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First person

If you want to know Ideal Me, come look in my online shopping cart



Esther O’Moore Donohoe investigates what happens when she actually buys fantasy digital wardrobe


A recent addition to my hedonistic Sunday night routine is clicking clothes into online carts with zero intention of purchasing anything. I am the first woman on earth to ever do this. As I get ready for the week ahead, I spend hours passively assembling a full digital wardrobe of the woman I think I want to be as something plays endlessly in the background on Netflix.

This curated creature lives only in my computer and in an ‘Outfit Ideas’ folder in my phone and in no way reflects the person currently typing this. That person is wearing a sweatshirt with ‘Rick’s Burgers’ printed across the front and still has sleep in her eyes. And that is why, each Sunday, as the sun sets on my laptop, I come to my senses and ‘x’ out of all tabs. This prompts a flurry of cart abandonment emails fizzing with faux best friend energy ‘Hey you stupid cow! Don’t forget about your Mint Green Mules with Cross Straps, size 39, product code SN2231135498, before it’s too late, you dumb mule!’ But these screeching inbox bullies have no power over me. Because it’s not about you Zalando, it’s about me, a woman who absolutely needs to get out more. A simple, adult human playing her favourite online game – creating a character called Ideal Me. 

Ideal Me is an aspirational version of me who truly believes that ‘This is the week I’m going to be on top of things’ contrary to all past evidence. Ideal Me most likely has at least two trench coats and lots of long, twisty candles that live in a dedicated drawer. Ideal Me has no fillings and has never bled through her jeans. No random stranger has ever fallen asleep on Ideal’s shoulder on the bus because Ideal Me doesn’t use public transport. She just appears where she’s meant to, five minutes early. And each Sunday night I tell myself ‘She’s in me. I just know it. I just need the right outfit.’

That’s what scrolling through Instagram and media all day and night will do to you. As you gaze at the tiny parcels of someone’s online curation, you internalise a neater, cleaner, better version of yourself. She is in you and the thousands of online stores are more than willing to help you unlock that perfect vision. I’d even wager that right now, at this very moment, as these words flit across your mind there are thousands of us, opening rammed wardrobes and declaring ‘Holy Sarah Jessica Parker – I’ve no clothes!’ as dozens of polo necks, never worn, collapse onto our heads. We don’t need anything else and yet…

At the same time, I tell myself ‘I’m not like other girls. I just know that once I have a pair of those very expensive, handmade sandals from Greece, I will then be content for the rest of my life. I need never shop again.’ We laugh and continue our deluded whispers ‘But what if took the next step and actually proceeded to payment?! Then Real Me could become Ideal Me and I’d be happy forever!’ Well, the great news is, I am more than willing to waste the precious gift of time to Prime Time investigate this endeavour. 

My work begins late Sunday afternoons. After buying a number of newspapers, I read none of them and instead, begin intensely going through Instagram accounts. After doing exhaustive research, I come to understand that the first step into my new life is owning a linen/cotton mix trench coat at a mid-range price point. So I hunt. I scroll through endless #trenchcoat hashtags and trawl through websites. I am basically a great explorer like Ernest Shackleton or Mary, Lady Heath (please google for some #herstory). Finally, I find The One – the ultimate trencher to rule them all! Into the online basket it goes, quickly followed by a pair of kitten heels because I haven’t come this far, to come this far. I click ‘Complete Purchase’ and 3-2-1, I am the owner of a trench coat. I am so brave. Tablescapes will now become part of my future. Large bunches of daisies wrapped in crinkly brown paper await me.

After a short wait, the day finally arrives. DHL tell me that my packages will be delivered before 6pm that day. ‘But what’s another 12 hours to wait for the rest of my life to start?’ I think airily. This is how a woman who will soon be the owner of a trench coat thinks. Thoughts are effortless, the city is the fifth character and I am as breezy as the day is long. And when Javier knocks at the front door, I don’t even move from the hall before I rip open my newly arrived purchases. I am giddy. I lovingly yank my Precious out of its 100% plastic wrapping whilst at the same time, flinging off my socks so I can quickly shove my toots into my new delicate sheaths of femininity.

Well, the impact is immediate. I thought I’d look endlessly chic but instead, I look like when kids balance on each other’s shoulders in old films and put a coat over themselves and pretend to be grown ups. A real hound. And the kitten heels? They’re cute, but really where am I going to wear them? Clacking my way to the bottle bank? Audrey Heburning it to Lidl? Back into the magical returns box they go. I hope they make some other aspirant twisty candle woman very happy but I needed to accept who I really am, namely a woman who operates best at low speeds in elasticated clothing. Ideal Me would roll her tasteful eyes but Real Me, she’s actually fine as she is.