Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems [Part One]

New York Post

A couple of months ago, I was featured in the New York Post in an article whose premise was the fact that the average woman spends three years of her life shopping (!). The journalist, Sheila, has been reading for a long time, & approached me to ask if I’d like to be included.

While there are a lot of things I said in my interview about my spending habits that I would have liked to have had emphasised — like the fact that I don’t own a credit card, that part of my work as a fashion editor & writer is to know what’s in the stores, & that I believe supporting small business is really important — they’re right that I enjoy shopping & do so in a guilt-free manner. I believe we all have a right to spend our money however we please!

Money: a feminist issue?

It seems like the subject of money & how we spend it — especially as women — is a hot one right now. Ashe Mischief recently wrote Finance & the Fashion Blogger: Ignore-ance which received oodles of comments & also sparked a conversation on Twitter between myself & a few fashion bloggers I know (@thecoveted, @verhext, @ashemischief, @Birdiee & @holierthanthou).

One of the things Ashe pointed out was that fashion bloggers particularly feel the pressure to always go bigger & better, & “keep up with the Joneses”. After all, if every blogger in your RSS reader has a Chanel 2.55 handbag, eventually you’re probably going to feel like you should have one too.

When you spend a lot of time online, especially looking at style or fashion websites, your view of reality becomes immensely distorted. You start to think it’s normal to have multiple pairs of Christian Louboutin stilettos, a rotation of designer handbags & a constantly multiplying wardrobe. Newsflash: Most people cannot live up to this kind of hype! Most women will never own anything designer, & they probably don’t care, either!

Sometimes disengaging from the internet & giving yourself a stern reality check is really important!

Ultimately though, if you’re lusting after a Chanel 2.55 because everyone else has one, that is all about peer pressure. (No, it’s not just about smoking behind the bike-sheds!) Whether you succumb to peer pressure or not is entirely up to you, & I would add, how confident you are in yourself.

I have to say that while I sometimes see the items on other girl’s blogs & feel envious, it very very very rarely results in me going out & buying the same thing. I can only recall one incident in which I’ve done that, which was when I saw a pair of BCBG Mendel booties on Sea Of Shoes. After calling around the stores in NY, all of which had sold out, I added the shoes to my eBay watchlist — & bought them, at a much cheaper price, a couple of months later.

Fashion bloggers are particularly susceptible to spending a lot to keep up, because essentially fashion is ALL about what’s new — which naturally means you’re going to be constantly aware of what is fresh — & constantly aware of what you don’t have. You end up focusing on what you lack as opposed to what is already in your possession.

If you’re a fashion blogger who takes it relatively seriously, you find yourself assaulted with this information constantly. The natural conclusion is to find yourself wanting the latest, greatest things, & there are always a gazillion latest, greatest things to choose from.

There used to be a lot of buzz in the fashion blogosphere about shopping your own closet & repurposing your old favourites, but I see less & less of that these days.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, though, because fashion is not the only industry in which there is always a new hot thing. What about tech bloggers? Are they all secretly racking up thousands of dollars in credit card bills so they can be the first blogger on the block with a tricked out iPad? I don’t think so.

Again, this is so fashion-related: it’s easy to feel like you can “never have enough” pairs of shoes, pink dresses, fabulous handbags. If you’re a tech blogger, you probably only need one of each thing. One phone, one computer, one crazy cool gadget which fills a need… But when it comes to fashion, there’s no limit, except your own level of restraint.

Fashion is so aspirational. Sometimes when we look at a skirt on Net-A-Porter or a pair of shoes on Zappos, it’s as if all rationale flies out the window. We don’t see them just as a bit of fabric or an architectural heel. These things are marketed to us in such a way that we feel like our lives will GENUINELY improve, GENUINELY get better, if we only had that item in our closet. The truth is that owning stuff doesn’t really change your life at all. If anything, it complicates matters.

Do you think some people get duped into trying to buy their way into the upper echelons of fashion blogging? If not, do you think people are duped by fashion in general?

Additionally, the majority of fashion bloggers are women — & it’s such an unfortunate phenomenon that so many of us assign an assessment of our own value or self-worth to what we own &, as an extension, how we look.

Though you may sometimes wonder, ‘How does she afford that?!’ while perusing your favourite blogs, I believe very strongly that the way people spend their money is their business, & their business alone. Ultimately, you will never know their story — whatever that might be — & sitting around trying to work someone out is a waste of your time & intelligence.

There are certainly some fashion bloggers who come from wealthy families, plenty who have corporate jobs in addition to their blogging capers, & some who work like maniacs on their blogs so that they can afford to buy the things they want (I’m in this camp!). But unless someone sits down with you & has a frank discussion about the nature of their income, you should never assume anything!

Let’s face it: the way Sarah Smith spends her money may not be the way I would want to spend mine, but that’s okay because it doesn’t affect me IN ANY WAY! I feel that this is especially true with fashion bloggers, most of whom you will never meet (or know)! How does their bank balance impact on your life, really?

So I ask you…

How do you feel when you read fashion blogs? Do they make you feel good, inspired & excited about style — or do they make you feel left out, jealous & uncomfortable? Do you feel a twinge when you see other women with your Ultimate Item Of Desire(tm)? If you are a blogger, do you feel the pressure to have the latest, greatest thing to blog about or do you not care?

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems parts two & three coming this week!