Shopping for Clothes is Like Shopping for Groceries (Hear Me Out)

Not to sound dramatic, or like I’m a broken record, but do you ever get the feeling that shopping for fashion can feel a lot like expensive grocery shopping? There are so many parallels! Take the shopping cart, for example. I know you don’t actually tote around a shopping cart when you’re at a department store, but the metaphorical one that exists at the top of almost every e-commerce site is reason enough to strike the resemblance. And then there’s the whole psychological complexity that emerges after the stuff has been put in your cart. Example: I was at Whole Foods last week, cart on arm, executing a squish test on two avocados to identify which one was more ripe and therefore better to buy. Before I landed on an answer, my gaze drifted over to the peaches and I felt like I needed to have at least two — no, four! — of them.

I got a plastic bag and started to pick them, but then I realized it was Wednesday — that I was leaving town on Friday and there was no way I would eat four peaches in that time span. I knew that come Monday, they’d still be in my fridge, bordering on rotten but not quite there yet, and I’d feel guilty, so I’d cut them up and do all sorts of things: throw them in wine, turn some into jam (lol, jk, can’t do this), eat them solo. Then I’d get frustrated that I paid an inflated Whole Foods price for delicious-looking peaches that ended up tasting like crunchy water. The whole thing disenchanted me entirely, so I relinquished my cart entirely. (In it was one box of gluten free crackers and a vat of almond “cream cheese.” Why bother.)

When I’m shopping for fashion online, I pretty much do the same thing only the squish tests are more like analytical calculations that factor in price, wearability and long-term desirability. Just last week I did it with a pair of floral brocade boots I saw on FWRD by Elyse Walker.

They were so great, what with their stretchy ankle bands and ankle straps and the fabric was awesome — truly like a jolt of caffeine among the lazy, lace-up days of summer, but the best part was the shape of the toe. That played heavily into their ability to carry me through a season that has not yet even arrived. (I’ve found that when a shoe shape is good, nothing else matters. You will more than likely come back to it just for that.) But then I got distracted by a bag — a burgundy velvet one with arm straps made from a cotton micro-gingham print. The bag turned into sunglasses, which turned into a pearl pendant, which turned into a quick scan of the necklace collaboration I did with CVC Stones. I felt like I was back in a supermarket, paralyzed by choice and trying to troubleshoot against future disappointment.

Maybe this is a far cry, maybe I’m stretching, but it all reminds of the conversation we’ve been having under the table about slow fashion. We spend so much time talking about it and turning our noses up at the fast fashion “fresh produce” one is tempted purchase among high street kings like Zara and H&M, but what defines slow fashion? Is it anything that’s expensive? That doesn’t seem right. Just because it cost a shit ton of money doesn’t mean it was made with soul. At least when you buy something cheap, your wallet doesn’t suffer, but when you’ve been suckered into the delicious looking — not tasting — peach-equivalent of a garment, it’s worse. At least a peach has a pit. The symbol of a core identity! So maybe it’s a matter of redefining slow fashion. Of throwing the grocery store metaphors out the window for a minute and focusing on soul and hands and craftsmanship and recycling and repurposing and optimal thinking, not easy thinking (what I mean by this is that often when I think you “need” something new, I find that if I first consult my closet, there’s a creative to recreate something that’s already in there, which satisfies the hankering.) It takes patience, but putting patience on a pedestal isn’t the worst thing. Neither is shunning the sense of immediacy that has become the heart of our purchasing processes.


I sense this might take some time, which is why there are a pair of kitten heels decorated by cherries — a mainstay of summer perishables — photographed above. They won’t go bad, this much I know. Ironic? Yes! But if you can’t beat them so fast, and definitely know you don’t want to join them, the least you can do is make a well-heeled joke.

Photos by Edith Young. 

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  • I really agonize over this shit to the same degree that I think you do, and lately I’ve been trying to just notice that. I go through these cycles of shopping/not shopping, fast/slow shopping, vintage/new shopping and every shift feels like a huge deal. The same could be said of diets/not dieting, eating healthy/letting myself eat french fries, drinking/not drinking or hyper budgeting/splurging or not eating out/buying ice coffee every damn day. I go through all of these cycles over and over and each time with a whole lot of beating myself up or looking at the one I left/am leaving behind with a lot of judgement. I find the ways that other women shop and eat and spend money deeply interesting, so why do I only look at myself with harsh judgey eyes?

    • cbBKNY

      yes! Ditto. I also try to tell myself that it’s ‘the hunt’ I am enjoying / addicted-to or that I am deserving-of-a-reward / self-indulgent.

      • That is really good! Of course it never occurs to me that I actually deserve anything. It’s always what is wrong and not what is right.

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    Sometimes I think you pay for a name, not necessarily better quality. I have a Kate Spade cardigan my youngest daughter found for me in a Goodwill store, and while I enjoy wearing it, I could not imagine paying the original price of $275! I have cardigans I’ve bought at Target which have lasted for years because I have taken care of them. I do like my Kate Spade bags because they are quality and they do last, but I buy them on sale. The last one I bought was the Miss Piggy clutch, because I had been admiring it since it came out, even though I’m not a big clutch purse fan. The sale price plus additional discount was too good to pass up. I am trying to curb my shopping because I am retiring in a year.

    • Adrianna

      My European mother is into specific brands, such as Ralph Lauren, Lacoste and Brooks Brothers. She lives near an outlet mall, which is a more affordable way to own something with a polo or alligator logo. Unfortunately, most of the sweaters she bought started to unravel after 1-2 uses. Outlet malls also bother me on an ethical level – I told her that the clothing is cheaper for a reason, and someone is exploited in the process. The tags would say things like “designed in France, made in Romania.”

  • Alissa

    I have been trying to only buy “slow fashion” this year. I definitely wouldn’t categorize it just by what’s most expensive. It’s more about the process and though behind how it’s made. Brands that release limited quantities of items that are sewn here in the US (or elsewhere) by workers who are paid a living wage is the biggest indicator of slow fashion for me. Often it’s literally a lot slower to make and there’s more intention behind it. Also, a focus on natural materials like what Elizabeth Suzann is doing is important too! (I think her brand fits pretty well with menocore/retired masseuse vibes as well)

    • cryptdang

      When I saw that menocore article I thought of ES as well XD …but in a good way! Here is a (rather long, admittedly) article on why slow fashion tends to be more expensive, from Elizabeth Suzann’s blog, for the interested:

      That being said, there are cheaper, responsibly-produced options like Everlane that produce abroad but with transparency. For cutesier items, Amor Vert and Marine Layer produce in the USA and are more expensive than typical t-shirts, but not crazy expensive. These to me are still “slow fashion” because I have to buy fewer/farther in-between than I did when I bought t-shirts at target for $10!

  • similarities inevitable! It’s all…capitalism 🙂

  • theysayshycity

    Shopping for anything has some seriously ethical heebie jeebies behind it. Last summer, I tried to stop buying fresh berries from a certain picker due to allegations of human slavery/other despicable labor practices. The emphasis is on “tried.”

    It’s practically impossible to do “no” harm, but I’m trying to focus on doing less harm. Putting “need” versus “want” in the grand scheme of global warming and human rights isn’t particularly sexy or marketable, and I don’t always practice what I preach.

    • Micah Lpez

      I also struggle with this, if you try to epitomize the ethics in every purchase you make, it leaves without many options and I can’t help that I loooove variety. I find that it’s easier to so both. Buty fast fashion or fast food ( is that the right word?) when it’s convenient and sparely go out of my way to do some ethical shopping.

  • I’ve just lost a shopping battle with myself … and the story goes like this:
    Almost 15 years ago I eloped with my soulmate and got married in a short beige skirt and a dark red frilly blouse. It was fun, I didn’t miss a thing and would do it again.
    Last few days, I have been moosing about our upcoming wedding anniversary (we intend to go travelling a bit) and what to wear like never before. Wtf?
    I always start with “But you hate shopping for clothes these days and you do have enough to choose from for this occasion – also, you don’t have the money right now” and continue with “but I got married in a short skirt and a frilly blouse, surely I can afford some proper clothes after all these years?!?” Anyway, I see-sawed for days and always ended up buying nothing, because this whole monologue was unpleasant and exhausting.
    Until today *cringe* … But it’s just a purple organic wool jacket I got, surely I can wear it at many occasions and so on and so on. A different monologue, the same exhaustion 🙂

  • nina corissa ortiz


  • Jeanie

    I’m just here picturing who ever photographed these trying hard not to drop something while angling a shoe just so on that ladder.