I Buy, Therefore I’m Not

Shopping and buying are two different experiences and one assumes more power than the other.


Shopping is like masturbating — a highly personal, sometimes guilty pleasure that will often medicate situations* if only temporarily. And the surreal, fleeting moments that come (sorry) at the almost-cusp of your climax, right before an orgasm, can be likened to the act of contemplation when considering whether or not you’ll buy something.

Also of important note: shopping does not necessarily infer buying.

There are nine images of the same shoes in the above slideshow. Only three are original. The rest are simply replicas of the ones you’ve already seen. This is not a cheap ploy — I am not trying to steal your clicks. If you scroll through my Instagram feed, you might find a similar pattern wherein the same shoes documented here have been filtered in Amaro, Mayfair, and Lo-Fi on three separate occasions. So what gives, right?

I have this idea about ownership. As people interested in fashion, we like to display our skillful abilities to put together outfits. It functions as a testament to our being “good” at fashion. In order to do that though, we need to wear clothes that will help enunciate the points we’re making, and to wear those clothes, we need to have acquired them. That acquisition comes often by way of purchase. And for obvious reasons, that can be limiting.

Personally, I love the Prada sandals because they’re a delicate combination of rugged (the rubber sole) and feminine (as evidenced by the accentuation of a woman’s best asset: her ankle) and I want the world to know that I know that. Here’s the thing, though. If we’re getting dressed to tell the world we know things, why not just use social media to shed light on that knowledge? Our digital networks allows us to penetrate audiences. Whether big or small, there is always some level of engagement from at least the people you know, who are ultimately the ones you want to speak to or impress anyway.

So recently, instead of buying things, I’ve been trying to own them socially by posting and reposting and confessing great love for them in order to determine whether I will feel a sense of proprietorship and furthermore if that will actually appease my desire for brick-and-mortar ownership.

I first met the Pradas toward the end of this past August. I walked into the store on Prince Street in anticipation that they’d be there and as fate would have it, they were. So I tried them on and given the fact that I really didn’t need another pair of shoes, I took a photo of my feet in them, thanked the salesman for bringing them out in my size and left empty-handed. It was strangely liberating, but two weeks later, shoes still on my mind, I went back to try them on again.

We rode the same merry-go-round, photo snap and all. By the beginning of October, I’d been searching the shoes on Google Images almost daily. I went back a third time to visit them. By that point, they started to feel like my children at summer camp. I could see them when I wanted to, but at the end of the day, I left them there in someone else’s safekeeping. The process became something of a spectacle if not completely adrenaline rush-inducing. The salesmen knew (and hated) me and I was shopping, but not buying, which felt pretty powerful.

The more often I tried them on, the more urgently I felt like it was my civil duty not to get them. As much as I wanted the $950 clunkers, I wanted to prove that I am self-sufficient and that the shoes I wear do not define me and that what I already have is good enough if not better, even more. The ordeal felt curiously similar to that which we outlined in that story on investment piece shopping but only because I’d started to believe that WCHB clothes (What Could Have Been clothes) — and shoes — only stay romantic and fresh in our minds because that’s precisely where they live: inflated, in our minds.

Last week the novelty of my experiment wore off. I’d just received a check for the last installment of my book advance and because it had been nearing three months since I’d first tried them on and ten seconds since I’d last thought about them, I forewent 950 of my hard-earned dollars to prove how weak I really am.

For the record, though, they’re better than an orgasm.

*What I really wanted to write was, “lubricate them pickles you’re in.”

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  • Cris

    You’re the best! I shared the same experience many, many times …

  • sheeristhenewblack

    I don’t get paid for anything so I own things in Pinterest, and you are right, shopping sometimes is better than buying, especially when you don’t have the money and you REALLY don’t need another bag.

    • “Own things in Pinterest.” Genius.

  • chambers

    shopa shopa shopaholic

  • Common … you cannot not buy these shoes – they are too great for that (I’ve loved (yes!) them ever since seeing them here (because … they are so ME (too)) … Well, to contain my excitement a bit: I was really hoping you bought them by the end of this post, so Yay 🙂

  • These shoes have been haunting me for SO LONG. They are gorgeous. Prada shoes in general just really get me. For example the time I was 12 and plunked $365 (my reasoning: “hey, that’s just a dollar a day!”) on a pair of Prada shoes while visiting family in New York. They came down from the original $1,000, though. While I can’t say they come outta their box that often, I don’t think I regret the purchase, either. It was a learning experience, and reinforced the fact that I definitely am more of a bargain girl (thrift stores, ebay, etc) than a big spender on clothes. That might change when my paycheck exits the Sporadic Babysitting range, though.
    I’m glad you got the shoes. They look fabulous.

    • Leandra Medine

      ooooh, I like that you learned that you’re more of a bargain by virtue of not having worn the shoes that much. Did you kinda feel dirty after buying them?

      • You know, I really didn’t have any internal dirtyness about buying them. In fact, I didn’t feel guilty until my mother scolded me via phone (the parents weren’t in NY with me, I was staying with a stylish aunt and thus the acceptance of my purchase). I felt like I had really just thrown out all of the principles she tried instilling in me.
        The funny thing is that I think my lack of wearing them not only made more aware that I am way more of an Amvets or Salvation Army kinda girl (here’s to $2.50 denim overall dresses!), but that I am also not incredibly “fancy”. I think of those Prada shoes as more of museum pieces, thus making them rather unwearable to me. On the occasion, I’ll be like “damn Emma, you could have gotten, like, 6 pairs of New Balance sneakers if you hadn’t purchased those Prada Chandelier shoes (s/s 2010, yo)!”

        • Natalia

          This is a really interesting dialogue to me. I’m 18 with a very limited income so I have to rely on thrift stores and eBay as well. I have a few pieces I paid a hefty price for in stores but I don’t connect with them as much as the stuff I’ve worked really hard to find. I think my circumstances have defined my style, I’m very into the bohemian, layering dirty thing (which I think has also influenced my taste in guys..can style do that?) Leandra, I’m curious if you every had this stage and if the fact you have so many amazing clothes at your disposal makes the hunt for good clothes less exciting?

  • EdgifyMe

    You just articulated exactly what I experienced yesterday. I posted a pair of Celine oxfords (with the gold exterior tongue) on Instagram. A friend commented “Tell me you bought these”… I felt this great satisfaction in not having spent the money on them, yet somehow still owning bragging rights to them for loving them enough to post a pic on instagram…muy interesante

  • Nika

    I do that all the time!! I go and try on things at Zara. (In my country we don’t have any fancy stores, no Prada or Gucci or Dolce here, let alone Helmut Lang, Rick Owens and other not-as-famous famous designers). But being in the position where I don’t yet earn my money and have to save my lunch-money for months before I can buy myself something, I, instead of going straight on the bus home, (a few times a week) go to Zara and pick all those things I already bookmarked online earlier, and try them on and feel them and imagine all of them were hanging in my closet. It’s so ridiculous, but it makes me so happy! Until I realize I’m not leaving with them but…
    Whenever I feel like I really really need to have something I bookmark it and put it on a wishlist. I go through the list of all the things I bookmarked as to-buy and by the time it’s sales time I already narrow it down to about 30% of the original list, and so by then I know for sure which things I really need and which ones I could live without and which I already got bored of. Also, during these few months between falling in love with an item and the sales, I often remind myself when getting dressed, which items from the list would be helpful at that moment, which ones would really go along with the rest of the wardrobe well and come useful! Ahhh…

    • This sounds really good to me … I guess there’s also much enjoyment in it (-> the whole process between seeing and buying), no?

      • Nika

        Certainly! When I see how many things I almost bought that I would get tired of shortly after spending my savings on, or would bring home only to find out I don’t have anything to wear it with it is very satisfactory! And going through the list and writing down outfits I already have in mind for a certain item, you know, to check how versatile it is, is like playing a stylist!

        • That’s what it sounds like, yes, playing a stylist. Cool 🙂

  • i usually take this exercise one step further. i charge my guilty pleasures, bring them home to try them on and marvel at how amazing they make my entire wardrobe and life look, and then bring them back the next day. it’s my fashion version of the walk of shame but boy do i love the rush.


    • Nika

      I believe I’d be doing this if there wasn’t only one Zara around here and the people working there didn’t already know who I was. I think they already cross their eyes as soon as they see me going in that dressing room with a huge pile of clothes to try on. I very rarely get something, so I just keep them busy!

  • Hereshoping Themayanswereright

    Congrats on your stunningly awesome purchase!! They’re gorgeous and I would have done the same thing. Social ownership does not work for me at all and only make the obsession worse.

  • (BAD) Blog About Design

    Love the shoes as well. They’d look super cool paired with a pair of jeans 🙂

    Check out the BAD Blog…


  • Rebecca

    Good read. Also, remember you’ve worked hard earned the $ so why not treat yourself to a pair of good shoes (which hopefully will remain part of your wardrobe for a long long time)

  • Ah, whatever, shopping, buying, all I could see was those gorgeous shoes, I’m hopeless!

    Mafalda ❤

  • Sarita Williams

    I’ve had the same experience, many times. Most recently was with a pair of JCrew oxford shoes that the perfect caramel color I had been searching for for over a month. Usually when I see something I really want, but know that i can’t afford them at that moment, I’ll put them on a wish list and wait for them to either go on sale or for a promotion to come through. But, after looking at how JCrew styled their models in the catalogue and after continuously revisiting them in my wish list, I succumbed to temptation and bought them. AND. IT. FELT. SO. GOOD. This post summed up all my feelings when it comes to shopping. Thanks!

    Sarita W.

  • alejandra

    I sometimes imagine an outfit that I want to wear with an accessory I do not own. This really just taints the outfit in general and I cannot wear it unless I get the accessory because it haunts me and it’s all I can think about.

  • Rebeka Osborne

    Those shoes are so, so pretty. I think if you’ve coveted something for that long then it’s probably worth buying, even if it is a $950 pair of shoes. But hey, you will probably have them forever and you can always look back at them and think, I wrote a book and then I rewarded myself with these shoes: your book shoes!

  • I always feel like I don’t have enough clothes, but then at the same time I’m glad that I didn’t buy everything I wanted when I tried them on. Experience tells me I have to like something for a very long time before I should drop my cash on it. So essentially I don’t buy trendy stuffs that often because they’re gone before long!

  • Alyse Franco

    so true great article!

  • Christine


  • catherine

    I’ve been obsessed with the black pair since I first saw the show and then I just recently discovered that the leather’s not patent… Why oh why did they not make them in patent leather?!

  • Kristy

    I do this. I used to dislike window shopping because I figured if I wanted to look at things I couldn’t buy I’d go to a museum. But I’ve realized, sometimes just gazing and wanting is (proprietorial) gratification enough.

    But I wouldn’t mind if I got that gold Miansai bracelet as, say, a present or something…

  • Mara

    you are so f* honest smart and funny!

  • Pualani@TheRustedKey

    The way I resist a good buy is by telling myself I can buy other things, more important things. Little things add up. If I go to Manhattan for the day, I’d probably drop over $50 for the cost of trains and food alone. If I don’t for a month, I can see my family for New Year’s Eve. The really hard stuff to resist are the stuff on sale, but then I think, “Do I really need it? I’ve survived this long without it. Is it really going to make my life that much better?”

  • JoJo

    Ann Demeulemeester shoes are timeless and I never give them away. But these are the all time, hands down king of the kids best ones ever. They make everything look good. I will be super distraught when they die.

  • I swear, Prada has the best chunky shoes!! The rich brown and the black are so pretty!!! Totolly drooling over those!


  • Roza Sinaysky

    Got those at (almost) full price and never looked back!

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  • Selena Delgado

    They’re on SALE! I’m over and beyond the moon to finally own these babies

  • EmilyS

    On this topic (and boy am I happy to have stumbled across this article) – How have you found the fit of these? I’m currently (nervously) watching a countdown for these babies in my exact size – Ending in precisely 5 hours 14min.. I need to know if the indulgence is worth it.. Or am I going to be ultimately disappointed with a pair of dream shoes I cant wear..? (Countdown update : 5hours 12mins)

    • Leandra Medine

      what size are you??

      • EmilyS

        I’m an EU 37! – US 7 (I believe). – Please say they fit true because I’ve got a package of Prada dreams heading my way.