April 29, 2009

That stands for Post Traumatic Shopping Stress Disorder.

Yesterday I took Phoebe to Justice, a shopping place “Just For Girls.”

I’m not much of a shopper.  I’ve never been too into fashion or trendiness.  I try not to dress too homely or frumpy, but for me, my daily wardrobe pretty much consists of tee shirt, jeans, flip-flops, and a sweatshirt if it’s chilly.  I love the Gap for their “essentials” clothing.  Pretty boring, but comfortable and cute enough not to embarrass my children or husband with my appearance.

Phoebe, however, is a bird of a different feather.  She has always gravitated toward the fancy things in life.  She likes bold prints and sparkly fabrics. She adores accessories.  She notices what is fashionable.  And that, even though we rarely visit a mall and we don’t have a TV.

When the children need new clothes, I usually make a quick trip to the Kids Gap or Gymboree or Old Navy to pick out some modest, simple clothing and bring it home for them.

This system has worked just fine for me, but my motherly guilt or intuition or whatever you want to call it recently started kicking in. I noticed that Phoebe would squeal with delight upon receiving a bag of hand-me-downs from her cousins.  (My sister is a very fashionable, flashy sort of person who always looks like a current advertisement.  Sigh.  How different we are, on so many levels.  Therapy and time have allowed me to appreciate our differences and not despair!  But she always looks good. And her children do, too! Hence, their hand-me-downs are way cooler than my simple selections for my children.)  Phoebe would immediately dig through and pick out the most unlikely pieces, put them together, and even I had to admit – this girl has got a knack for fashion.

And she needs to start picking out her own clothes.

Hence, the trip to Justice.

But there is a problem: me.  I am the wife of the Hundred Thing Challenge man, after all.  And although the rest of the family has not taken up the challenge, the ideas Dave discusses with me about our consumer culture and the insanity of it have settled heavy on my mind.  The insatiable desire for more stuff. The way we forgo a new experience in favor of a new purchase.  The way we buy stuff to anesthetize our pain.  And, the cost that impoverished people around the world pay for our over-consumptive lifestyles.  And the harm it’s doing to our environment, our souls, our communities.  So even if I want to, it’s hard to buy unnecessary stuff these days.

And this store, although it was filled with plenty of cute clothes for girls, disturbed me on a certain level.  So many choices.  Too many choices.  Hundreds of graphic tee shirts.  Piles of tank tops.  Peace signs, hearts, palm trees, slogans for a green earth, sports images.   Bins of toys, junk, and candy.  Racks of necklaces, bracelets, earrings.  And a whole culture of “girls’ fashion” which I’m so blissfully ignorant of.  Pop songs (unknown to clueless me) blared from the store’s speakers, interrupted by commercials for “complete sweet avatar makeovers.”  What?


I want Phoebe to make fun clothing choices, to express her individuality and personality in her clothing.  I want to give her some independence in this area.  I think for her, especially, it’s important.  But I couldn’t get out of my mind the feeling of INSANITY in that shop.  As if all that was important. And I kept imagining the poor children who work in slave conditions to make these things.  I know that the Gap is no different, nor any of the stores we all shop in.  But it just felt more potent in this trendy, loud shop.

And I just read in my Wheaton Alumni magazine about an interesting couple who have a clothing company where they employ American seamstresses who are paid a fair wage to sew clothes that are of natural fibers, friendly to the earth, and able to beautifully express individuality and the creative impulse that God has put in all of His creation.

It’s just not how we live today.  I don’t want to be weird or have my children feel weird by dressing them in some funky home-made clothes.  I think we already make choices in our household that put our family sort of on the periphery of “normal” society.

But what to do?  I don’t have an easy answer.

Phoebe picked out a cute skort and matching short-sleeved hoody and a wild rainbow fabric peace sign scarf.  She wore it proudly to school today and reported that all her friends were wild about her outfit and how cute she looked today.  She was quite pleased and joyful about the whole experience.

Again, I don’t have an easy answer.

Just a touch of P.T.S.S.D.


5 Responses to “P.T.S.S.D.”

  1. L said

    Often our daughters are so different from us. But it is amazing….I love looking at jewellery, but never wear any. But my daughter loves jewellery..so I have fun buying for her. We can never be totally non-consuming. It’s only a matter of degree. So,let your girl have her fun, when older, she will decide to be “less-consumerist” on her own once she has had her fling.

  2. Laura Lee said

    Phoebe is a CREATIVE.
    This is going to manifest in lots of ways including how she dresses herself. I think that is cool.
    I avoid the mall at all costs. I can’t deal with the stores. I shop (HUNT) at bargain stores and discount dept. stores. like Ross. Feels less like a commercial experience to me.
    Your description of Justice sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie. All that is missing is the Robot sales clerk asking how many garments to take into your fitting room.
    Everything is moving faster, and there is so much STUFF all around us. We are crazy consumers.
    Dave’s 100TC has definitely caused me to pause and think before I buy. It’s increased my awareness factor for sure.
    I didn’t realize you had no TV in the house. Please write about that decision and how you spend your time together in lieu of watching TV when you have a chance.

  3. Mama Mary said

    This is a great post. It reminded me of the Fancy Nancy books – she wants to be fancy but her family does not. Although I do enjoy shopping excursions and some fanciness here and there, I am dread/fear the days my daugthers are old enough to pick out their own clothes and actually want to go to stores such a Justice. I agree that they are overwhelming and just too much. Where does a mom draw the line? After or before the matching gummy bracelet/fake tattoo set? I’m a friend of Laura Lee’s, btw, and have found you through her. God Bless you for raising three daughters. I have three and it is quite a handful. And to do it without tv – you are saintly. 🙂

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