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. 

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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