The Impact of Clothing Deprivation

I have nothing to wear.

We’ve all been there, right? Surrounded by piles of tried-on-and-tossed-away outfits, we are no closer to walking out the door than we were 30 minutes ago. Plus, getting dressed — a necessary part of each day — has somehow morphed into an activity that negatively impacts our self-worth.  

Clothing deprivation is problematic for many people. Let’s first look at the three main causes:

  • Doing Without: Here, your wardrobe is not a priority and thus you are living without the basics.
  • Making Do: In this instance, as illustrated above, you attempt to fill your closet with pieces that fit your lifestyle and make you feel good, but, in one way or another, you miss the mark.
  • Overdoing: Here, you spend a lot of money to build your wardrobe, but you fail to focus on what you truly need. This approach can result in an overfilled closet and a pile of credit card debt

The Payoff for Clothing Deprivation 

Whether you have little or no money to spend or plenty of discretionary income, clothes are often on your “needs” list. There are plenty of reasons why you may avoid addressing your wardrobe, but it often boils down to one thing: not feeling worthy of investing in yourself. These common excuses may sound familiar: I hate to shop. I need to lose weight first. I feel guilty spending money on myself. Clothes aren’t important to me. It’s shallow and vain to care about what I wear. I don’t have anyone to impress.

In many cases, these excuses are hiding a bigger issue — a payoff for the clothing deprivation. How can not having a wardrobe that makes you feel good be a payoff for you? For instance, if you feel like you have nothing to wear when it comes time to get ready for a date, is the real issue that you have ambivalence or fear about dating? If you had the “right” clothes, you would be forced to deal with your intimacy issues. Instead, you can hide behind your limited wardrobe, using it as an excuse. 

Regardless of the reason for wardrobe deprivation, it’s often an unattended area of recovery. As demonstrated by the example above, it can affect you in many ways and goes deeper than a money issue

The Feelings You Associate with Clothes

Let’s do a quick exercise. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. In the left column, write the following categories: activewear, work wardrobe, dating outfits, lingerie, sleepwear, outerwear, shoes, boots, handbags, scarves and belts, jewelry, shoe repair, and alterations. Consider each category, and in the right column, write down the word that describes the feelings tied to that category: great, OK, or terrible. 

Now, let’s dig a little deeper. Referencing the categories and your feelings about each one, answer the questions below:

  • How do you feel when you wake up and think about getting dressed for the day?
  • How do you feel when you look in your closet? Describe what you see.
  • What do you think your wardrobe says about you?
  • What do you think keeps you from giving yourself a wonderful wardrobe?

Client Story

When I first started working with a past client, she had nothing in her clothing category. We spent an entire session creating subcategories of clothing, such as lingerie. This exercise was a first for her, and it had immediate benefits. Months later, she shared how fantastic it felt to have nice undergarments and explained, “I went from not being able to buy a pair of underwear to having $10,000 in savings for the first time in my life.” 

I have hundreds of stories like this one from my years of financial recovery coaching. Once people begin to meet their basic needs even something as basic as underwear their internal perspective shifts. They go from not feeling worthy or deserving to thinking, “Wow, this feels pretty great!” 

I want to leave you with two truths that you may need to hear today:

  • You deserve to feel comfortable and have a nice wardrobe regardless of your size.
  • You also deserve to have clothes that fit and look good — a simple statement that often brings people to tears.


If you need help with your own financial recovery or clothing deprivation, check out my free ebook Healing the Wounds of Shame and Deprivation

Stay tuned for four more blog posts in this series, focused on my personal clothing story and tips for refreshing your own wardrobe!


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