What to Check When Buying Vintage Clothes

A remarkable thing about clothing these days is that almost any style seems to work. If it fits the person’s sense of fashion and if that person feels perfectly comfortable and confident with what he or she wears then the outfit would look as though it came out of a fashion icon’s closet. Clothes that were common during the past decades, or even centuries, could look upbeat when properly put together. And this is why vintage clothing would never be out of style. Like any other piece of clothing, there are some things to consider when buying vintage clothing. Here are some of them.

First of all, one should always check the size of the clothes he or she would be buying and this is best done by trying the clothes on. When buying any kind of clothes, it is advisable that you try them on for size before you pay for them. It would spare the buyer the hassle of going back to the store to exchange the clothes for a bigger or smaller size. What if you choose to buy vintage clothing online? That’s not a problem. All that needs to be done is to ask the seller for the exact measurements of these clothes. But before this, the buyer should know her own body measurements. It is important to buy something that fits you right now, not next week or next month. Some people make a mistake of buying something that’s a size too small and think that they can lose weight but don’t; this means you just wasted money on clothes that you would not even be able to wear. It would be such a waste if it was a unique piece of vintage clothing. In short, buy something that fits you just right, at this moment.

Also, when it comes to size, it is important to note that authentic vintage clothing usually comes in smaller sizes compared to the typical clothes worn today. Clothing sizes have grown from those days. This means that a large-sized vintage sweater might actually fit a small-sized person. Aside from the size of the garment as a whole, the length of the sleeves along with the width of the shoulders, chest, and waist of the garment, among other things should also be checked. This holds especially true for second-hand vintage clothing. These clothes may have probably been custom-made to fit the owner. Some clothes could have longer sleeves or a wider chest which may appear awkward when worn by someone else. When buying dresses or coats, know the appropriate length that would fit your height.

Colors, patterns, and prints of vintage clothing should also be taken into consideration. Vintage probably means more about the prints and patterns of the fabrics rather than the everything else. Prints for vintage outfits are usually floral prints or paisley prints. It’s important to choose the size of the prints, too. Smaller and finer prints hide what needs to be hidden and can make a person look slimmer than they are. Bigger or bolder prints accentuate features rather than hide them. As for patterns, checkered and polka-dotted outfits may be considered vintage. Checkered jackets add a vintage style to both women and men’s outfits. Striped patterns could be tricky though. Most often, vertically-striped clothing is preferred to horizontally-striped ones. Vertical stripes on vintage clothing or any clothing, for that matter, give the illusion of height to a person while horizontal stripes add width. Different widths of stripes also showcase different effects. Wide stripes are bolder thus accentuating certain features especially when strategically placed on the fabric while narrow stripes almost have the same effect as fine prints.

Other things to consider when shopping for vintage clothing is the cut, style, and design. A lot of vintage dresses are cinched at the waist and have puffed skirts which are flattering for almost every woman’s body type. Any woman could get that hour-glass figure when wearing vintage dresses like those. A vintage dress should probably be the first piece of vintage clothing to purchase.

For vintage clothing such as dresses, sweaters, and shirts, the necklines and sleeves also make a difference on the person wearing them. Most women would look best with a V-necked top, or if they are blessed with great shoulders, it’s best to find a dress or top that would show those shoulders off. An example would be a halter dress or blouse with a beautiful print. Long, puffy sleeves would work for those who want to hide their arms.

Vintage clothing for men would probably be composed of a checkered or striped suit with a vest on top of their long-sleeved shirt. An alternative would be a striped or checkered shirt, a vest, and slacks, and probably a hat. This could be topped off with a long coat or a long jacket. The outfit could also appear more vintage-looking by adding on a necktie with fun patterns. It seems easier to dress up a man in vintage clothing than it does a woman, really.

Last but not the least, the buyer should take into account the prices of vintage clothing. He or she shouldn’t have to spend too much in order to put together a lovely vintage outfit. In fact, one may find items online or at retail stores that do not seem like vintage anything at first but may be altered in some way that would make it have that vintage feel to it. But, if one should alter the piece of clothing, it shouldn’t be too much of an alteration. Attaching an accessory to that outfit should be enough to make it vintage. Worried that you’re on a pretty tight budget? Shopping for second-hand vintage clothing would do. Check for damages on these clothes. If you find some sort of damage but think you can fix it in a jiffy with some thread and a needle, bargain for it to be sold at a cheaper price. You’d be able to grab something for a steal plus you would be amazed at what you can find in second-hand stores.

By keeping these things in mind when shopping for vintage clothing, nothing could possibly go wrong.

Hong Kong Clothing Industry

Textile quotas were eliminated among WTO members at the first day of 2005 in accordance with the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC). However, resistance to quota removal spread in the US and EU. Subsequently, China reached agreements with the EU and the US in June and November 2005 respectively. The China-US agreement, effective from January 2006, governs the exports of a total of 21 groups involving 34 categories of Chinese textiles and clothing products to the US during 2006-2008. The China-EU agreement, effective from June 2005, covers 10 categories of Chinese textiles and clothing exports to the EU during 2005-2007.

On the other hand, the mainland and Hong Kong agreed in October 2005 to further liberalise the mainland market for Hong Kong companies under the third phase of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA III). Along with other products of Hong Kong origin, the mainland agreed to give all products of Hong Kong origin, including clothing items, tariff-free treatment starting from 1 January 2006. According to the stipulated procedures, products which have no existing CEPA rules of origin, will enjoy tariff-free treatment upon applications by local manufacturers and upon the CEPA rule of origins being agreed and met.

Hong Kong clothing companies are reputable for ODM and OEM production. They are able to deliver quality clothing articles in short lead time, as foreign importers and retailers request clothing suppliers to tighten up supply chain management to ensure the ordered merchandise reaching the store floor at the right time. Increasingly, Hong Kong clothing companies, the established ones in particular, have shown enthusiasm for brand promotion.

Hong Kong’s total exports of clothing rose year-on-year by 9% in the first 11 months of 2005. While Hong Kong’s re-exports of clothing rose by 20%, domestic exports fell by 14%. In the first 11 months of 2005, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to the US and EU rose by 11% and 18% respectively. While Hong Kong’s clothing exports to Japan levelled off, those to the Chinese mainland declined by 11%.

Industry Features

The clothing industry is a major manufacturing sector of Hong Kong. Its gross output is one of the highest among all manufacturing sectors, amounting to HK$35.9 billion in 2003. It is the largest manufacturing employer in Hong Kong, with 1,673 establishments hiring 28,752 workers as of June 2005. It is also the leading earner in terms of domestic exports, taking up 40% of the total in the first 11 months of 2005.

Hong Kong’s geographic boundary has never constrained the development of the forward-looking clothing industry. The majority of clothing manufacturers have set up offshore production facilities in an attempt to reduce operation costs. Relocation of production facilities offshore has however resulted in a steady decline in the number of clothing manufacturers in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is not only a leading production centre but also a hub for clothing sourcing globally. Companies doing garment trade in Hong Kong are experienced in fabrics procurement, sales and marketing, quality control, logistic arrangements, clothing designs and international and national rules and regulations. The professionalism that they command and the combined services offered are not easily matched elsewhere. With a total of 15,190 establishments hiring 95,889 workers, they form the largest group involved in import-export trade in Hong Kong.

Performance of Hong Kong’s Exports of Clothing

Hong Kong’s total exports of clothing rose year-on-year by 9% in the first 11 months of 2005. While Hong Kong’s re-exports of clothing rose by 20%, domestic exports fell by 14%. The contrasting performance of Hong Kong’s re-exports and domestic exports was basically ascribed to the increasing relocation of garment manufacturing to the Chinese mainland, resulting from the removal of quotas under WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC). But the declining trend of domestic exports has been reversed somewhat in recent months, due to the re-imposition of quantitative restraints on mainland-made textiles and clothing by the US and EU.

Retail sales in the US held firm in the first 11 months of 2005, rising by nearly 6% from the same period in the previous year. In the first 11 months of 2005, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to the US rose year-on-year by 11%.

In the first 11 months of 2005, Hong Kong’s total clothing exports to the EU surged year-on-year by 18%. Clothing exports to major EU markets like France, Germany and Italy recorded growth rates in excess of 20%.

On the other hand, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to Japan levelled off in the first 11 months of 2005 partly due to the trend of direct shipment. On the back of the rising income however, Japanese consumers tend to resume their spending spree on premium clothing items. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to the Chinese mainland dropped by 11% in the first 11 months of 2005, compared with the same period last year.

Product-wise, Hong Kong’s exports of woven wear rose by 12% in the first 11 months of 2005. While woven wear for women/girls grew by 13%, those for men/boys recorded a growth of 8% from the same period in the previous year. Knitted wear grew by 2%, with women/girls and men/boys rising by 1% and 6% respectively. While clothing accessories declined by 3%, other apparel articles, for their part, increased by 13%.

Sales Channels

Hong Kong’s clothing manufacturers have forged strong relationships with their customers. They are able to understand and cater for the preferences of very broad customer bases. Exporters also have good knowledge of international and national rules and regulations governing clothing exports, such as rules of origin, quota restrictions, tariff rates and documentation requirements. Cut, make and trim (CMT) arrangements are common although many Hong Kong manufacturers have moved to higher value-added activities such as design and brand development, quality control, logistics and material sourcing.

A few well-established local manufacturers have entered into the retailing business, either locally or in overseas markets. Many of them have retail networks in major cities around the world including Beijing, London, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei and Tokyo. Some well-known manufacturing retailers include Baleno, Bossini, Crocodile, Episode, Esprit, G-2000, Giordano, JEANSWEST, Moiselle and U-2.

As a global sourcing hub in Asia, Hong Kong attracts a number of international trading houses and major retailers. Buyers sourcing from Hong Kong include American and European department stores (e.g. Macy’s, JCPenney, Federated, Karstadt Quelle, C & A), discount stores (e.g., Sears, Target and Carrefour), specialty chains (e.g., The Gap, The Limited) and mail order houses (e.g. Otto and Great Universal Stores). Many international premium designer labels — such as Calvin Klein, Donna Karen, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Yves Saint Laurent — source clothes in Hong Kong through their buying offices or other intermediaries.

Hong Kong’s fashion designers have been gaining worldwide reputation for their professional expertise, sensitivity to current trends and ability to blend commercialism with innovation. Medium to high-priced fashion clothing bearing Hong Kong designer labels is being sold/have been sold in renowned department
stores overseas such as Bloomingdale’s, C & A, Harrod’s, Isetan, Macy’s, Marui, Mitsukoshi, Nieman Marcus and Seibu.

Trade fairs and exhibitions remain common places for buyers and suppliers of clothing to congregate. To establish connections and explore market opportunities, Hong Kong manufacturers and traders have involved themselves actively in international shows led by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), including the ones in Beijing, Chengdu, Dalian, Dubai, Dusseldorf, Hong Kong, Moscow, Mumbai, Paris and Tokyo. ‘Hong Kong Fashion Week’ is organised twice a year and attracts international suppliers and buyers to participate in the exhibition. Organised by TDC, ‘World Boutique, Hong Kong’ is the first independent event in Hong Kong dedicated to promoting designers’ collection and brands from around the world.

Industry Trends

Changes in retail landscape: In the US and EU, large-scale retailers are undergoing drastic restructuring and consolidation, in particular, the growing prominence of hypermarkets such as Wal-Mart. To strengthen competitiveness, Sears and Kmart have merged to form the third largest retail group in the US.

Growing importance of private labels: Private labels, in essence, have become an increasingly effective marketing tool among garment retailers. In order to differentiate as well as upgrade the image of their products, major retailers have started to put a stronger emphasis on their own labels. According to Cotton Incorporated, private labels accounted for 45% of total US apparel sales in 2003, up from 39% in 2001. In some adult apparel categories, such as skirts, private labels accounted for as high as 76% of the total sales. It is also estimated that 45% of products sold in the EU are sold under private labels. Renowned retailers such as H&M, Marks & Spencer, Orsay, Palmers, Pimkie, Springfield and Kookai have owned their private labels. As consumers desire to have private labels on everyday garments like jeans, accessories and T-shirts, the doors are also open to the supply of these clothing items to private label owners.

Growing interest in China’s domestic market: The rapid expansion of mainland’s economy has attracted great interest of Hong Kong clothing companies to explore its clothing market. A TDC survey on mainland’s garment shoppers indicates that Hong Kong brands are ranked number one by the respondents in the mid-range segment. While international brands are most preferred in the high-end segment, mainland brands dominate the low-end. In addition, the same survey finds out that in the eyes of mainland consumers, Hong Kong companies are very strong in casual wear, as they are generally of good design and quality. In essence, many mainland consumers have developed a stronger awareness of Hong Kong brands through tour to and shopping in Hong Kong. Therefore, Hong Kong’s casual wear has successfully projected a positive image to mainland consumers.

CEPA

On 18 October 2005, the mainland and Hong Kong agreed to further liberalise the mainland market for Hong Kong companies under the third phase of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA III). Along with other products of Hong Kong origin, the mainland agreed to give all products of Hong Kong origin, including clothing items, tariff-free treatment starting from 1 January 2006. According to the stipulated procedures, products which have no existing CEPA rules of origin, will enjoy tariff-free treatment upon applications by local manufacturers and upon the CEPA rule of origins being agreed and met. But non-Hong Kong made clothing products will remain subject to tariff rates of 10-25% when entering the mainland.

The promulgated rules of origin for clothing items to benefit from CEPA’s tariff preference are basically similar to the existing rules governing Hong Kong’s exports of these products. Generally speaking, the principal manufacturing process of cut-and-sewn garment is sewing of parts into garments. If linking and/or stitching is/are required, such process/processes must also be done in Hong Kong. For piece-knitted garment, if it is manufactured from yarn, the principal process is knitting of yarn into knit-to-shape panel.

If the piece-knitted garment is manufactured from knit-to-shape-panels, the principal process is linking of knit-to-shape panels into garment. If stitching is required, it must also be done in Hong Kong.

Trade Measures Affecting Exports of Clothing

According to the ATC, textile quotas were eliminated among WTO members at the first day of 2005. However, resistance to quota removal spread in the US and EU. Particularly in the US, China-specific safeguards on 10 categories of clothing items from China were invoked. Against this background, China reached agreements with the EU and the US in June and November 2005 respectively.

The China-US agreement, effective from January 2006, governs the exports of a total of 21 groups involving 34 categories of Chinese textiles and clothing products to the US during 2006-2008. It allows an annual growth of 10-15% in 2006, 12.5-16% in 2007 and 15-17% in 2008. The China-EU agreement, effective from June 2005, provides for an annual growth of 8-12.5% in 10 categories of Chinese textiles and clothing exports to the EU during 2005-2007. In addition, both EU and US agreed to exercise restraint in invoking China-specific safeguard against Chinese textiles and clothing that are not covered in the agreements.

Product Trends

Formal Dressing: While casual wear accounts for the bulk of clothing sales, a general trend towards stricter corporate dress codes has led to a rising demand for formal dressing, particularly suits. According to a survey by Cotton Incorporated in late 2004/early 2005, 38.5% of respondents believe that people dressed too casually at work. This is a 6.5 percentage point increase over the same year-ago.

Teenager: One of the major driving forces of clothing market appears to be the teenagers in the coming years. The number of teenagers in the US expects to increase from 31.6 million in 2001 to 34.1 million in 2010. A recent survey by Teenage Research Unlimited found that teens are saving money by value shopping. While JCPenney is their favourite department store, Target and Wal-mart are their favourite hypermarkets. In addition, Old Navy is their choices among specialty apparel stores.

Silver Market: Ageing population becomes a common phenomenon in many developed countries in Europe as well as Japan and the US. Elderly people constitute a major market segment called ‘silver market’. Supported by savings, social security benefits and pensions, many elderly people have rather strong spending power. It is estimated that the age group of 65 year and above accounted for about 21% of Japan’s consumption expenditure in 2000. A survey conducted by the Japanese government also shows that people who are 60 years old and above possess almost three times the financial assets of those in the 40-50 age group. In the US, those aged at or above 65 amounted to 18.1 million in 2001, and the number is expected to swell to 26 million in 2015.

Plus-size Market: The plus-size market has been an area of growth for many years, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming future. It is estimated that 65 million women in the US wear size 14 or above. This group represents one-half of the US female population. It is reported that some renowned brands have already responded to the trend by offering merchandise of larger size; these companies include Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.

Easy-care Clothes: Clothes made of stain-resistant and wrinkle-free fabrics are well received in the market. It is estimated that about a quarter of apparel is now made of easy-care fabrics, and its popularity is expected to continue in the next few years. While major apparel brands like Dockers and Liz Claiborne have already marketed extensively easy-care clothes, major hypermarkets, like Wal-Mart, also offer more merchandise of such quality.

The Secret Life of a Clothing Shopaholic

Yes, I am a recovering clothing shopaholic. Perhaps you think clothing shopaholics are just women who can’t control their urge to spend money on clothes. But that really isn’t what the addiction is all about. There is a big misconception about clothes shopping addiction. So I am going to let you in on the truth about it and tell you all about the secret fantasy life of the women who have it. You see, all female clothing shopaholics have one thing in common:

WE CRAVE FLATTERY, ENVY, AND COMPLIMENTS ON OUR APPEARANCE EVERY DAY OF OUR LIFE.

When we get a compliment or an admiring stare on the way we look, we feel great. And here is another truth about our addiction: we all have a “female appraiser”. A “female appraiser” is the female in our life that we always imagine envying us and complimenting us when we try on new clothes. She is the one we always wear new outfits in front of to get appraisal and compliments about how we look. She is the one who notices every new pair of shoes, every new piece of jewelry, whether our hair looks particularly healthy and attractive that day, and every new item of clothing we are wearing to the minutest degree. She dissects us physically; she is our lifeblood to feeling we exist; by noticing us, envying us and complimenting us; she makes us feel alive.

And we are her female appraiser as well. We notice every new item she wears and we comment about how good she looks as well. We often envy her appearance and new outfits. Our relationship is the mutual symbiotic feeding of our ego envy. Usually our female appraiser is our female mother, sister, friend or coworker who we subconsciously compete and look to get approval from about our appearance. We always try to upstage her in appearance and make her feel envious of us; we always think about whether what we buy will make her envy how we look before we buy it and when she sees a new outfit on us and we feel her envy (of course the ultimate high is when she asks us where we bought it) we have our ultimate addictive fix. We even watch how many people notice us more than her when the two of us walk together in public, to know that we are getting more attention than she is. Yes, it’s an “envy/dislike/need of approval dynamic” we have with our female appraiser (or multiple female appraisers) on a complicated physical and emotional level.

When I was a clothing shopaholic, I lived for clothes, they were my life passion. I still love clothes. But I am less in need of the power they give me to be noticed, admired, and envied. The need to shop for clothes and imagine wearing them and getting compliments from women when I wear them has taken less of a hold on me. But there was a time when shopping for clothes was an essential part of my daily life because I lived for the attention and praise those new outfits gave me. I would fantasize as I tried them on in the store and imagine being envied by my female appraiser when I wore them. And once I bought them, wearing them always made me feel special and alive when I got that attention, envy and praise from my “female appraiser”. I always needed to wear something new to be noticed and that is why the money was spent; to continually have new clothes to wear so I would continually get compliments and be noticed. When I wore that outfit a second time, it wasn’t new anymore and no compliments were given because they’d already been given when I wore it the first time. So that outfit did not serve its purpose any more for my addiction unless I wore it in front of a different female appraiser who never saw it before (sometimes I had 3 or more female appraisers in my life). On the days I wore an outfit that I received no attention about, I actually felt invisible and depressed. Sometimes just thinking about another new outfit I would wear the next day and how good I’d look and how envied I’d be was all I thought about on those depressing days. It was the only thing that kept me going; imaging that outfit in my closet and the power it would give me to be noticed and complimented.. I’d fantasize about the shoes I’d wear with the outfit and how I’d match my eye shadow to it and the admiration I’d be getting. Because I always knew exactly what to buy and wear that would make my female appraiser envious and wish she had my clothes and got the attention I was geting. And what a euphoric high that would give me; even thinking about that happening.

Clothing shopaholics have an odd addiction because when you take away the women you feel competitive with, the addiction loses its hold on you. That’s because the addiction is about fantasizing about being envied for how you look in clothes. But take away the female appraiser, and you don’t have the envy and you lose the need to fantasize or shop for clothes. Of course, eliminating female appraisers in your life isn’t easy. As long as you have a mother or work in a corporate office, or have a female sibling you see, you will have a woman in your life assessing your appearance. Even when babysitting my friend’s 10 year old daughter, she assessed my appearance by informing me my pants didn’t match my top; “the colors were off” she told me. And here I thought I was free of that kind of appraisal from children and could just “throw on sweats and any old top.” After all, why care what a 10 year old girl thinks about how I look when I’m babysitting her? But yes, her comment did bother me, although I stood my ground and refused to change my clothes. Needless to say, she is a budding clothing shopaholic in the making.

Here are some more truths about this secret clothing shopaholic life: I would go into my favorite clothes stores every day to return clothes (which I loved to do because it gave me an excuse to shop again) and always walk out buying something else, usually something I knew I would probably return. Walking into a store filled with clothes and breathing in the smell of new clothes gave me a euphoric high. Trying some new outfit on and imaging my female appraiser noticing it and complimenting me on it and asking me where I bought it; just imaging that happening as I tried on the clothes in a store gave me an adrenaline rush. This is what my clothing shopaholic addiction was about. Most women who are clothing shopaholics are clueless about what the core of their addiction is about. They think it’s about an addictive need to spend money, but it really isn’t about that. Yes, you do need to spend money to buy new clothes to feed your “attention fix”, because without buying something new, you don’t wear something new; and without wearing something new, you don’t get your “fix”. And you have to go to a store to try on something so you can experience the fantasy in your head of getting the attention, which is the first stage of the addiction.

So this is why spending money becomes a problem. And mistakenly becomes what everyone thinks the addiction is about: the inability to stop the urge to spend money on clothes. But teaching someone to resist spending money does not curb or cure the addiction. The only way to curb or “cure” it is to remove the need for a “female appraiser” in your life. But that is another article for another time. The money spent by clothing shopaholics becomes the casualty of the addiction, but it is not the addictive need to spend money that causes the addiction. I would venture to say that alcoholics get an addictive fix sitting in a bar and breathing in the smell of alcohol and seeing other men who are alcoholics around them. Yes, the need to drink alcohol plays a role in the alcoholic’s addiction, but so does the need to be in the environment. It’s the same with clothes shopping addicts, we need to be around clothes, smell the smells, and try on clothes. It is a comforting experience that calms our nerves and gives us an inner peace. But, why? It has taken me a very long time to understand my addiction to buying clothes; why I shop for clothes and why I need the attention, flattery and criticism about my appearance. I realize it all started when I was a child growing up in my mother’s clothing shopaholic world. So let me share my childhood story with you:

I was born a beautiful little girl full of life and love. I received a tremendous amount of attention from my grandparents, father, aunts and cousins. It seemed as if everyone wanted to be with me, hold me, walk with me and give me endless praise about how cute I was. Well, almost everyone. My mother envied the praise and attention I received. She found it difficult to praise me or give me physical affection. She rarely stayed in the same room with me unless she had to tend to me needs. This went by unnoticed by others, because my mother did interact with me on the surface; she picked me up; fed me; dressed me; bathed me; she did all those “interactive” things a mother has to do to raise her daughter. But there was one very important thing she did not do and that was to LOVE ME UNCONDITIONALLY.

She never hugged or kissed me, she never told me how much she loved me, and she never expressed true appreciation of anything about me to me. Yes, she told others what she appreciated about me, but she could never say those words to me. My mother was unable to give me the emotional connection of unconditional love because she did not feel good about herself as a person. She envied me for the attention and love I received. She envied me for having so many qualities she felt she didn’t have, because her own mother raised her with the same kind or resentment and envy. She found it very difficult to be in the same room with me, or to have a picture taken with me, especially when I got attention, just as her mother had found it difficult to do the those things with her.

As I grew up, my mother’s interaction with me became one of constant “assessments” about my appearance and “monitoring” of everything I did to an extreme. She criticized me endlessly about my appearance; justifying her criticism by saying “I tell you this because I’m your mother and I love you”. She always justified her comments by telling me she had my “best interest at heart”. This seemingly good intention justified her commenting on my appearance every day: whether it was leaving the house with the wrong coat, wearing the wrong outfit, not standing up with proper posture, not wearing my hair the right way, not eating or liking the right foods which made me too thin; her interaction with me was a constant barrage of comments about something that was wrong with my appearance. This constant criticism eroded my self worth to the point that I could barely make friends, and had intense insecurities and shyness around everyone growing up. She used her control over my appearance to control my self confidence. When she took me shopping to buy me clothes, she ridiculed and criticized me about how I looked as I tried on clothes with her in the dressing room. She never liked anything I liked on myself. I was always too thin, my posture was too slouched over, and according to her, I looked awful in everything except the one garment I didn’t like. And that was the one she bought. My mother made me feel ugly inside and out. She controlled my ability to be make independent choices about my appearance and to feel that my self worth was only based on looking physically good.

As a child, I believed I deserved to be treated this way because I felt there was something innately wrong with me. I did not realize I was being verbally abused. How could I? My own father, although adoring me in every way, ignored her cold, critical behavior towards me. I never understood that her behavior towards me was based on envy. To me, she was so incredibly beautiful and well dressed, that is seemed ridiculous to think that she envied me. As an adult, I now can see that her interaction with me was her way of dealing with her own low sense of self esteem. But as a child, I just felt physically flawed and inferior to everyone around me. I fixated on my appearance, my hair, my skin, my posture, and I always felt unattractive, physically flawed and inadequate. I only saw women as worthy of existing and having friends and being liked if they were attractive. My mother was a clothing shopaholic. She shopped endlessly spending money on clothes for herself every day and often returning ½ the clothes she bought the next day. She took me shopping with her wherever she went. When my mother bought herself clothes, I enjoyed the experience tremendously, because it was the only time she was happy and loving towards me. When I helped her find her favorite Kimberly® designer dress; it was one of the few times we bonded as mother and daughter. I felt such pleasure watching my mother look at the clothes she tried on in the mirror. It was the only time she seemed to like being with me. And seeking those good feelings became the root cause of my own shopping addiction as an adult. .

My mother’s focus was not just on my appearance, she was obsessed about her own appearance as well. I can recall many times she walked up the 2nd set of stairs into my bedroom, gave me a comment like, “it’s warm in here, you should open a window” and then proceeded to open one of the closets in my room which she took over as her own closet for her Kimberly® collection (after all I didn’t need a closet for clothes, since I had so few of them) and sort through her wardrobe for hours. That’s right, she wasn’t coming upstairs to see me, she was coming upstairs to look at her Kimberlys®, put away her dry-cleaned ones, check that the moth balls were working and none of them (they were all made of wool) were getting moth eaten (god help our family if that ever happened, she would moan unhappily for an eternity). My mother spent more time bonding with the Kimberlys® in her closet over the years then she spent talking and bonding with me.

But the rest of the world was another story. My mother talked about how beautiful other women looked on TV and in magazines with admiration. To her, beauty was what gave someone my mother’s approval. And these models and actresses often got her approval. I longed for that kind of approval from her, but I never got it growing up. Perhaps that’s why I drew countless drawings of women wearing clothes that looked like my mother, just to get her approval, even if it was just about a drawing I did. As a blossoming teenager, when the rest of the world started noticing me again and I was able to buy my own clothes, I realized that getting compliments on my appearance felt intoxicatingly good. I was finally getting the approval my mother could never give me. I grew up needing to hear how I looked, needing attention from guys just to feel okay with being alive. I needed to hear comments about my appearance every day just to feel I was normal. I knew nothing better.

As a teenager, my mother fixated more and more on my appearance, telling me how to wear my hair, make up and what to wear. If I didn’t follow her directives, and defended myself angrily by insisting she stop criticizing me, she would get angry at me to the point of behaving like a child who was throwing a temper tantrum. I had no right to feel good about myself and no right to defend myself against her critical attacks Unlike my mother, my father related to me about my appearance by hugging me, taking pictures and making me feel cute, pretty, and attractive(which only added to my mother’s envy of me). He gave me much attention when I blossomed into a teenager; as fathers often do with their daughters. But he worked all the time and found it easier to never be around the home. This way he didn’t have to witness how my mother was raising me and hear her critical comments towards me. He just didn’t have the emotional capacity to battle with his wife about the way she spoke to me. He accepted her behavior and chose not to deal with it but staying at work and golfing most of his life.

So this was my childhood. It is not unique. Many young girls are only given “conditional acceptance” by their mother based on their behavior and appearance. This lack of unconditional love has its price. It sets you up as a female adult to be completely dependent on others for attention and criticism in your life and to easily fall prey to addictions like clothes shopping and an addictive need for attention. The life you had with your mother and the value she put on your appearance will set you up to value yourself only when others give you approval about your appearance as well. You will crave the need to be around clothes because it is a comforting childhood experience. You will crave fantasizing about getting a female appraiser’s approval and envy on how you look in clothes, because it will bring back the relationship dynamic you had with your mother. Your appearance will define your feeling of self worth and how good you look in clothes will be what you value as the ultimate definition of being worthwhile as a person. This is what your mother taught you and this is the mindset of the clothing shopaholic. The dynamic of your relationship with your mother never leaves you, it transfers over onto other women who have the same need. It also sets you up to be very dependent on men who only value you physically and sexually. It’s so important for women to understand this addiction and how it impacts every aspect of their adult life. It’s important to see the obsessive world of clothes shopping in its naked true reality. Only then can you start to live your life with more appreciation of the things that really matter, like unconditional love, and have gratitude for those things in life that mean so much more than any new piece of clothing.