Want to know how to take the stress out of shopping during the holidays? Well, first you have to change your frame of mind. When I think of shopping, I like to envision running my fingers across pretty baubles that could wink from my ears during charming dates, or slipping on a dress that makes me want to write poems on the back of a loose receipt in my purse. I think of skirts in gold and silver hues perfect for the office holiday party, and frivolous little clutches that can barely hold anything more than a lipstick tube. The prospect of it all makes me want to dance in my seat, because these things have everything to do with making myself happy.
But when do those things actually happen? Shopping for holiday outfits is very rarely a sea of Peppermint Mocha Lattes and comfortably-fitting metallic bodycons. Rather, it's an experience that lends itself to a heap of insecurities. Seriously, when was the last time you wandered around a store with the sole purpose of treating yourself in mind, stepped into a dressing room, and thought, "This sequin mini is the thing of my dreams! It makes me look and feel good?" Yeah, chances are most of your seasonal shopping experiences are not like that. Rather, they often correlate to a whole lot of, "I really shouldn't have eaten all those peppermint cake pops," or, "Why can't I 'pull off' sequins like Cameron Diaz in The Mask?!"
However, that can all change, if only you ask yourself one simple question while you shop. This isn't snake oil I'm selling you, but rather a call to change your frame of mind when you're pulling up zippers and wiggling into shapes in the dressing room. During those moments, we're often quick to notice what we don't like. And that takes away from the experience: All those sighs over unbudging waistlines or a lack of curves or the urge to cover up arms. Whatever your insecurity, that mirror will pull it out of you and circle it with a highlighter. Dressing rooms have no chill.
But instead of zeroing in what you don't like, why don't you take a step back, shake out your shoulders, and try again? And this time, ask yourself what you do like. Switch the narrative.
There's got to be something. Maybe the way that dress hugs your curves makes you feel powerful. Maybe the bold color against your skin makes you feel strong. Do you like the way the cut accents your legs, or how the material makes you feel romantic?
I did this last week when I was out thrift shopping I found this lovely rosebud-print, flared jumpsuit that just asked for red lips and hair to be swept up into a messy, I-think-I'll-go-paint-today bun. I snatched it off the rack and nearly waltzed behind the dressing room curtain with it, certain I just found my clothes equivalent of a soulmate. And I would have... If it actually zipped up all the way.
It was too small. All those macaroons and loaves of bread I'd eaten on holiday in Paris had caught up with me and I couldn't even begin to convince the zipper upwards. But instead of falling into the knee-jerk tirade of, "Ohmygod why am I so hideous?" I instead took a step back, put a hand on my hip, and sized up my reflection.
I looked good. Damn good. The delicate May flowers tumbling down towards the hem made me feel feminine. The wide, unapologetically '70s legs made me feel bohemian, like I had a boyfriend with a dark scruffy beard waiting for me back in my apartment. My legs looked long, and the thin, thin straps made my wavy dark hair curling around my shoulders look a little more intriguing than usual. Satisfied with that outcome, I stepped out of the piece, wiggled my jeans back on, and left the room, ready to find something else that could tempt my heart.
No feelings were hurt, no egos bruised, no sighs had. That's what happens when you skip over what's wrong and instead choose to observe what's right. It's like one of those optical illusion pictures: You can choose to see the glass or the woman.
When you're vetoing a piece, don't take it off because you think it makes you feel unattractive. Tell yourself it's just not what you were after, and then move on with the hopes of finding what is.
No sighing, no beating yourself up, no putting yourself into a crummy mood. You're just a beautiful human playing dress up, trying to treat yourself in the middle of a long week. It's easy to sigh over a body part you think you should be dissatisfied with, but if you change the focus (and the narrative) towards what you love, the whole experience will change. And the holidays will be allowed to be about joy and silliness and fun once again.
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Images: Marlen Komar