Acquisition anxiety

It is possible that buying accessories won't make you happy.

It wasn't a shoe shopping expedition, but nevertheless when I saw them, I got that tunnel vision that meant I saw nothing else. A pair of Ann De meulemeester brogues with a squat stiletto heel. Not remotely anything I ever thought I'd want (need doesn't come into it), but somehow I had to have them. The price tag was £150, reduced from £300. I spent a sleepless night thinking about them (this was 1994, life was simple) before rising the next morning and going at speed to Joseph, where they were on sale, hoping all the way they'd still be there.

I had just completed the most annoying fashion shoot I'd ever done: childrenswear for a Sunday newspaper. The idea was the photo grapher's: shoot children (sadly, I realised later, only with a camera) wearing what they wanted to wear, and then contrast that with what their parents wanted them to wear. I'm sure the photographer thought it was a fantastic idea in sartorial social comment. The preparation had been three weeks of screechy, hair-pulling stress as I was barked at by pushy parents and their spoiled, whiney children: "I want Johnny to wear velvet breeches, like Little Lord Fauntleroy" (someone really did say this); "I want to be a rock star with a real guitar as a prop."

Fourteen years on, I still bear the scars. I swore I'd never again work with children, and I never have. My fee was £300.

The Demeulemeester brogues were half that, but sat next to them was a pair of embossed velvet mules, also for £150. It seemed madness, but somehow perfect, to translate all that stress into something beautiful, irrelevant and frivolous. I bought both. I've never before, or since, spent so much on shoes. I want to tell you that the shoes and I had wonderful adventures, but of course we didn't. I barely wore them, despite them being so trendy that when I did, people breathed in sharply.

I remember the acute "I have to have them, they will change my life" feeling to this day, although it abated the moment I bought them and my life wasn't changed.

Over the years I've experienced it again, nearly always over accessories. I was once obsessed with an Ollie & Nic bag and chased it all over London before finding it on sale for half price. It is sitting at my feet now and it's a perfectly nice bag, but I can't see how or why it ever caused me such fret. Yes, its beautifully organised compartments are well thought out, but they didn't revolutionise my life, not even remotely.

I now get this feeling, increasingly, over interior things or kitchen appliances . . . I wish I could justify it with some sort of evolutionary science that says it’s vital to our well-being, but really it’s just greed. It’s not just the purchase of it either, but the acquisition. In other words, buying it and bringing it back doesn’t work. Tant pis.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 02 June 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Bobby and Barack