My Addiction to Buying Clothes

About 8 years ago I lost 25 kilos. At the time I was using food to fill an emptiness in me, although I now see how I had learnt to control my eating and weight but never really dealt with the issue underneath, so it popped up again in a different form – this time through buying clothes.

When I was a child we didn’t have a lot of money so my mum and grandma would make our clothes. My sister and I got a new dress each year in October to go to a show and if we made our first communion or confirmation, then we got two dresses that year. As I got older and had clothes made for me, I would pick a pattern and design how I wanted it to be made. It was always a joke in my family that I would never get a dress or pattern without wanting to make changes to suit my body.

Before I got married I remember buying three new dresses. I would save my good clothes for good and I didn’t really wear them. Then when I eventually got rid of clothes, they always looked as if they had never been worn and that was because I hardly wore them!

After I had my second baby, my mum and sister took me shopping. They thought that I needed to get a few things as I was still wearing my maternity clothes nine months after my baby was born. That day I bought two outfits that I could mix and match. I loved what I bought, especially a bone top and a khaki pair of long shorts. I felt beautiful in them. I also remember buying a beautiful grey tracksuit. I wore these clothes all the time; I didn’t put these clothes in my cupboard and not wear them.

When my first marriage ended and I shifted to Brisbane, I started to buy more clothes. At first I would buy really expensive dresses to go out in the evening. However I didn’t go out, so I didn’t wear them, and they would sit in my wardrobe. I spent more money on those ‘good’ clothes that I didn’t wear and not on things that I could wear each day. I stopped this and then started to look for a good bargain and I would find myself saying, “It only cost $10.” But I did wear them.

Two years ago I started work in a clothes store and I began to buy clothes on sale. They were now quality things that I was buying because they were on sale, so cheap and such a good buy and I was saving so much money… never giving any thought to, “Do I really want or need this item?” I had gotten sucked into something that I was losing control over. Sometimes I would stop and have short periods of saying to myself, “No, you don’t need that,” but the moment I bought something, it would start all over again. Pretty scary!

I knew my needing to buy clothes was about something else. I felt something was missing. I was missing something and I was using clothes to fill up this something. I felt that I needed something ‘out there’ to fill an emptiness that was in me. The more I bought, the worse I felt.

I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness.

I got to a point where I could feel a change in my body as I would buy something. It was like my body was telling me something, but I didn’t want to stop and feel what it was, – I didn’t want to listen to my body. I noticed how I would start to feel racy, disconnected, unsettled and guilty all at the same time.

One morning I added up all the dockets that I had spent on clothes since I had started working in the clothes store. I was pretty shocked at the amount of money I had spent, and when I looked into my wardrobe, I could feel how I didn’t really like the clothes that I had bought. This was an even bigger shock, as I do wardrobe makeovers with women and support them to buy things that they really love. Looking into my wardrobe I could say there was very little that I loved. Looking into my wardrobe made me feel sick.

It was at this point that I realised that I had an addiction to buying clothes that was no different to any other addiction. I was using something to make me feel better about myself. I was trying to fill something up with clothes, an empty feeling. There was something out there that I needed in order to make me feel better about myself because I didn’t feel ok about me, just being me. I looked the part – confident, well groomed – but I still felt I wasn’t good enough, and I thought that by buying clothes I would look and feel better and that this empty feeling would go away, but it never did.

I continued to buy clothes, with more awareness of what was going on, but I could still feel that I didn’t want to get to the bottom of why I was spending so much money on clothes. What I felt when I went to my wardrobe was the energy that I was in when I was buying the clothes, and that was what was making me feel sick. I had to really stop and feel what was going on and what choices I was making when I bought these clothes. One of the things that I noticed about this addiction was that I had stopped buying for anyone else. It was all focussed on me, what I wanted. That was a big eye opener for me.

What if what I didn’t want to feel was how amazing I was, how simply divine I am and that I don’t need clothes or anything else to fill me?

The clothes we choose to wear can support us far more then we realise. When we buy clothes in the energy of ‘I’m not enough,’ we are setting ourselves up each day to feel less, like we are watering down who we are, our power as women. If I’m hooked into anything that is not about me feeling the fullness of ‘me’, then what am I truly reflecting?

It feels like I have now taken a step back to observe what I had been doing. I was on a roller coaster. All that I needed to do was STOP and FEEL. I was so afraid to feel what was under the emptiness; I couldn’t bear to know what it was. I know this seems crazy now to even think that about myself, but when I was hooked I was not thinking clearly.

When you buy clothes with a connection to you it is a totally different experience. There is no thinking from your head, “Do I love this or not?” There is no part of you that has to get a second opinion: your body is there to tell you. The way you hold yourself, the way you walk, the way the clothes feel on your skin, these are all the signs that you need and they are a true confirmation.

In my raciness, I had forgotten this amazing connection that I used to have with my clothes; how I love wearing clothes that my body feels great in, clothes that I can feel on my body. When I buy things in a need from my head, I don’t feel the clothes that I’m wearing, I don’t get to feel what my body is saying.

Now when I work and the sales are on, and I feel like I want to buy something, I allow myself to stop and give myself the space to ask myself, “What is going on? Why do I want to buy something when I am already enough, already beautiful?” Buying with an addiction is like continually selling out on myself. When I’m connected there is no need, I find that things that I love naturally come to me, I don’t have to go looking for them.

Nothing can ever fill a place inside me. Only I can do that. I am already full of my own beauty.

By Denise Cavanough, Beauty-full Woman, Wife, Mother, Organiser/ Wardrobe Makeovers, Brisbane

Further Reading:
Fashion Styling – Embracing and Appreciating Ourselves
What is Swag and Who Has Got It?
Dressing to Impress: Are You Ever Enough?
Body Image – Beauty Comes From Within

668 thoughts on “My Addiction to Buying Clothes

  1. Denise, my addiction was to not buy clothes and I hung onto clothes that were way out of date. I had a wardrobe makeover once, and she commented how outdated the clothes were, and yet I was not in the position of buying expensive clothes that this woman’s taste was from.

    I realised I carried this belief from my family, don’t waste money on unnecessary things and save so the house could be bought and paid off. It is only in the past 2-3 years that I have been buying gorgeous clothes, and need an event to wear them. Wearing uniforms, seldom allows me to wear day to day clothes, but every now and then when I go out, I wear dresses that hardly took the space of a wardrobe.

    We need to observe these behaviours and how it impacts us, if we are left feeling yucky, then that needs to be looked at. I LOVE the kind of shopping, when there is no doubt and only absoluteness that this is it for my body, that’s my kind of shopping, more of it please…

  2. Are we not tested all the time to keep us from feeling our essences or Soul (one and the same)? And when connected this allows the relationships we have with the test through simple observation to becomes one of awareness as a responsibility to become detached from the obvious distractions that will try and distract us from the Truth of our Soul-full way of living.

  3. “Nothing can ever fill a place inside me. Only I can do that. I am already full of my own beauty.”

    Oh yes after half of my life hiding, I too feel ready for my own beauty.

  4. “I was missing something and I was using clothes to fill up this something. I felt that I needed something ‘out there’ to fill an emptiness that was in me. ” How many of us have done this – be it with clothes, shoes, bags, food etc. Interestingly you say ” The more I bought, the worse I felt. I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness.” I always find it fascinating how in contrast decluttering frees up not only physical space around us but a feeling of freedom within opens up energetically.

    1. Sue, decluttering is something I realise I need to do more often, and when it occurs, I love the space it creates in the whole place and the effects it has on others too. It kind a feels the place is alive and fresh for more to be given to us – I love this too. A working progress and yet very doable…

  5. It’s still a confronting read for me and a very welcome exploration of why we get addicted to clothes. I liked how you shared that a purchase can be from need which doesn’t honour the fullness and beauty we already are, lots to explore here, thanks Denise.

  6. Addictions come in many forms and some may be judged more than others – for example it is often judged when a person has an addiction to drugs or alcohol but then we celebrate a person who is addicted to work, studies or exercise as we excuse this as being ‘healthy’ for them or ‘developing’ themselves. However, an addiction is an addiction no matter what it is about – addiction to watching a TV show, addiction to chocolate etc etc. Addictions do abound and are a fantastic ‘symptom’ for us to realise there is an underlying issue that is not being addressed.

  7. It is a very revealing moment to look back and take stock of how much money we have spent on clothes or on food or on entertainment etc. and to realise where we may be pouring our funds. It can reveal much that we may not normally want to be honest with. And from here can come the position that we are in a power to make a choice and hence instigate needed changes.

  8. Denise thank you for your honest blog which shows us we can have addictions about anything really.
    And how we use these addictions to either dull us or fill the emptiness as you say that we cannot stop feeling. How many of us actually feel confident and content in our bodies? Until we can feel this contentment then anything we do will always be trying to fill the gap.

  9. When we force it and buy in a need it never ends well. I just consider the days I go out shopping with no intention or picture of what the day will bring… you walk into a shop open hearted and presto there seems to be 5 things that would suit. Compare that to needing something (whether a particular item or something from the experience), and how that tries to fill the emptiness which is by its nature an all consuming, bottomless pit.

  10. “It feels like I have now taken a step back to observe what I had been doing.” – Simply and truly observing and being honest about what we’re sensing or picking up on can really support us to initiate lasting and true change.

  11. When I stay connected with myself I am just as likely to enjoy NOT buying clothes and appreciating the ones I have as buying new ones, as I appreciate myself and all that is within me I know what feels true and supportive.

  12. “I was missing something and I was using clothes to fill up this something. I felt that I needed something ‘out there’ to fill an emptiness that was in me. The more I bought, the worse I felt”. This is always the case with using something out there to fill you up rather than reconnecting to the stillness and completeness within me. When I am in the chase to get something out there its almost impossible to think of stopping and reconnecting, but the more I do it the more natural it is to make these stop moments.

  13. We can use anything to fill an emptiness, but only our love is enough to ensure that the emptiness is not there in the first place.

    1. Spot on Viktoria, and when we fill it up from the outside, this is really only a temporary fix, whilst when we connect and fill up from within, there is an endless supply of the warmth and love – the same and actual thing that we have craved and still crave to begin with. Staying with this connection is of course a challenge in our current world but well worth the effort.

      1. Yes, a connection which is worth deepening and holding onto. For without it all the clothes, jewelry and goods in the world will never be enough.

  14. ‘I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness’ and that’s never ending until we are willing to be honest and start the process of saying no to what is not love and saying yes to self love.

    1. Annelies when we start to say yes to self love having felt the connection within ourselves I’m fascinated by the fact that even though we feel the connection it seems there are times when we still fall back on our old ways or addictions. This happens until we build the bridge that is so strong there is no going back when we can feel such a strong sense of self that we do not want to harm these feelings in any way.

  15. Humanity has an endless smorgasbord that it uses to fill the emptiness, and it takes so many forms. And yet deep down we all know, that the only thing that will assuage the emptiness is the connection within.

  16. A great call, Denise. It’s amazing how we can turn anything into an addiction to not feel the truth of who we are when the same act can be just as much an opportunity to confirm and appreciate who we are.

  17. It is easy to tell if someone has dressed for themselves or not, the difference is in their natural flow – one effortlessly glides and the other is quite stilted. It is beautiful to feel the freedom within oneself when we buy clothes that are a reflection of ourselves as it reflects the joy we feel within.

  18. That’s the thing about addictions your are always left wanting more because we are disconnected to our truth and the love within the addiction remains an addiction until we turn back to ourselves and build a loving relationship with ourselves.

  19. “I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness.” This is a very powerful way of understanding any addiction.

  20. Someone once said, ‘there ain’t enough corn chips in the world to fill that hole’ and I remember thinking oh, how true. When you are having a snack attack (be that corn chips, icecream, chocolate, popcorn, cheese & dips etc…) or a bender on drugs and/or alcohol, it can be like there would never be enough and you never want that packet to end. But as you say – we are not filling an emptiness, we are feeding it. Because unless you fill that hole with you, it will always be relentless and keep wanting to be filled up with other stuff.

  21. The relationship between dressing up and self-worth that is worth exploring. We talk into that relationship all the time in different ways. Do we need clothing to feel our beauty? Do we give ourselves permission to dress up beautifully? Do we adopt I do not care approach to dressing? Do we use dressing to shift everybody’s attention away of how we truly feel? Do we dress in accordance to our inner beauty?

  22. Any addiction when your in it you are absolutely in it and don’t even realise there is an addiction. Just after the next fix, anything to avoid feeling the emptiness inside that is full of hurts and emotions that we don’t want to feel or admit are there.

  23. I love this distinction between filling and feeding an empty feeling. It seems an important point to make because I wonder how often, in the thinking that one is filling – there is also room for making excuses, to justify the behaviour. Whereas to be honest about the feeding of an emptiness, at least we are on the path of starting to take responsibility.

  24. When you graph globally the amount of money spent on advertising, it correlates precisely to the rise or fall of anxiety in society… Extremely revealing.

  25. Looking into my wardrobe I could say there was very little that I loved”. I recently did some wardrobe sessions and one of the questions that Jenny Hayes, the practitioner would ask was, “Do you love it?” This is a great question which I now think of when I go shopping. It exposes all the potential purchases because…its cheap/on sale, it will do, its near enough to what I want etc.

  26. “What if what I didn’t want to feel was how amazing I was, how simply divine I am and that I don’t need clothes or anything else to fill me?” What a brilliant realisation and a great reminder to us all to appreciate ourselves every day because that fills us up in a way that nothing outside of us can.

  27. I can relate to this on so many levels and when I read this ‘I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness.’ it made me consider what haven’t I looked at in my life that I need to. This is also really important that you shared ‘Buying with an addiction is like continually selling out on myself. When I’m connected there is no need, I find that things that I love naturally come to me, I don’t have to go looking for them. Nothing can ever fill a place inside me. Only I can do that. I am already full of my own beauty.’

  28. Current fashion is so much about how it looks but not really about how it feels, how the clothes feel on our body and if we can feel comfortable in them for a whole day or not.

  29. Well said Denise. It is interesting that all addictions come from a lack of connection with ourselves, this is what is missing in so many addiction programs out there that only deal with treating symptoms but never get to the root underlying cause where the true healing can occur.

  30. ‘I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness’. There is much to ponder on in these wise words when it comes to the concept of being addicted to anything.

  31. “I wasn’t filling an emptiness, I was feeding the emptiness.” – This is an important distinction to make and one that I have fallen for many times, thinking that I was fulfilling a need of mine by going to a behaviour, hobby, or food, to not feel that emptiness and believing that it was filled, only to realise later just how much MORE empty and disconnected I now felt (with guilt and shame to add to it too) after resorting to the distracting and self-destructive behaviour.

  32. Clothes shopping is a great marker of how we are using our personal spending money which we have earned from our work and commitment to service. Do we use this money to feed back into our purpose, or spend it on items to fulfil an empty feeling without checking IN (not checking out haha) on why this is?

  33. Interesting topic Denise. What emptiness are we covering up with an addiction? Not wanting to stop and really feel what is there to be felt, sounds familiar to me. But if we do stop, and feel what is there it is not that difficult to heal the emptiness after all. We have been afraid of a seemingly big monster, that was a little bug in the end.

  34. The thing is, we can be addicted to anything… Just have a look at eBay, and what people are buying, collecting, hoarding, all to fill a hole that cannot be filled by material possessions.

  35. “I knew my needing to buy clothes was about something else.” – I think when we can have this kind of honesty with ourself we then can open up to a deeper awareness of what’s going on inside of us that is being reflected in a behaviour or habit that we know is damaging…

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