Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I shop therefore I am

by Blair Sabol

I believe we are all born "shopaholics." It's another one of life's many great escape activities. But I don't understand people who REALLY live to shop. ("I shop therefore I am " as the T shirt says). Nowadays it seems that most women ages 19-45 are not only stuck in this obsession (and the prescribed antidepressants don't work), but are blogging nonstop about it.

A perfect combo, according to some blogs.
Not just about clothes, but about their peach cobbler recipes, their favorite throw pillows and dog collars. It seems money ($950 blouses, $1200 bags, $400 skirts, $125 bras, and $800 platform sandals) is no object. Which is amazing considering that most of the these "online experts" haven't any real jobs ... just blogs.

But now that blogs are big business (ANYTHING is more current than monthly magazines) most have gotten "subsidized" by big corporations. Like Coach getting behind the popular Cupcakes and It's amusing that today most young girls consider becoming a "professional shopper" as a real dream job. After all, that is one step away from becoming a "stylist."

It used to be that a top stylist had his/her own great intrinsic style to promote. Whatever they wore or ate, we all wanted to look and do the same. And those pros had a knack for not letting us look like fools imitating them. They were actual visual style "editors." Sadly, real class individuality is not a prerequisite for today's stylists. All you need are decent connections, a good purchasing punch list, and a tasteful selection of body tattoos.
I crave an Oscars' swan swathed Bjork experience or an embarrassing transparent pant-suited Barbra Streisand.
But what kind of job is a "personal shopper" or even stylist? Who really uses them? Can't we all shop on our own and don't we honestly know what we need?

Even if we all end up sporting "no taste" or "bad taste," at least it's our very own taste. Certainly more authentic than being pretentiously "styled." Who and what outside of a real fashion shoot or a red carpet event needs a personal stylist/shopper (this is not the same as a private chef, personal driver, private trainer or even personal dogwalker).

And now that everyone on the "red carpet " uses the same three stylists ... everybody looks the same. Just ask these seasoned gals, they'll tell ya.
Geraldine Stutz, 1956. Photographed by
Margaret Bourke-White. From LIFE magazine, © Time Inc.
And now that everyone on the "red carpet " uses the same three stylists ... everybody looks the same. It's no fun watching these events anymore without the usual "fashion gaffs." I crave an Oscars' swan swathed Bjork experience or an embarrassing transparent pant-suited Barbra Streisand. It lets me know someone is thinking for themselves "in or out of whomever's box ..." for better or worse.

Shopping remains a rough and tumble sport. Even more so in our rough and tumble recession. As I look at the current tricky retail landscape I often pine "where oh where" is Gerry Stutz (Queen of Bendels) and Marvin Traub (King of Bloomingdale's) now that we need them.

As it stands we have to put up with the international bonanza of Silly Bandz (not bras but bracelets) and Forever 21 (my personal favorite) opening its 90,000 square foot palace in Times Square. This has got to be a "Vegas moment" for the retail world. Out here in fashion's wasteland (the southwest) Forever 21 out does H&M (too young), Urban Outfitter (too bohemian), Target (too tired), Topshop (too expensive), Old Navy (too cheap), and Zaras (too hit and miss).

They found their loyal clientele in the latino preteens, various "trannies" and aging boomers searching Forever 21's cheap bling for a hot fling. (Or is it hot bling for a cheap fling?). Forever 21 gets the job done and all under $25. That's called real "recession proof" shopping. (Which, next to our Carwash boutiques, is all we have going out here for cheap chic).

However that doesn't help the young (or old) shopping addicts who rely on queasy sales at Saks. Even name brand outlets have reported slim pickings since their main store branches have decided to slash their original inventories. And who are we kidding with vintage stores? There is no real vintage clothing left. It has either been bought up by high end museums or major collectors. Deluxe used or second hand thrift shops have picked up that slack ... and of course, Ebay.

But my biggest question is not about the pursuit of shopping, but where is everybody going to wear all their shopping sprees? How many parties, clubs, restaurants and one-night stands can one go to and not care about wearing the same outfit? Outside the actual aerobics of shopping ("the chase and score" of it all) where does it all end?

Last week a dear friend reported to me that she went into Eres Lingerie (NOT Victoria's Secret) on the Upper East Side to buy a slip ($600) and fled in minutes. She was so overwhelmed by the competition of the young Russian clientele (hookers? spies?) who were all spending over $10,000 each on bras and thongs. Talk about Vegas power shopping.

But these gals are obviously "going somewhere" and "doing something". Clearly they were all getting their job "uniforms" in gear. I get the need to find the perfect sunglasses and the greatest belt at a price and the adrenalin rush of it all. Until you have to get rid of it all in 18 months cause your mood and mode has seriously shifted. Recently it was reported that in Los Angeles The Salvation Army stores are doing a new bang up business.

There's always yard sales for that something special.
Everyone is dumping their closets somewhere. Whereas the consignment stores have become so mobbed with people wanting to recycle their wardrobes for cash, they have had to become extremely strict in their selections. So I guess the young unemployed shopping addicts will hold firm while they have at least one credit card, and "easy pay"arrangements, and a lot of nonsexual "hook-ups" to dress for.

I learned from some hard core shopping addicts that getting dressed for potential sexual pickups at bars and parties is NOT the motivating force behind all the shopping. THAT is "old school" reasoning. It's all about the "dressing for dressing" sake.

Which brings me to another exploding trend ... "the new lesbians." Many of my friends who have 20-something daughters (some shopping addicts/some not) have noticed that they have "turned to women." More than ever before.

Why? Is it because most young girls are nauseated watching their divorced or desperate mothers cougaring their way around town. Middle aged women today are now acting the way older men did in the pre-Viagra '80s. Only this time instead of young women, they are in pursuit of "hot male ass." Or are the young lesbians merely rebelling and sick of our current culture's porn saturation. Or how about blaming the recession for the reaction; It is "cheaper to keep HER" rather than spending and faking a giant "dress and dish" for HIM.

I became aware of the new New Lesbianism with the sad case of the late millionairess Casey Johnson and her porn gal pal Tia Tequila. Not to mention Lindsay Lohan and her off/on DJ girlfriend. And though Lady Gaga has gotten a lot of sexual attention she is not going anywhere with it other than the safety of her "close friends and family." Then there was Sandra Bullock (out of the young age range) passionately kissing every awards ceremony presenter from Scarlett Johansson to Meryl Streep. And this was after her bust up with Jesse James.

Was it a post marriage message or just shtick? Remember this age group is not the "lesbian chic" crowd of the '80s or "lipstick lesbians" of the '90s. They appear to be much more seriously straight forward and dynamic. Naturally "The Real L Word" discloses this scene in reality TV format while the new stunningly styled movie "I Am Love" features Tilda Swinton's character having a chic college age artist/daughter turning gay as a prominent theme. Who knows what all this means.

Maybe it's a mere passing dalliance or (according to many sexual therapists) perhaps a stopping point on the way to a more androgynous society. In the meantime, who cares what sexual preference you are. The obvious message remains: shop till you drop and damn the impending double dip of the world economy!
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