Here’s French fashion style vlogger and author Marie-Anne Lecoeur on overspending on clothes.
In August of 2019, I published the video “How To Look Expensive: This French Woman Speaks Out.” It was in response to the many videos I saw on “How To Look Expensive” that were produced by “style” influencers.
To be honest, it annoyed me. I was, and am, certain that this how to look expensive topic sends the wrong message. It encourages going into debt for fashion, and overspending on clothes is not something I stand for.
Being stylish doesn’t require overspending on clothes
For me, as a French Woman, style has nothing at all to do with looking expensive. A woman on a budget can look just as, if not more, stylish than any celebrity influencer decked out head to toe in brands. Take a look at the tabloids if you do not believe me.
To be sure I wasn’t over reacting, I did my homework. I consulted the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and found the words shown at the top of this guest post.
What I found even more enlightening was one of the examples of usage it gave: “expensive clothing that only the truly wealthy can afford.”
To my mind equating “looking expensive” to style is completely wrong and can in no way be equated to a difference in cultural uses of the word “expensive.” Hence my consulting Merriam-Webster.
In my videos, I hope to inspire women to look stylish, to make the best of themselves possible. I never tell them to look expensive. To my mind that cheapens style.
What happened after posting the fashion video
I thought my video mentioned at the start of my post might cause a stir or get me some rather hot messages. I did get some rather defensive messages, but overwhelmingly what I got was totally the opposite.
I was certainly inundated by comments, messages and emails. Women told me of their overspending on clothes and fashion accessories and their downward spiral into debt, as well as their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
They opened up their hearts to me in a way I had not expected. The reasons they gave for the money they spent were many, including:
- Pressure on them by society (advertising)
- Pressure on them by peers (to keep up with them)
- Pressure on them via social media not just to look expensive but via what are called “haul videos”
Regarding that last point, I have to admit I posted a haul video once. It was of my Christmas shopping at one particular store as gifts for family.
But what these haul videos are about, typically, is different than that. It’s simply watching influencers open bags and bags (and bags) of trendy winter coats and other items they have bought for themselves.
Although some may say they have been gifted by companies or brands in return for mentions, I have no evidence for that. It’s a vicarious shopping experience.
If it were harmless fun, problem. But, there is a problem and harm is done. My viewers felt they had to keep up; that they had to spend in equal measure to feel worthy.
The danger of overspending on clothes
It is so easy to follow this BUY, BUY, BUY mentality and feel that you have to keep up. It can be very difficult to break the cycle, which is exactly what my viewers told me.
hus, my very next video was aimed at all of those women who were so desperate for help. I advised them on common French Chic Principles, such as buying the best quality that they can afford to make sure that items lasted as long as possible.
To ensure that what they were buying could be worn again and again and wasn’t a one-off piece. To buy items that went with as many other pieces in their wardrobe as possible to make it versatile.
To ask themselves on each occasion why they were buying any item. Was it because they needed it or wanted it? Those are two very different things.
Also, were they buying for pleasure? That’s the “feel good” factor.
This last one is a particularly insidious habit. It leads you down a very dark path. The feel good factor does not last. It is fast fashion’s equivalent to the sugar rush and is just as addictive.
The problem is the high does not last; you get the crash after it. The feel good falls flat, you feel guilty, and your confidence is dashed.
What happens next? To make yourself feel better, what do you do? Of course, you go out shopping again. The cycle repeats.
In every way you are behaving like an addict.
Signs that your shopping is out of control (or on its way)
So, what do you do if you recognise some of these signs in yourself?
1. Recognise the above behaviour. This is where it starts.
2. Face it. Look at all the clothes in your closet, look at yourself in the mirror; take a good look.
3. Acknowledge it. You may have bags of clothes you have not worn and, like one lady admitted, lying unopened in the back of her closet where she had hidden them from her husband because she felt shame.
4. You can even use the honourable phrase “I am a shopaholic.”
5. At this point, get help, professional if necessary. Lives can be ruined because of crippling debt, such as that caused by an addiction to fast fashion.
6. Do not panic. You can overcome this problem with support and help from family and friends.
7. STOP. Far easier said than done, I know. But you have to start to stop – you have to want to stop – this is where steps 1-6 are vital
8. Reduce the temptation. Cut out social media if you follow the wrong influencers. You should follow people who make you feel happy about yourself, inspired, motivated. Unsubscribe from companies pushing you to buy. Also avoid friends who only go shopping.
Can I say this one thing that I hope you will recognise and acknowledge to be true:
You are more important than fashion
It is perfectly possible to look chic on a budget. I do.
Lots, if not all, French Women do.
Learn how to manage your budget too. Learn how to make your money go further.
Also, look to the future. Who do you want to become? Steer your style accordingly.
It is difficult to stop, yes. Any bad habit is difficult to break.
But please try if you see that overspending on clothes applies to you. It will not get better by itself, so you must be strong and honest with yourself.
Please, please, please do not get into debt for fashion. No handbag is worth ruining your life for.
About today’s writer
Marie-Anne Lecoeur is a personal style consultant and author of two best-selling books on Amazon on the subjects of French Chic and French Living. She lives in a small cottage in the middle of the Normandy countryside with her husband and two chihuahuas.