It’s frustrating because I am also strongly attracted to this kind of shop. What’s not to love? Each one has its own creative personality, with a collection lovingly selected by an actual person, not by a corporate entity. Rather than just the usual array of the usual suspects, boutiques have eclectic collections that are united by one thread – the artistic vision of the boutique’s owner. Boutiques are where you can find truly special items, and put the fun back into shopping!
So why am I afraid to walk into so many of them?
I do have my reasons. I can’t swear that they’re rational reasons, but you can be the judge:
1. Too much individual attention. I know that fabulous customer service is one of the draws, but I’m weird – I prefer an anonymous shopping experience. Boutiques make me feel too conspicuous. They are small, increasing the danger that I might be the only actual shopper. The overly solicitous staff may pounce on me, which fills me with dread. If they help me, it will be rude not to buy anything! If it’s the owner, I’ll hurt her feelings! If I’m unlikely to buy something, I have no right to be wasting their time!
And if you’re thinking that I have way more than my share of irrational guilt, well, you’re right. This fact has been pointed out to me a number of times, sometimes even by highly paid professionals. You think you can change my mind now??? I’ve made progress over the years, but my core neuroses are here to stay.
2. Everybody will know I don’t belong there. More about the reasons why, below, but whatever the reason, the fear is palpable. If I don’t belong there, will they humor me with patronizing smiles? Or will they ignore me all together? Come to think of it, that may be the only thing worse than being pounced on!
And if you’re thinking, “Wow, you shouldn’t be so insecure,” I direct you again to the “core neuroses” point, above.
3. Sticker shock. You knew it would come down to this, didn’t you? Uniquely crafted, quality items tend to cost more. In a larger store, I can walk past the pricey items and head to the lower end ones or the sale racks. In a smaller boutique, what if nothing is in my price range? If I walk right out, will I have a neon sign flashing over my head reading “out of her league?” Do I have to stay around and “pretend shop” — aimlessly flipping through items — to avoid making a fool of myself or offending the store staff? Or will they already know — from perusing my shoes and handbag, presumably — that their wares are out of my price range? Will they snicker at me, or worse, pity me, when I leave?
4. Too trendy, and I’m too old. The truly fashion-forward boutique is filled with frothy, flitty garments perfect for young women doing young things. Clubbing! Going on first dates! Attending bachelorette parties in swanky clubs! Does a hip store make its reputation by providing practical, well-made items that can go from work to dinner with one’s husband of almost 20 years? Well, they might, but that’s not what they’re advertising in the window. Even though I know there’s probably a place for the mature woman, I don’t always believe it in the moment.
5. They won’t have clothes for my size or body type. In real life, my size-eight frame is considered thin. This means that, in the world of trendier fashion, I’m just barely within the margins of acceptability. Skin tight, clingy and/or transparent fabrics are not my friends. And while most boutiques seem to have my size (at the upper end of their scale, I can’t help noticing), appropriateness of cut may be another matter entirely. I can still do a fairly deep V-neck, but I’m not a fan of visible bra straps or thongs hanging out of pants. Come to think of it, I’m not a fan of thongs, at all.
6. The clothes are for more fabulous lives than mine. A lot of what I see in boutiques would go for dressy, stylish occasions. How many of these do I have? Not many. And this is depressing! I don’t want a reminder of how practical my life is.
However, it is this concern, more than any of the others, that makes me eager to overcome these fears once and for all. I need to occasionally step outside of the box and be less practical. I need to, occasionally, look for fun clothes. No, I don’t have to buy something if I fear I will never wear it. But how will I find something that I will wear if I don’t even look?
Sometimes, once you try something and love it, you find that you will wear it. I’ve had this experience many times; some of my favorite items are things that were originally out of my comfort zone. It’s only by going outside that zone, once in a while, that one’s style can truly evolve.
Sure, I’ve made my share of mistake purchases – things bought for “maybe some day” that went unworn. But this mistake happens most often when I’m blinded by a sale price. What if I only buy something that I’m willing to pay full price for, and that I can make a commitment to wear?
And more importantly, what if I give myself permission and opportunity to shop and try new things, without feeling pressure to buy?
In short, I need to get over the guilt and fear of sales clerk scorn. So here it is: the boutique challenge! Sometime soon, I will shop in one of the boutiques that I’ve admired from afar. Afterwards, I will blog about the experience.
I may need a little time to figure out my strategy: to shop with money, or no money? To have a specific goal in mind, or no goal? To plan to buy, or to plan on not buying, but just trying?
In the meantime, feel free to participate in my growth process. If you have any strategic advice, or if you’ve had a positive boutique experience, tell me about it! Inspire me! Encourage me to get over my insecurities!
Together, we can be strong.