Say yes to the dress? Only if it’s for the right reasons

I walked away from a $188 dress recently. I loved this dress. It was a maxi-dress with a scooped neckline. The red, blue and caramel floral and fauna pattern made my skin look olive (instead of pasty white) and my hair look honey blonde (instead of mousy brown). The small size fit better than the medium, and that’s always a selling feature for me.

I pictured myself wearing it all summer, on my vacation to B.C. and on long walks in the park with my daughter every weekend.

This dress was fabulous. And still I walked away.

It’s wasn’t the money either. I actually had it, and then some, in my account. These funds aren’t even earmarked for my electricity bill or a summer day-camp for my girl.

I walked away because it didn’t feel right..

Here’s the thing. I’ve participated in retail therapy for many years. Retail therapy, some studies suggest, works to enhance your mood. It makes you feel better, so why not, right? Sure, it does the trick, but at what cost?

A financial cost exists, for sure. If you’re going into debt or spending your budgeted-bill money on things you don’t need – just to feel better – there is a definite problem.

But beyond the monetary, there is another cost as well. What are you avoiding when you use spending money or shopping as a means to elevate your mood?

As a consumer, you owe it to yourself to ask why you want something. Is it because you need it, or because you need to feel better?

Photo: Dreamstime Images/Marifa

Instead of dropping cash, maybe you actually need to drop your mom a line. Tell her you’re sorry you snapped at her during dinner last night, but she really needs to stop asking you when you’re going to settle down and have kids.

Or maybe you need to break up with your girlfriend because she’s not very kind to you or your family, and she probably drinks too much too.

Or maybe you need a goal – something real to spend your money on – like an education towards your dream career, or a trip to Iceland or the small business you’ve wanted to launch since you were 22.

I recognized when I traipsing around the change room in this maxi-dress, thinking about all the places I’d roam in it, that there was something else going on. I felt better about myself in it than in the clothes I’d put on that morning. And that they once made me feel the same way too.

So I walked away. Actually, I tore off the dress and ran.

It will still be there. If, in a few days, I’m feeling better about my writing or my mothering skills, and the dress is still in my thoughts, I might go buy it. But I’m guessing by then, it will have faded from my internal view.

Sometimes a dress is just a dress. And sometimes it’s not.


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