If you need to explain away any fall/winter retail therapy binges, here are two studies that might come in handy when you’re asked to defend why you absolutely needed Alexander Wang’s tailored wool jacket or Phoebe Philo’s cropped trouser. Your first line of defence? Blame a celebrity. According to Dutch researchers our brains go all batty when we look at pictures of celebs to see what they’re wearing. For the study, women were asked to look at 40 pictures of celebrities and regular folk who were wearing the same shoes. When the women looked at star shots, the medial oribitofrontal cortex in their brains buzzed. The ho-hum images of non-stars didn’t inspire any increased activity. In their report, which appeared in the Journal of Economic Psychology, the researchers concluded that when we link a product with a celebrity this generates a feeling of affection. So how does this fondness encourage a fashion splurge?
This emotional connection, or affection, doesn’t necessarily lead to an immediate desire to buy the shoes —in fact the researchers were surprised that the number of women who said they would purchase these shoes on the spot didn’t differ significantly between celebs and non-celebs shots. But, they suggested there might be a longer-term impact that required further study. That’s your out. A week or so after you saw [insert starlet of choice] wearing [insert your coveted fashion find] your medial oribitofrontal lit up and you felt powerless to resist. If that line of reasoning doesn’t cut it, blame the need for your fashion fix on hormones. It turns out ovulating women unconsciously buy sexier clothes: Think Nina Ricci’s bustier and curve-hugging pencil skirt or one of Louis Vuitton’s “breast-is-back” bombshell dresses. The research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management found that ovulating women dress more provocatively not to impress men, but to overshadow any potential rivals. Call it the “Christina Hendricks” defence.