selfish and greedy, I don’t do it much. I prefer shopping for myself.
It’s simpler. I get to keep what I buy. And if I get it wrong – hello
skinny fuchsia jeans – I only have myself to blame.
But there are some occasions where you just can’t avoid buying clothes
for others. Like when you’re going out with a guy who has crap taste in
fashion. Oh I’ve been there. Several times. Wary of the whole cliché of
the ball-busting woman trying to ‘makeover her man’, gifting a guy with
clothes is how we all try to do just that.
I once worked with a girl who was dating this nice, hot, funny guy. She
loved almost everything about him. Except for the way he tucked in
whatever he was wearing on top to whatever he was wearing on bottom.
Shirts tucked into jeans. T-shirts tucked into cargo pants. He was the
mother of all tuckers. In fact, we always referred to him as Tuck and
to this day I can’t recall his actual name.
In those early weeks and months, she was aghast. Was it a break-uppable offence? To tuck too much? Not wanting to come across as controlling by insisting he untuck or get out of her life, she held it together until they’d been going out long enough for her to buy him some clothes under the pretence of “gift”. None were tuckable and things improved long enough to get to that stage in their relationship where she could be honest. So one night after a bottle of wine, she told him his tucking sucked. He took it well and stopped tucking for good. They still broke up but their time together was happier untucked.
To me, this sums up the whole idea of shopping for others. Be they your boyfriend, husband, friend, mother or child; when you buy clothes for another person, you’re projecting your own fashion opinion onto them. You’re saying “I think you’d look good in this, yes, this.” Sometimes, you’re also saying “….and actually you’d look so much better in this than the rubbish stuff you insist on wearing which – trust me – makes you look fat/old/wrong.”
When you buy clothes for another adult, at least they can choose if they’ll wear the look you’ve projected onto them. “Ah, thanks for this Pakistani-inspired crochet vest of a thousand colours,” they gush awkwardly. “I just love it. I just love it so much I can’t wait to wear it to…..something fabulous!” And then it goes into their closet for six months until they can re-gift it to their cleaner.
But kids are helpless victims of other people’s taste. When I had my daughter I was fortunate enough to receive many lovely gifts. When I had my son, they sent teddies. But people love buying clothes for little girls. And each gift spoke volumes about the person who sent it. Cards were barely necessary.
I have a stylish, eclectic aunt who wears only black and mostly Japanese designers. She sent the most gorgeous, unusual charcoal cashmere baby tracksuit “because I refuse to be cheesy and buy her anything pink ever.”
Another friend who has three little boys who look like something out of a Beatrix Potter book, sent a very formal little pinafore with matching baby blouse. My daughter’s very cool godmother bought her a hot pink baby singlet with the words “Mama ain’t raisin’ no fool” from the Byron Bay markets. proudly announcing “It’s her first feminist slogan!”.
And so it went. Onto the blank page that is my baby girl, everyone projected their view of what a little girl should be.
And what about her mother? What was my vision for my daughter? Well, I was a little stumped. It all came into sharp focus one day in Nest when I was shopping with a girlfriend and I chose a few nice bits in neutral colours. I wasn’t in love with any of them but I felt that maybe it would all work back together and be a bit chic.
“What do you think?” I ventured to my friend.
“I think she looks good in bright colours. None of that is special.”
Relief! Yes! Bright colours! Fun prints! Moronically, I’d subconsciously tried to build her a baby wardrobe of classic basics. Exactly what I’ve tried – and failed – to do for myself for the past 15 years.
This is also a common trap when you’re shopping for friends: buying them stuff you actually want yourself. I have one friend who does this constantly. She’s an authentic boho hippy and always gives me hippy shit – scarves, beads, floaty skirts – none of which suit me and all of which would suit her. If only she’d kept them and bought me something from Zimmerman. Or just made me a card.
Then there’s the double gift buy. This is when you find something for a friend and love it so much you buy one for yourself too. I’ve done this. It is not cool. Especially when you announce, “I love it so much I got one too!” as your friend unwraps said gift. This diminishes the love factor inherent in gift giving by at least 80%.
If you love it so much, buy it for yourself and find her something else. Something you don’t already have.