would find other forms of expression. I really believe that people are defined by something other than a covetable closet: stripped of our material possessions, we all have unique ways of contributing to humankind.

em. said...

wow sherin that's so interesting, i had never thought it that way, people needs that creativity.

Maybe our wardrobes don't define us, I think we define our wardrobe, is a way of expression, it's about how it makes us feel, and I don't mean buying, although I agree with Ms. Bloomwood with the whole "The world gets brigther when I shop"...true, but I mean, us, women, we dress up because how it makes us feel. A pair of killer heels do make a difference for us. A pretty dress boosts our confidence, and I don't think that's about materialism, I think that feeling is older than the word itself. It's just expression, but of course that in a certain range of products.

Voila Megan said...

Overwhelmingly good, insightful responses guys!

You all seem to agree that our possessions allow us a certain creativity above anything else, and yes, allow us to show the world who we are a little better.

I think Leia also made a good point that confidence is key to the importance we place on our possessions, dressing is a way to define who we are and when people know what we're about, whether that be through our appearance or our way of life, we can have more of an influence upon them.

But debt is a big problem in the UK at the moment and I do think alot of it is down to people living for purchases that don't actually bring anything to their lives. Perhaps they'd do well to remember that our belongings should be a reflection of our personality and not the reflection of a multi-million pound ad-campaign!

Thanks for joining the discussion ♥

Paige said...

The thing people need to realize is that they can be completely fashionable without breaking the bank (which I think it what you're preaching... it's my first time here). People always compliment me on my clothes and style; however my secret is that I do most of my shopping at thrift stores, or ultra-cheap at other places. The trick is having an eye for good design (or having a shopping buddy who does!), and knowing when items are made of quality material. OR only purchase things that are unique and look a lot more expensive than they actually are. Knowing color theory, and putting colors together that are of similar tone helps, too.

I put together outfits on Polyvore for my site, too, and I am also guilty of using gazillion-dollar designer items (I really can't help it!); however, I should really start to more openly talk about how I don't actually shop this way.

If you ever want a guest blogger to talk about thrifting/styling methods, let me know!


Delilah + Jack said...

Im a currently having somewhat of an identity crisis... as a teenager I was guilty of saving up my meagre wage to buy an eight hundred dollar coach bag or to go on a shopping spree...as I matured I really started to become politically aware, especially of mass consumerism. Like the link you posted 'Stuff' ...where does all that stuff we buy go? Where does it come from? I made a concious decision to try an buy 90% used items and to support local business whenever possible. In that way I am being morally concious and contributing to the 'reduce and reuse' mantra.

Sometimes I find myself walking through the mall and I simply feel guilty. I desire all of these things but do I want to become the mindless consumer...intent on breaking the bank in order to integrate myself into the capitalist fueled system? To buy clothes at the mall just to look like every other girl in my school? Therefore, I love to use inspiration from blogs (such as Charade!) to create my own look. Sure Ill indulge in something new once in awhile, but I love to scour the thirift stores, tailor what I find (would that dress make an awesome shirt?) and in that way I can be morally aware of the socio-economic implications of consuming but at the same time I feel I am being a responsible consumer....and creating my own style!

Anyways, love the blog! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I haven't had time to watch the film yet, but i have heard the storyline, and i think, especially in line with this question, that everyone would really understand the film better if they read it, whether after or before watching the film. It is an amazing book, i read it a few years ago and it is most definitely not cut'n'paste hollywood; perhaps because it was originally along a british line in terms of the plot. In addition you can read the book after watching the movie because the story lines differ so the ending is not ruined!

Anonymous said...

I have a different take on this. I'm fairly wealthy but have nothing to spend my money on. I own my house (no mortgage), I have a simple car and earn far too much money and have a great deal in the bank. I could retire but I'm too young and my job is very easy. I have no need for expensive clothes, fancy phones or flash cars. I hardly ever shop. Yet I find myself constantly looking in shops at these very things. I think possessions do define us and in that respect I feel 'left out', even though it is by choice.

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