Aneri of Cat's Meow writes a lot about minimalism and the meaninglessness of "stuff", and her recent post on why we buy is as thought-provoking as anything I have read on the topic of shopping. She argues that "[w]e think we have to express our personality through our purchases. We buy bohemian, intellectual, smart, sexy, adventurous, sporty, and so on. If you think about how many aspects there are to each individual personality, it naturally follows that we will have closets bursting with clothes and book shelves ready to topple over under the weight."
Aneri's words echoed in my head as I read The NYT Book Review yesterday. It acquainted me with two new books about shopping. One, The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, The Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter by Linda Grant links shopping and clothes with identity, and the other, Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella looks at the ugly side of the same issue and how compulsive shopping can become a hindrance to one's identity and self.
If our lives revolve around experimenting with our identities with the help of clothes, how do we keep track of what makes us "us"? Life, then, becomes a role play of sorts, as Avis Cardella's experiences suggest: "How can a woman with a closet so full feel so empty inside?" Our whole existence can turn into the-chicken-or-the-egg type of debate: which comes first, our identity, or our clothes that shape and conrol it? If we use clothes to discover new identities, our "various selves", what does that say about us and our inner worlds? To me, it says a whole lotta nothing. The more I think about the concept of linking identity with the clothes I wear, the more I dislike the connection. I am not interested in "developing my identity through my clothes", because to be honest, there is no reason why a couple of pieces of fabric would have the power to say anything about me to myself. The outside world can interpret what I wear in any way they like, but you know what, I just like clothes, and that's why I wear them. I think my clothes are pretty, and I don't need this nonsense about identity to justify what I like.