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Is Social Media Making You Overspend on Your Closet?

I heard a couple of radio hosts chatting recently about an interview with Jennifer Hyman, the co-founder of Rent the Runway. If you haven’t heard of it, Rent the Runway is an online service that lets women rent a designer dress for a night and return it the next day. It’s a hugely successful business that turned Hyman and co-founder Jenny Fleiss into acclaimed and very successful entrepreneurs.

Hyman recalled how she started the business after her younger sister complained to her about not having a dress to wear for an event. She had a closetful of lovely (and quality) dresses, so Jennifer asked her why she didn’t just choose one of those.

Her sister’s response stunned me: she was afraid someone would see it on social media and realize it had been worn before. It didn’t matter if she really loved every dress she owned, she refused to wear one for that reason alone. I literally had to stop putting on my mascara for a second when I heard that. Wand in the air, I rewound my mind over the past couple of years to recall if I had actually ever done the same thing. Because, to me at that moment, it sounded ridiculous.

Only…guess what? I had done the same thing! I attended a fundraising gala a couple of weeks before my nephew’s wedding last spring, and I remembered thinking that there was no way I was going to wear the cocktail dress for one to the other…because of the photos that would surely be posted for public viewing. I mean, I had such a tight time frame so surely everyone would notice! So, I bought a dress specifically for the wedding that, like Jennifer’s sister, I possibly (probably) will never wear again.

This reality check broke my heart, to be quite honest, as I considered how superficial I was with my thinking and how careless with the money my husband and I (mostly my husband) work hard to earn. That I would spend money I needn’t for a dress to wear only one time because others might (i.e. likely won’t) notice is ludicrous.

It’s also how most of us think, thanks to social media, which highlights facets of our lives that a few years ago would only have been seen by the people we were with at the time. And that means we are not making wise choices for ourselves and our families, but choices based on what we think people on social media (some of whom we don’t even know because they’re friends of friends of friends) might think of us.

We’re making choices based on what we *think* others think of us.

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After I came to my senses about my foolishness, I then played a little game with myself, pondering whether I ever notice what my girlfriends and female acquaintances are wearing on Facebook. You know what? I don’t! I thought about very specific women—my closest friends and business leaders I frequently see online—and I tried to picture some of their routine posts as well as those of special events. I could not recall a single shirt, jacket, or dress. Which means there’s no way I would notice if they wore the same one twice—even if the pictures were from noticeable events like weddings or Christmas or even annual family photos.

Ladies, don’t you think it’s time we put a collective, encouraging and mutually supportive halt to basing our decisions on what we “think” others will think of us?

We are beautiful no matter what we wear! And we are certainly just as beautiful if we wear the same thing – whether it’s a favorite T-shirt or glittery cocktail dress—more than once. We cannot choose our wardrobe based on pictures that will appear on social media…seriously, this did not happen 10 years ago! We have to stop posting only the “pretty” and “good” news, too. Let’s be real and raw and wear the same dress over and over, and ask for help with unruly toddlers and wayward teens, and admit we made a mistake, and tell each other we’ve had a hard day. Let’s take any fakeness out of social media and put real faces on it, and real hearts, and real wardrobes that honestly are really only an armful or two of our favorite things on rotation.

And if you love fashion like I do, and you can’t bear the thought of being “seen” on social media in the same dress twice (even though, trust me, you are the only one who will notice), here are a few ideas for taking that little piece of superficiality off your plate.

1. Wear black a lot. Seriously, no one ever recognizes the differing details between black cocktail dresses. Plus, black is always appropriate! You only need a couple black dresses and you can wear them over and over for years to everything from brunch to weddings.

2. Dramatically change up your jewelry. Wear a favorite dress one time with delicate earrings and a bold necklace, then wear it the next time with statement earrings and no necklace. You’ll get two great looks that come off completely different.

3. Switch up your accessories. Add a shawl, bolero, shimmery jacket, wide belt or other unique accessory to entirely change the look or shape of a dress. Plus, anything waist up will hide the part of the dress that shows in most photos!

Let’s spend our worries and extra money on people that matter, experiences that create memories, and things that last. Let’s encourage other women to do the same. And the next time you see a friend’s cute photo on social media, compliment her radiant face and not her clothing!

…seriously, this did not happen 10 years ago!

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Clare: obsessive watcher of shore birds who loves spending hours shopping online for things she’ll never buy

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