A study in how compulsive acquisition can lead to untold loss.
Cardella exposes the self-destructive shopaholic tendencies that plagued her throughout early adulthood. Captivated at a young age by the allure of the fashion world depicted in the pages of Vogue, as well as her mother’s glamorous sense of style, the author writes that she first looked to fashion as a mode of self-expression. But soon after her mother’s death in 1989, that expression morphed into self-destructive behavior as Cardella began shopping compulsively, using the physical rush derived from buying clothes and accessories to fill a gaping emotional void. With the eerie intensity of a junkie getting a fix, the author recounts in encyclopedic detail garments worn on pivotal occasions, the arresting pleasure of shopping at exclusive boutiques—“Having a handbag placed in a special silk or flannel sack gave me a secret thrill, and seeing a simple white blouse disappear in a cloud of brightly colored tissue paper was as mesmerizing as a magic trick”—even the sensual appeal of closet hangers holding up her evening gowns: “There were hangers entwined in beautiful pale pink satin, looking as delicate as a ballerina’s toe shoes; hangers that came with their own pearl-tipped push pins with which the thinnest of spaghetti straps could be secured.” Not surprisingly, Cardella’s attempts to heal deep psychological wounds with surface balms led to a string of failed relationships and serious financial woes before she somehow righted the ship. While this confession admirably avoids self-help territory, it reads more like a self-indulgent exercise in retrospection than a serious inquiry into the causes of the author’s affliction.
One woman’s quest for the meaning of living beyond her means—a middling memoir.