The elephant in the room

What is the basic psychological reason that the majority of women need to have so many clothes in their wardrobe and continue to buy more and more? Do you recognise yourself in there? Have you ever stopped up and wondered why? Do you put yourself under pressure to keep buying clothes or shoes and shut off the voice in your head that says ‘you have more than enough!’

The answer is very simple and not addressed enough: Constant hormone fluctuations related to the menstrual cycle can cause a slight shifting of body shape and self-esteem (for some of us) from day to day. This makes it hard to predict which items of clothing will both look good and feel comfortable on our bodies on any given day. Some women experience this more than others; in fact, there are women who suffer major fluctuations and their jeans will fit perfectly today but will refuse to come anywhere near closing tomorrow. Those among us who experience this at a profound level constantly struggle with dressing themselves…requiring far more clothes and shoes in their wardrobe than others! Yes, our feet can swell up too – damn hormones. I also know a few women who say that their calves retain fluid at certain times in the month, so choosing boots; especially long boots can leave them perplexed. If they buy on a ‘non-fluid’ day will they be too tight when those bloody hormones do a dance again, or if bought on a ‘fluid-day’, will they be too loose to wear other days.

The answer appears to be to have a back up: Buy for both situations so that you look great and feel comfortable – giving your self-esteem the boost it needs at exactly the right time. Now I’m not saying that you buy two different sizes of the same thing, just be prepared to give yourself options, rather than being left in floods of tears. This is why it is most definitely ok to have similar pairs of boots or shoes!

This isn’t just something that hits women as they approach ‘middle age’, it comes right along with, dare I say it, the first period. Bloating is a bitch of a thing. You just feel all wrong and no matter how many times you tell yourself it will pass, it makes you feel like awful. Some women find exercise great, others find that while physically it doesn’t make any difference, it helps mentally, so it has to be worth it. There are women who cut back on food, almost to the point of starvation, to try to beat the ‘demon bloat’, but to no avail. Most men will have two good pairs of jeans and another old hideous pair for painting or gardening. So why do we need six pairs? Well today it might be stomach bloating, so you need a slightly more compassionate pair around your middle. Tomorrow it could be ‘ass sagging to back of knees day’ so a bum lift pair that grips your waist is warranted. For the days that you carry extra fluid on your legs, yes, you need another pair, and the list goes on. In fairness, designers are trying their best to accommodate us but the absolute glory of each of us being so uniquely made will most likely prevent one pair from doing all of the above. 

Femininity comes to us in all shapes and sizes and boobs spring to mind first here. Dear God, but how many bras do we need?  At certain times in life, your underwear drawer needs to be huge. Boobs yo-yo and the degree to which they do is bizarre at times, warranting such suspicion as ‘Did she get a boob job?’. Having lamented what breastfeeding took from my boobs, I have now been slapped in the face with struggling to fit them inside my coat, I got them back and plenty more – a laugh out loud moment for sure! You just have to laugh, otherwise you would cry forever. Nobody ever told me that this was going to happen, it’s a bit like nobody telling you how awful it is when your breasts become engorged after childbirth and a nurse tells you to put frozen cabbage leaves on them. I nearly vomited at the thought, but I did it and it worked. HORMONES. The word can stand alone in a sentence because every woman reading knows the power of this one word when it comes to ruining or saving a day.

Possibly nobody every told you, like I was never told, that you would shed hair like a dog at certain times too. Over the last few years I’m genuinely shocked that I have any hair left on my head at all, you should see my car seat. If I ever tried to get away with a crime, rest assured DNA evidence would find me out – my hair is everywhere. 

I’m firmly convinced that God, the Higher Power or whatever label you wish to apply, is a MAN. Women, as they age, the once ‘fairer sex’, are left going bald, fighting the bulge and with forty shades of red and broken veins that look like a train track on our once flawless faces, battling a  redistribution of the hair on our heads to other less wanted places and with deepening voices. If I wasn’t a woman, I would be bent over in hysterics, but this onset can cripple a woman’s confidence and self-esteem. This is why we need so many clothes; this is why we need so many creams; and this is why some days we just want to cry for no apparent reason. We don’t talk enough about it, we need to! You are not alone, we might look different but the same hormones flow around our bodies, uniting us, even in their decline as we age. 

So while you are shopping locally (and shop local you simply must) for the coming festive season and you meet someone who says ‘Are you buying more clothes?’ – Proudly answer with a ‘Yes I am, because I deserve it’. A fabulous thing about the shops in your area is that they specifically buy with their regular customers in mind. The owners know you, they know what you like and what sells so you don’t have to go sifting through endless racks to try to find something. This is a service that you simply cannot put a price on. A good shop owner will know exactly how to help you find what you are looking for and will step back, leaving you to decide, without feeling pressured. They know that maybe you might not buy in their shop today but that you will be back to buy something else – this is what it is all about. If you fall in love with a certain brand, then rest assured they will go to the ends of the earth to keep delivering what you love and if the worst happens and the line is discontinued, they put in the footwork to find a line of clothes that is just as good or one that you just might love a little more. At a local level, the returns policy is always exceptional, so don’t worry if you take it home and change your mind. Local businesses know that the customer always comes first and their bonus is that they get to make a living out of it. It is getting harder to keep these shops open, especially with the temptation of online shopping always looming, so support where you can, when you can. Quality is something that local business owners take pride in so this is certainly something that you never need to be in doubt about. Try to make the effort to pick up local gifts for others; they are received so very well and very much appreciated. It doesn’t matter how much or little you have to spend – every shop owner appreciates your business.

No one of us is better than the next; whether you are a size 8 or a size 18, those hormones will make you feel exactly the same way.  If you have been feeling awful, like you are the only one going through all of the above, rest assured every women is silently screaming it from the rooftops and I’m sending you the biggest HUG today.

Louise O'Dwyer

Louise O'Dwyer is an Image consultant based in West Cork

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