If you are a person with internet access, an email address, and a credit card, chances are your inbox is overflowing with emails from brands boasting all kinds of deals and savings for Black Friday. We couldn’t blame you if you were feeling tempted by one — or more — of them. Whether you’re trying to check everyone off of your holiday gift list or just looking for something for yourself, Black Friday shopping can be enjoyable and even useful. But when you’re reviewing your credit card statement at the end of the day and realize you’ve accidentally spent hundreds or thousands of dollars that you didn’t mean to, things start to get a little less fun.
Enter the art — or, more accurately, science — of fashion psychology. Speaking with R29 Entertainment Director and Twitch host Melissah Yang and affiliate writer Karina Hoshikawa on R29 Twitch, fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell says that understanding fashion psychology — the study and exploration behind the deeper meaning of our clothing and how we use it to communicate — is the must-know hack for a perfect Black Friday shopping experience. “A lot of times when we are accumulating things, we are doing it mindlessly,” says Forbes-Bell, who lays out her research and advice in the book Big Dress Energy. “We don’t actually know what we like beyond what social media, magazines or designers tell us.”
The first step is some much-needed self-reflection. Start by shopping your closet: Take a look at everything you own, divide it into categories (for example, workwear, loungewear, formal wear, etc.). This will help you figure out what you have, what’s missing, and let you ask yourself some crucial questions. What’ in front of you do you like? What don’t you like? How much of it do you actually wear? How much of it is newer? Older? What fits and doesn’t? If you typically wear loungewear, why do you have so many dresses? Performing this “wardrobe ethnography” will help you dive deeper into and understand your clothing. “When you do all of this work and introspection and really start thinking about what clothing constitutes the best, happiest version of yourself, then you’ll go into the sales having a clear vision,” Forbes-Bell says. This methodology can be applied to other areas of your life throughout the year.
Next comes understanding why you’re shopping, according to the expert. Are you looking for something that can better express yourself, or bring out a different side of you? Are you trying to satisfy the very human need for belonging by buying something that will make you feel like you are part of a certain group? Or are you really just looking for that little thrill that comes when you hit the checkout button? “Buying something is almost like chemical warfare — that rush of dopamine, that rush of adrenaline,” Forbes-Bell says. “Research has identified that the ‘shoppers high’ we feel when we buy something new isn’t even related to the thing we’re buying, but the act of shopping itself. So there’s a huge disconnect there, and you have to do the work to figure it out.”
Thankfully, Forbes-Bell has an easy-to-remember process to help you shop more mindfully: the four, three, two, one rule. Before you buy something, stop and count down the numbers.
4. Time: Can you imagine yourself using or wearing this item four years in the future? If your answer is no, move on; if it’s yes, go to the next number.
3. Get creative: Can you think of three different ways to wear or use this piece, or is it just for a single IG post? Again, if your answer is no, leave it behind; if it’s yes, keep thinking.
2. Pause: Take two deep breaths to calm any holiday stress or that incoming shopper’s high and really consider if this is something you need.
1. Wait: Take one night to sleep on your decision and make sure you wake up feeling the same way. This can be hard during things like Black Friday sales, but if you’ve done the work Forbes-Bell has outlined, you should be able to take some time.
And that’s all it takes: hard work and intention. Do that and, Forbes-Bell assures, you will feel good about your Black Friday decisions. “Nothing feels better than when you’ve made the right decision. Feeling like you’ve made the right decision is about believing you’ve done enough research, you’ve evaluated the pros and cons and come to the correct conclusion. And that’s what shopping is. It’s a decision.”