Photos c/o Louisa Wells
Louisa Wells is a New York-based writer, stylist, and photographer. Through her photography, she loves capturing the beauty of the everyday. She enjoys making crafts and playing games with kids through New York Cares. She loves hip hop dancing, and crossing restaurants off her NYC food bucket list with friends. She also has a newsletter that encourages and challenges a digital community of creatives in all areas of their creative process.
Shopping. In pop culture, it’s the ultimate pastime for American women. In romantic comedies, it’s often the turning point for when the main character comes into her own. We enjoy it and often make fun of ourselves for when it gets out of hand.
From the time I was able to drive myself (and my credit card) to the mall up until about a year ago, I was a shopaholic. I wouldn’t have admitted it, but I was.
It started innocently enough—I would take a take a break and go shopping before diving into homework and the stresses of life. But soon it turned into a desire to look and dress better than anyone else.
I lived for the compliments that I quickly began to expect: I love your outfit, where did you get those shoes? I want your entire closet. I didn’t realize my entire identity was being built around something could cause me a lot of damage – both emotionally and financially.
As a fashion photographer, I admire and appreciate clothing as art. Seeing a designer’s pieces come alive as they meld fabrics and textures from a two-dimensional sketch is a beautiful gift. Having the privilege to photograph that and help capture someone’s vision is my passion. And I truly believe that the confidence that comes from wearing the right dress or pair of jeans can enhance our personality.
But there is a danger to it. When we begin to see our clothes and style as the definition of who we are, rather than an expression of who we are, we pay a price.
I know I did.
Fast forward to moving to New York four years ago. I was caught up in the race of the fashion and beauty industries. I felt pressured to keep up with the trends and was still fishing for compliments that could change my mood at a moment’s notice. I was also in debt — willing to drop serious amounts of money on items I would wear out to impress someone, but then I’d either regret buying it or only wear it once or twice.
It was no way to live but I couldn’t seem to stop the cycle. If I had a bad day I’d go shopping. I got deeper in debt, which only added to my stress. I felt if I didn’t have an amazing outfit, I wouldn’t be seen as beautiful — a lie that couldn’t be further from the truth!
I joined an amazing church, and as I began to make new friends I no longer felt the same pressure to impress people. Gradually, my outlook on shopping and my appearance began to change.
Slowly I began to unpack the lies I believed about my identity, and I tried to embrace the truth:
I am not defined what I wear.
I am loved and I am whole.
I do not need to prove that I am beautiful, I simply need to accept that I am.
Practically, this has meant changing deeply ingrained habits, and it has taken some effort. I forced myself to walk past my favorite stores when my initial reaction was to “just have a look.” I started telling myself I truly didn’t need another dress because I had at least five amazing options at home. I learned to get creative with the clothes I already had — even if I felt bored with my closet.
As I worked through this, something amazing started to happen. I no longer feel any type of pressure to dress a certain way. I am free to live without the pressure of “needing” that one incredible top to complete my wardrobe (which used to be a never-ending quest).
Getting dressed in the morning is no longer about who I will see that day but what I want to share about my creative self. It’s truly freeing to live from a place of overflow and expression.
By no means have I completely overcome this, but I take it one day at a time, knowing I’ve come a long way from who I was a few years ago.