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Liz Jones: A Fashion Addict

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 Liz Jones: A Fashion Addict

£400,000 Liz Jones claims to have spent on clothes in one year as a fashion addict. In her report (20 04 09) of which is both frank and candid. She says, It started with a £95 sweater - when she was living on £20 a week. She then moved on to £150 knickers and £475 crystal-encrusted shoes she couldn’t even walk in. The question to be asked is just how much does someone blow on fashion?

Jones likens her situation to the character Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City when she needs to raise a deposit for an apartment and has nothing to show for all her hard work except 100 pairs of shoes, at an average of $400 a pair. Carrie figures this means she has spent $4,000, which isn’t so bad; maths is obviously not her best subject. When Miranda points out she has, in fact, spent $40,000, Carrie realises she will become, literally, the “old lady who lives in her shoes”.

As Jones states, ‘like a lot of women, I lie to myself to justify my purchases. I tell myself I ‘deserve’ something because it’s my money and I work hard. If something is hideously expensive, my embellished gold Burberry trench for example, which cost £2,000, I try to figure out how many times I will wear it, and then divide the price by that number.

If it is still too expensive, I just increase the wearing number (I have to say here that the Helmut Lang blazer I bought in 1996 for £1,700 is still going strong, so has turned out to be a bargain).

She goes on when I buy in the sales; I only pay attention to how much money I am saving. If I buy lots of things, I never add up the total. I tell myself High Street clothes never last or fit that well and, it has to be said, when I do buy from the High Street - a cream Madonna at H&M skirt, a black Roland Mouret at Gap dress - I never really adore the garment that much, and usually leave it languishing in the cupboard, wasting a great deal of money after all. So, in my head, designer fashion is somehow cheaper in the long run.

From her own experience her problem is not unusual among women in that we see someone else in an outfit, say Cheryl Cole or Kate Moss, and we believe we can have their life if we put on the same thing. We simply buy into the belief that we can embrace the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

For Liz, who recognises that nobody lives the lives acted out in the glossy advertising campaigns was a few years ago when I went to Berwick-on-Tweed to interview the model Stella Tennant. As she was the face of Burberry, I of course went to Burberry first and bought the riding boots, the print shirt, and the navy trench.

When she picked me up from the station, she was in a beaten-up estate car with something hideous on the back seat, like a pram or a wheelchair. She was wearing dirty Converse baseball boots, jeans, and an old T-shirt.

She is a multi-millionaire with real estate. I buy my food at Tesco on an American Express credit card because there is nothing in my current account and am good friends with the man in the kiosk on Kensington High Street who cashes cheques for you. Why is Stella not taken in by fashion, whereas I am in its thrall? I think it’s to do with self-confidence: she doesn’t need all this stuff to make her popular or desired.

Do my clothes make me happy, ever? I would say fleetingly. Shopping for me is like a drug: I get a high from making the sales assistant smile and having the security man in the black suit and walkie-talkie open the door deferentially as I waft onto the street swinging my stiff carrier bag.

The realisation however of what she has done creeps over her in bed and then she feels physically sick.

Carrie was the embodiment of women’s fixation with having more and more frivolous things, of loving labels more than she loved life, of using shopping to regulate her moods - all the while running up huge, unimaginable debts that have brought western civilisation to its knees. And what has it brought us all but misery?

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