By Stephanie Trong
Updated Aug 31, 2017 @ 9:00 am
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Credit: From top: courtesy Rachel Comey; Jason Lloyd-Evans (2); courtesy Khaite; Catwalking/Getty; courtesy Balenciaga; courtesy Stephanie Trong

"You’re going to become un-obsessed?” This from our creative director when she heard I was writing about letting go of my tendency to get swept up in fashion mania. A notion so unbelievable, she couldn’t even muster a real laugh, just a deadpan, “Haaa.”

To be fair, I have a reputation. The first question friends—OK, even acquaintances—ask me after a period of absence is, “So, what have you been buying?” For the co-workers who see me on a daily basis, it’s usually, “Who makes that?” as I’m often wearing something new. My style is too consistent for me to be considered a fashion victim, but here’s a short list of recent fixations to give the idea: Western-inspired boots like those from the fall runways of Calvin Klein, Céline, and Louis Vuitton. Blazers—I can’t even remember how this kick-started (maybe it was seeing so many street-style photos of Emmanuelle Alt), but I’ve since emailed a million e-commerce links to my trusted fashion advisers with the subject line “What about this one?” And because it’s summer as I type this, anything gingham, but most likely a little black-and-white dress from Rachel Comey (there are, after all, only so many emails you can receive from Moda Operandi, Net-a-Porter, and the like before you have to agree that yes, it is the warm-weather print).

VIDEO: How Much Money Do You Spend on Shoes?

So I shop a lot, but I also think about why I shop a lot, because, unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I do not like seeing my money hanging in my closet. I’ve aged backward into the millennial mindset of valuing experiences over possessions (my sandal collection could easily fund a trip to Santorini). Furthermore, it feels incongruous with who I am as a person to be livvv-ing for a shirt or dyyy-ing over a bag. I do not believe that style and substance are mutually exclusive, but I’ve been craving more connection—with people, nature—and less consumption.

To say I’m a mindless victim of effective marketing and groupthink would be too simplistic. One similarly inclined writer posited that her increased spending on clothes was salve for the rage and sadness she felt under the current administration; another put forth a hypothesis that endlessly scrolling through merchandise online was a way for the conscious brain to shut off and go into creative problem-solving mode. In my darkest hours I’ve played armchair psychologist and theorized that I am a broken, empty soul who needs to fill that emotional void with material goods. That’s when my real psychologist chimes in and says maybe it’s simply that I love beautiful things and happen to be surrounded by them all day at work.

The answer is probably a little bit of all the above, but most meaningfully this: I’ve seen the true power of clothes, and it’s addictive. I’m not talking about using status items to feel superior, but rather the colossal confidence boost that one gets when a current trend and the genuine self collide and you love everything you see in the mirror.

This happened to me last summer when, after years of not wearing skirts, I bought a navy poplin midi and paired it with a fitted white T-shirt and simple block-heeled Prada sandals. The outfit projected exactly what I was feeling inside—sure, grounded, feminine. So you’d think uniform found, problem solved, but instead I started buying more poplin skirts and more block-heeled sandals in search of newer, better versions of what I considered to be quintessentially me. It was the same lusty shopping as always, only with a narrower scope. Another problem with this approach? I grew So. Damn. Bored. I could survive on a restrictive diet of monochrome for only so long before the urge for things like hot-pink Balenciaga mules and polka-dot Loewe dresses began creeping into my resolve like vines.

After various attempts to curb my habit, I have to admit that hopping off the fashion hamster wheel is not easy. It takes more than knowing why you’re on it in the first place or that keeping pace has its consequences. I’ve come to realize that the most effective way to un-obsess about something is a very unsexy mix of mindfulness and moderation: to pay attention to physical and emotional cues when hitting “add to cart” (sometimes my stomach feels as if I’ve eaten too much cake when a purchase is particularly questionable) and to play the parent in an endless string of internal negotiations (“If you buy the Célines, then you can’t have the Vuittons”). And crucially, to remember that a love for others, not of shoes, is generally more nourishing (though I maintain this depends on which person and which shoe). But if all else fails, there’s always The RealReal.

For more stories like this, check out the September issue of InStyle , available on newsstands, through Amazon, and for digital download now.