Like countless others, I enjoy shopping online. Like, I REALLY enjoy it. If you walked into my closet, I could show you my carefully curated rack of new clothing. The quantity doesn't seem that excessive at first, but then I pull out my bins, each one filled to the top with brand new, tagged clothing. Then you begin to see inklings of a problem.
But that's not the worst part. I wear a size 20, and most of the clothing is marked size 8 or 10.
For the last year or so, I've been compulsively buying up clothing from some of my favorite etailers -- Yoox, Free People, Anthropologie, Zara, etc. Beautiful, gorgeous clothing, none of which is even remotely close to my actual dress size.
I'm still trying to figure out how this began, and what triggered this compulsive behavior. What I do know is that last year I was reeling from health issues, increased stress at my old job, as well as the sudden illness and death of one of my parents. I was absolutely miserable, and nothing I did seemed to lift my spirits.
That is, until the day I discovered Free People's website. It started with a skirt. The most beautiful boho, pink ruffled skirt I had ever seen. "It doesn't fit me now, but once I lose weight it will" was my justification. Sure, as if dropping 100 pounds would be a walk in the park. However, I was able to sell myself on this pipe dream, and ordered the skirt.
Soon after the skirt arrived, I bought one of my dream dresses on eBay, a printed See by Chloe dress. I had to have it -- so what if it was a size 8? I'd wear it someday, when I lost weight. Next came the dreamy Rick Owens distressed skinny pants. And so began my daily routine spending hours surfing clothing websites and spending way too much money on clothes that didn't fit me.
Fantasy vs. Reality
The saddest part is that my everyday wardrobe is shoddy and old. I rarely buy any clothing that actually fits me. My illogical thought process is "Why bother spending on clothing that fits me now if I'm going to lose weight?" Over the last year, because of the lure of the pretty clothes in my closet, I made some weak attempts to lose weight, but nothing stuck. I’d lose 5 or 10 pounds, and then gain 15. I really do want to wear this stuff -- it's my dream wardrobe, and often I use it as a motivator. I want to be that person so bad. But mostly, I just sit in my closet and look forlornly at all the things I can't wear.
Even though there are many fashionable plus-size clothing options, I've resigned myself to the same dowdy mom jeans and sad tunics. My self-esteem is at zero. If you saw me on the street, you'd never think I had anything fierce or fashionable in my closet.
I also have a shoe problem.
I've been overweight most of my life, with the exception of a few years in my 20's when I developed an eating disorder and lost a ton of weight. It was the worst of times, and the best. I went from being a shy, frumpy girl, to moving to a big city, falling in with an artsy party crowd, getting lots of attention, and finally feeling attractive. The ironic thing is, back then I didn't have a lot of money, so while I finally had the body of my dreams, I could never afford new clothes, and always bought thrift. Still, I managed to make it work and felt beautiful.
However, my weight loss occurred only because of my bulimic habits, and once I realized the harm I was doing to myself and cut it out, I started gaining back the weight, in spades. As the pounds came back on, my self-esteem went right out the door. I stopped going out and retreated back into myself.
I still reminisce about and even idealize that time of my life, and I think that's part of the reason why I went crazy buying too-small clothing. The idea was that when I lost weight, I would be beautiful again, and this time I'd have a kickass wardrobe. I was trying to recapture a bygone era of my life, which is both illusory and futile.
Nowadays, I have finally (mostly) put myself in check. I have cut down on clothing purchases, and really agonize over any decision that involves parting with my money for clothes that do not currently fit me. I have also started selling some of the clothes on eBay to recoup my losses. However, I'll never make back all of the money I spent. It's been a very expensive mistake.
My Dream Dress
I do feel empowered by my growing ability to shut down my compulsion. I've joined a gym and I am making an honest effort at getting in better shape. I still hang on to the hope of rocking my Chloe dress someday. It's just a shame that I won't let myself feel beautiful and free at my current size, instead of pining for an abstraction of who I think I should be.