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Overthinking Everything: Is This Retail Therapy or Have I Become Impulsive?

I Bought Metallic Leggings, Then Spent 24 Hours Questioning My Identity

There’s something iconic about a New York City sample sale. For one day only, a limited number of items are sold at retail prices you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. People line up in advance, waiting anxiously for the doors to open and the retail therapy to begin. It’s a mad rush to get inside and find what you’re looking for before it’s all gone. At least that’s what I’ve seen on TV. My first sample sale in New York was a bit different.

I feel like it’s important to preface this story by telling you that I’ve always been more conservative when it comes to spending money. Some may even use the word cheap to describe what I like to call frugalness. At an early age, my mom taught me how to scavenge the sale rack. We’d head straight for the big red signs in the back of the store, rarely wasting time looking at the full-priced items on display. And each time I walk into a store today I find myself doing the same.

It wasn’t exactly that we couldn’t afford to buy the items at the front of the store, though there were times when doing so would have been irresponsible. Weeding through sale bins and disorganized racks as though we were searching for hidden treasure was all part of the thrill. Getting something for less than the original price evoked a kind of feeling like we had won (a kind of retail therapy in its own right). The clothes, jewelry, and furniture we brought home were our trophies.

It’s probably because of this that my spending habits have oftentimes prioritized getting the most for the least amount of money. This was especially true in my early twenties when I was putting half of my monthly pay towards rent. The rest went towards groceries, which I was admittedly more frugal about than I probably needed to be. I once returned a loaf of bread after realizing it had mold growing on it. Of course, when it came to social activities, I was a bit more lenient. I could spend $40 on dinner or buy a $15 cocktail, but a $4 avocado was pushing it.

A New Kind of Retail Therapy

However, with that being said, my frugalness has dissipated substantially over the last year and a half and at times I’ve indulged in a new kind of retail therapy. I’ve started buying clothes online (something I hardly ever did before COVID). If I want a new mirror or table for my apartment, I will search for one almost obsessively until I find it. Recently, I spent $100 at a local bookstore and immediately afterward felt overwhelmed by the number of books on my ever-growing reading list.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the pandemic or maybe if it’s because I’ve reached a point in my career where I’m no longer grossly underpaid, but when I think about the ways I’ve grown and changed during the last 18 months, my new impulsive shopping habit is among the first that comes to mind, which brings us back to the sample sale.

retail therapy, Women's empowerment, She Explores life

It was a Saturday afternoon. A group of friends and I went to brunch and afterward, one of them suggested we check out a sample sale for some athleisure brand I had never heard of. I was hesitant to go at first considering my “athleisure” wear mostly consists of leggings from TJ Maxx and a drawer full of old college t-shirts. I figured I probably wouldn’t buy anything and decided to go along just for the experience.

When we walked into the space, we were greeted by multiple rows of brightly-colored leggings, some with leopard print, others with stripes and snakeskin. My plain leggings at home suddenly seemed very bland and before I knew it, I was searching for my size among the racks. Then I found them – a pair of gold metallic leggings.

For reasons I cannot explain, something in me at that moment felt compelled to buy these. Not even just the leggings, but also a matching sports bra and another pair of bright pink leggings. As someone who in the past has walked around stores for hours unable to decide what or what not to buy, I am utterly shocked by this. I carried the items to the check-out counter without hesitation. I didn’t even think twice when I saw the No Returns or Exchanges sign. As Ariana Grande might say, I saw them. I liked them. I got them.

However, the next day, as I pulled the leggings out of the bag and held them up to my waist in the mirror the retail therapy afterglow began to fade and I kept asking myself, “Why did I buy these? Of all the leggings there, why did I choose the pink and metallic ones?” In my defense, I did have one or two (or maybe more like four) mimosas at brunch which may have impacted my decision-making capabilities a bit more than I realized. But still, I felt a strange uneasiness about the whole thing.

The primary colors of my wardrobe are black, blue, brown, and grey. Did I momentarily forget who I am? Did I think that I was going to join Soul Cycle? The last time a pink this bright touched my legs was during my eighth grade choir recital when I dressed up like Cindy Lauper and danced to Girls Just Want to Have Fun. I’ve made it a point to avoid such attention-grabbing colors since.   

Maybe this uneasiness I feel is because I haven’t yet grown completely comfortable with my newfound decisiveness and impulsivity. Or maybe it’s that my shopping habits over the last year and a half have evolved more into a version of retail therapy than I realized. With so much unknown, the ability to decide what to buy has become in some ways an exercise of control. That is, until you buy something without understanding the reason why.

I struggle to decide if this change that I see in myself is positive at times. But when I think back to who I was a year ago and even before then, I realize that I’m a lot more confident and comfortable with who I am now than I was before. This new impulse I feel inside of me to speak up and make decisions sometimes scares me. At times I feel as though I’m an imposter masquerading as someone I am not when really, I think this is probably the most authentic I’ve ever been. And most importantly, I like this new version of myself – even if this version now wears bright pink and metallic leggings.

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Kate Warrington
Kate Warrington
Kate Warrington is a New York based writer and contributor to She Explores Life, where she writes about mental health, culture and sexual wellness in her column Overthinking Everything. In her words, Overthinking Everything is not meant to be an advice column of any kind. Instead, as a twenty-something woman acutely aware of how little she knows about life, sex, relationships and even her own body, Kate invites us to explore some of the nuanced, and at times laughable, questions of what it means to navigate coming of age. Her work has appeared in outlets including Thrive Global, Forbes and Impakter Magazine. She is also a regular contributor to Medium and previously contributed to the New York City documentary series Stoop Stories. Find more of Kate’s writing at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @warrington_kate.
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