The Psychology of Dress

The doctor is in... your closet!

When Bad Clothes Are Good For You: Part I Shopping

Teaching you how to use psychology and clothing to fight the urge to shop.

Sometimes psychologists have a tendency to over think things...trust me I know. As we engage in difficult problem solving strategies with our patients, struggle to identify root causes, and search for hidden meanings our "paralysis of analysis" may inhibit our ability to find obvious solutions. When I get too stuck in my own head, I recall something someone once said to me: Keep it simple, stupid. Never one to mince words, my soon-to-be ninety-year-old-grandmother always has a way of snapping me out of it.

I have found that our most common concerns can be temporarily remedied with a simple solution, clothing. I have spent over the entire year writing about the power of good dress, fit, form, function, and flattery. Just this once, I am going to go against everything that I feel is right and true to teach you how to use your "bad" clothes (ill-fitting, uncomfortable, unflattering,  etc.) to make you happier and healthier. See below for Part I of my three part series posted every Wednesday during the month of December!

Problem:
After Christmas sale, post-tax return shopping trip, visiting the mall when bored, or any time you are itching to spend when you shouldn't.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Shrink Solution:
When I am trying to help patients curb their spending habits I begin by observation without change. I have them make note of their spending triggers for the week. This may include conflicts before shopping, boredom, difficult emotions, happiness, or a visit with a friend who seems to have it all. If I can identify a deeper cause for spending and work on that internal component, the spending usually decreases. If this doesn't work, I often have my patients shop without money. I encourage them to go shopping as much as they like maybe even more than they normally would, but they are not to bring any means to pay for the items. They are allowed to put the items on hold but must wait twenty four hours to buy only after they have taken inventory of what they already own. This usually removes the impulsivity out of shopping and helps the patient identify that they don't need the item, they have something that serves the same purpose, and they often shop for the same item over and over again. I guess that explains my extensive cream sweater collection!

Closet Solution:
In addition to shopping without money, I suggest that my patients, who are almost always shopping for clothes, wear difficult clothes. Difficult shopping clothes are those that are hard to get in and out of. Anything with a ton of buttons, hooks, ties, snaps, zippers, etc. are difficult. I find that layers requiring tucking and re-layering thwart the shopping process. Socks that go under skinny jeans that are tucked in boots are particularly annoying during the holiday season. I go so far as to wear turtlenecks and pullovers that, if yanked over my head, would surely be covered in gloss, blush and mascara. These high maintenance items will keep your debt low during tough times.

Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist who examines the underlying reasons for clients' style choices and creates a wardrobe to facilitate positive internal change.

more...

Subscribe to The Psychology of Dress

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?