WE'RE all guilty of buying a new outfit for every occasion at some point in our lives, but for one influencer, even a new outfit every week wasn’t enough.
Hooked on fast fashion, Lou Featherstone, 51, from Brighton, would spend every last penny on new clothing almost every day.
The self-proclaimed 'ex-shopping addict' stole money from work, ran the family joint account into debt several times and even had secret credit cards.
But after spending £20,000 in two years on fashion, Lou finally decided enough was enough and set about trying to turn her life around.
From then on she pledged to not buy anything for a year, reworking what she already had in her wardrobe.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Lou, who is now debt-free, says: "My shopping addiction started when I was younger."
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"As a teenager I always loved standing out and my style has always been a big part of me.
"I signed up to Next Directory when I was 17 – before credit checks – and ran up so much debt.
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"I hid court orders from my parents as I had no way to repay the bills."
As the years progressed, it wasn't long before Lou was buying a new outfit almost every day – spending every penny she earned – and more – each month.
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"My spending addiction peaked when I had postnatal depression," Lou recalls.
"Lost, miserable and lonely I found solace in retail therapy.
"Topshop was my go to, I was there almost every day."
To keep up with her spending habits, Lou would steal money from work, ran the family joint account into debt several times and had secret credit cards.
I hated Saturdays as my husband was home from work and I’d wait by the front door or lean out the bedroom window waiting to intercept the post from the postman in case there were letters from the bank
"I’m deeply ashamed of stealing money from work," says Lou.
"It was a small business and I’m horrified at how I behaved back then.
"The boss got suspicious that someone was stealing and eventually I couldn’t cope with any more lies and confessed.
"She told me she didn’t believe that it was the true me and let me keep my job.
"I worked overtime and repaid what I had taken.
"I learnt a lot from that experience."
She continues: "My colleagues knew, too. I remain close friends with some of them. They stood by me in my darkest moments."
Lou says that like most addicts, she "hid purchases and lies" – adding that no one knew the extent of her spending.
"I hated Saturdays as my now ex-husband was home from work and I’d wait by the front door or lean out the bedroom window waiting to intercept the post from the postman in case there were letters from the bank," she says.
"At my worst I had an overdraft and two credit cards maxed out.
"I knew what I was doing and couldn’t stop – and that just heaped on the shame."
It wasn't until she reached the age of 41 and bought a "ridiculously expensive" pair of £450 shoes that Lou realised it was time she put a stop to her addiction.
"I was working with families in crisis at this point and could NOT afford them," she says.
I’m deeply ashamed of stealing money from work.
It was a small business and I’m horrified at how I behaved back then
"I woke up in a sweat in the night and felt sick that it was happening again.
"I pledged then, at 3am, no spending for an entire year."
It was a decision that was to change Lou's life forever.
"The very next day I started a blog called `Seaside Recessionista 'on Tumblr and pledged to wear a different outfit everyday for a year," she explains.
"I started blogging about the withdrawal and the shame and I was one of the first people to share their outfit of the day now known as #OOTD online!"
She continues: "Strangers started coming up to me in the playground and sharing their secrets.
"Anything from their gambling husbands to spending too much and in secret debt."
The 51-year-old continues: "At the end of the year, while I started shopping again, I changed my style and started being very conscious of what and where and why I shopped.
"It was one of the first times in my life I felt proud of myself.
"I started to find my confidence and myself. I realised that I already had everything I ever needed – in life and in my wardrobe.
"I didn’t need new things and clothes for people to like me – they were actually more excited with my new style – where I just restyled what I already had!"
Now, Lou has taken to Instagram to help others do the same. She's even hosting a clothes swap in the New Year.
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"I have an amazing therapist who’s helped me recognise what is truly happening with my urges to spend and I journal that helps me stay in control," she says.
"Now I encourage women to re-style what they already own not just for sustainability but because I know from experience they have everything they need on the inside."
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