When I saw Blue Cardigan, I realised something had to change. It wasn’t my first disappointment. I’d been negotiating this brave, new online world for a while, and when you’re making judgments from photos and a few lines of text, it’s easy to make mistakes. I discovered that “warm and smart” on screen could be stifling and tasteless in person, and that “unique and cool” was often a metaphor for weird and unappealing.
But the second I laid eyes on Blue Cardigan, I realised I’d reached my lowest point. Blue Cardigan had no redeeming features, other than being available. Blue Cardigan turned out to be ugly and nasty, unworthy of a single night out, let alone a whole lifetime together. I didn’t want Blue Cardigan in my home, let alone on my body.
I have had my share of successes with online shopping – but Blue Cardigan does not count among them.Credit:Fairfax Media
But I couldn’t send Blue Cardigan back, because it had been on sale. “Damn,” I thought, as I regarded my impulse buy with horror. “This is riskier than online dating.”
Blue Cardigan was worse than a poor decision. It was a total failure of reason. For a start, its shape was unflattering. Take a garbage bag, cut armholes, use two more garbage bags as sleeves, and you’ve got a good sense of how the cardigan fitted. And the colour! It was blue, mottled with green and brown, three colours I never wear unless they are jeans or my eyes or hair. Worse, it was flecked with gold thread! I don’t wear gold even in jewellery form.
I’d like to pretend I was drunk when I bought Blue Cardigan, but the shameful fact is that I was completely sober. If I was intoxicated, it was with the coolness of the online store, the casual insouciance of the youthful model. I was lured by the whispery false promises of the website, which told me I’d look just like the model if I brought their garments home.
I forgot a few key details: one, that I am 30 years older than the model and 10 centimetres shorter; two, that the model would look great in anything; and three, that for all I know, the model got off the set, clawed at the gold-specked cardigan and screamed, “Get this monstrosity off me!”
Blue Cardigan was worse than a poor decision. It was a total failure of reason.
Still, I have had my share of success online. There is the pink fluffy coat I wore for three years, the black dress I absolutely loved last summer, and the backpack I used on holidays this year.
Still, I fear my bad shopping decisions outweigh these freakishly good outcomes. How can I justify a charcoal velvet skort (yes, skirt and shorts combo), a full-length cerise plastic raincoat or bright orange shorts with yellow flowers? Yes, we all make the occasional bad calls when shopping, but in what universe did I imagine myself wearing a baggy crêpe jumpsuit or a pastel vinyl “cell phone bag”?
Some of these purchases I returned. Some I relegated to sleepwear. But they all took their toll. After all, when your purchase arrives, and it’s the wrong colour, or the fabric is flimsy, or it just doesn’t fit, the disappointment can be crushing. It’s like going on a date with a cute guy from Tinder and finding he’s a decade older with half the hair.
My errors chipped away at my confidence in my own choices, much like dating bad men has made me doubt my judgment. How can I be trusted to use the net safely, when I keep inviting these horrors into my life?
I need to practise smart shopping, like I practise smart dating. I need to carefully assess each item I fancy before I commit to bringing it home. I need to consider how well it will fit in with my lifestyle, not get carried away by a sexy profile pic. And I must never browse the net when tired or desperate or I’ll end up with disaster on my doorstep.
I can’t give up online shopping altogether; the lure of a package in my hands is too sweet to deny. But I’m a strong, independent woman with a full life (and wardrobe). I don’t need to seek solace in the arms of Blue Cardigan.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale August 11.
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