1. Orseund Iris Tube Tank $195 2. Poppy Lissiman Crystal Beth Sunglasses in Yellow $130 3. Sandy Liang Uniform Skort $525 4. Opening Ceremony Adam Selman Gingham Sheer Tulle Pant and Shirt $595 and $495 5. Cmmn Swdn Samson Tapered Trouser $192.99 6. Orseund Iris Structured Corset $230 7. Sami Miro Vintage The Valentina Body $210
I window shop a lot. On my phone. I have a penchant for peeping the retailers of luxury clothing and then going through major debates in my head on how to raise up funds while googling loan and grant websites, scrolling the requirements, and rolling around the question of whether a benefactor is a real thing and if only rich people have them. I keep reading and re-reading the New York Times article on why you need a patron. And wondering if anyone would consider dressing yourself art worth donating to. I mean, clearly it is art. But I don’t know that anyone else would agree when it’s also so much fun and so selfish. Maybe if I was buying clothes for a styling test shoot? Okay, that’s good, I’ll take it but I’m not even sure how to do that. Networking? Okay, actually the answer is Patreon, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, and Kickstarter. How bold would it be for me to ask for money for clothing? And I’m cracking up because I am literally once again going through a major debate in my head on how to raise up funds.
Though window shopping outside of my price range is a torturously fun activity, I also think it is useful. I have noticed my actual buying habits mirror, or are informed by, my fantasy shopping. For example, I cannot afford a $250 silver ruched tube top with amazing structure and heft. But when I spotted a secondhand Forever21 tube top at Buffalo Exchange, that silver tube top came to mind and I knew I needed to try the cheap version on. So $10 later and my purchase is the training wheel version of my dream and I’ll take that. However, this calls fast fashion into question. I am justifying copying and settling for things made with nearly guaranteed questionable labor standards even if they are second hand. There is also the issue of a pretty basic wardrobe: one where new ideas are lacking and the same trends propogate. When you buy from places where runway looks are deconstructed to appeal to mass consumption, you lose some of the edginess and the daring silhouettes.
However, I still think this process has merit. For example, this product collage helped me to put together all of the items I have been eyeing for a while and in doing so, aided me in better identifying my aesthetic and the qualities my favorites have in common. Without spending a coin, I was able to gain a better sense of my style which will help me to feel more confident saying no while shopping later. It turns out that I am in the majority. Most online shoppers are window shoppers who look online to inform in-person purchasing decisions (Forsythe & Shi 2003). Heavy online purchasers tend to be older, male and wealthy. Heavy online window shoppers also known as browsers are younger, less experienced on the web, and low income. Moderate browsers tend to be somewhere in between (Forsythe & Shi 2003). Heavy browsers and women are also more likely to believe that online shopping carries financial risk, a deterrent from purchasing online (Forsythe & Shi 2003). So demographically, it’s not a surprise that I am a moderate to heavy browser.
Psychological Benefits of Window Shopping
Research shows that practicing doing something in your head is almost as effective as actually doing it. Engaging in this mental practice can also make you more confident and motivated. This is why athletes so commonly visualize their game beforehand. I remember learning from my voice teacher that you can actually warm up your vocal chords before a performance without making any sound. Simply think the melody in your head and your vocal chords will move to that spot to make the note.
Kit Yarrow states that when you shop you are imagining yourself with the product and visualizing what your life would be like. You regain a sense of control over your life. This is why people turn to shopping in times of transition — after a breakup or upon entering the workforce — because it can ease anxiety about all of these changes and also help you to figure out what you want your life to look like now that it has changed. So when I am creating a product collage or window shopping I am actually visualizing my future, building confidence in that future, and getting myself closer to that goal of living that life. When I see a cheaper version of that tube top, I am affirming that identity and bringing it closer to my reality.
Another benefit of window shopping is that it helps you take a break mentally. It can help you to unwind and can be a relaxing activity.
I want to add that I think it also sharpens your taste. If you are looking at coats every day, when you actually go to buy one, you know if it is really the best version around. You’ll also get a better sense of trends, spot dupes quickly, and understand when an item is a dime a dozen. It’s fun getting a sense of the lay of the land in fashion and feeling in control of your buying choices.
It turns out there is a name for someone like me who window shops based on curiosity. This kind of shopper is unique to online shopping and is called an e-window shopper. We are motivated by stimulation (“interacting with interesting websites”) and are least likely to haggle over prices or bid online (Ganesh, Reynolds, Luckett, Pomirleanu 2010). It was also found that another kind of shopper, apathetic online shoppers, who are not interested in online shopping, are less likely to value the convenience of online shopping. The researchers wondered if these shoppers may place more value on the tactile experience of shopping in store (Ganesh, Reynolds, Luckett, Pomirleanu 2010). But I also wonder if the e-window shopper may place value on the tactile experience as well as we tend to not make online purchases.
The Dark Side of Window Shopping
Dun dun dun. This is scary. So the signs of problematic window shopping are: procrastinating important tasks in order to keep shopping or feeling guilty about your browsing behavior.
Creating Your Own Product Collage
Creating a product collage can be helpful in focusing your online shopping and giving it purpose. It can also help with relieving anxiety about not being able to purchase the items immediately and help you to visualize and manifest your future fashion look. Finally, it can help with mitigating symptoms of problematic shopping behavior by causing you to interact over a longer span of time with the items you ‘need’ before buying them. It forces an end-time to your browsing so you don’t just go on clicking “next page.” Polyvore would be great for this but it was shut down super recently and unexpectedly due to Ssense buying it up. Other great outlets for creating product collages for yourself include Canva and of course Photoshop (I like this, this, and this tutorial for beginners).
Forsythe, S., Shi, B. (2003). Consumer patronage and risk perceptions in Internet shopping. Journal of Business Research 56, 867-875.
Ganesh, J., Reynolds, K. E., Luckett, M., & Pomirleanu, N. (2010). Online shopper motivations, and e-store attributes: An examination of online patronage behavior and shopper typologies. Journal of Retailing, 106-115.