My Week in a High-Fashion Facebook Ad Rabbit Hole

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

It all started with one very ugly boot.

I opened Facebook on a work break, and there it was, just hanging out in an ad on my feed. What is that, I thought. Is that a Mary Engelbreit fabric AND spikes? Is there glitter? What am I looking at?   Entranced, I clicked for a closer look, and then I saw the price of those boots and blinked.

I had mistakenly been transported to another world, a world of thousand-dollar shoes, a level of shopping I haven’t seen regularly since I watched Sex and the City and read Vogue. Intrigued, I clicked around for a while and then popped back off to my T.J. Maxx world.

And then it started. Facebook started showing me all the ridiculous fashion: dresses that cost our monthly budget, accessories that cost a paycheck, shoes that were, quite frankly, confusing.

Facebook had identified me as a Woman with Money. This is the story of how I did not tell Facebook its algorithm was wrong, and kept deliberately clicking on the most ridiculously-priced ridiculous fashion that the pre-holiday Internet has to offer in the hopes that the algorithm would deliver more. It did not disappoint: it sent me into a consumerism rabbit hole.

I should preface this by saying that I love wild fashion. I want to be Delia Deetz, sitting out here in my house in rural Connecticut, wearing avant-garde Japanese designers and musing on the dangers of my art. I longingly peruse Marigold Shadows’ site, and wonder if it would be too weird to do normal mom stuff wearing some of their outfits, like going to parent-teacher conferences, the grocery store, or the park. (Marigold Shadows, if you’re reading this, slide into my mentions.)

But this trip into the off-the-rack version of the sorts of collections you see on runways, red carpet and Vogue covers was weirdly eye-opening. It was also ridiculously entertaining.

It was better than watching a runway show. It was like perusing Harper’s Bazaar without the subscription fees. It was amazing. It was a horror show. It was a window into both the glory and the pointlessness of high-end fashion. It was a lesson in consumerism. It was a vegan’s nightmare. 

So join me. Come with me on a journey. For just a moment, leave behind your Marshalls tops, your Payless shoes, and your Target bags and come with me into a world of fox fur headbands, floor-length puffer jackets, and opera gloves made of garbage bags.

Enter my high-fashion Facebook ad gauntlet.

Day 1

Exhibit A: The camel toe heel

Emboldened by my earlier clickery, Nordstrom showed me this monstrosity next, so of course I clicked on it.

Image courtesy of Nordstrom’s site and ads

These $500 tabi heels come only in peach, which is quite an artistic choice to make.

I mean, I get tabi socks, but apart from the distracting optics of this thing, why make shoes tabi? How do you clean this heel? Do you floss it? Surely no one will buy this faux hoof, I thought. Guess what — when I checked back to put this article together, these heels had sold out.

Exhibit B: The puffer gown (with matching gloves)

Later that evening, Barney’s ads caught up with me. And this is what they led with:

Photo courtesy of Barney’s website (and Facebook ads)

These puffer dresses from Moncler 1 Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Genius Project (whatever that is) might be the most ridiculous things I have seen, and the Internet apparently agrees with me — there have been a few pieces about these gowns. That said, I have sort of warmed (get it?) to the collection, even if these dresses and their equally-puffy accessories (puffer opera gloves!!!) add up to almost the cost of my wedding. I mean, they are pure fashion. They’re renaissance-inspired, they’re beautiful in a haunting kind of way, and they’re original.

But here’s the thing that kills me. The dresses, and the coats and capes that go with them, come only in three sizes: 00, 0, and 1. I get that this is the world of fashion, but no. If you’re selling it in a department store, you can try a little harder to make it more accessible. Anyone with $3,000 dollars and a desire to look like Serpentor should be able to buy and wear a puffer gown.

Day 2

On the second day, I continued down the expensive fashion Facebook ad rabbit hole with these baffling mittens… made of rabbit fur. Although I feel like you could do a low-rent version of these with one of those rainbow dusters from the supermarket.

Image courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue’s site and ads

That rabbit fur is probably not machine washable, so I’m guessing these mittens aren’t great for any activity you’d need to use your hands for.

Fun addendum: the sales copy attached to these was “These just make sense for your wardrobe.”
DO THEY? DO THEY REALLY?

Other fun addendum: there are matching earmuffs and a matching rainbow fox fur headband. Man, this collection is hell on woodland creatures.

Day 3

Exhibit A: Is it possible for something that’s not an antique to be haunted?

Dear diary,

Since I started clicking on ads for expensive things, my Facebook feed has gotten a lot weirder.  Behold! This $5,000 cat amusement park ride music box I cannot see without hearing the laughter of the Crypt Keeper ringing in my ears:

Image courtesy of Scully & Scully’s site and ads

Exhibit B: No really, my boyfriend is a firefighter. 

Thankfully, my Facebook ads went back to showing me wildly expensive fashion and not wildly expensive knick-knacks from hell. Whew. Back to normal, right? Well, back to “normal.”

Image courtesy of Barney’s site and ads

You’ve got to give Calvin Klein credit for going all in on this $2,000 ($1,100 of this writing — it’s on sale) firefighter jacket. I mean, it’s got reflective tape on it.

Day 4

By this point I’d been clicking on ads for expensive weird things for four days now, and next to some of the price tags I’d seen, this $1,300 chair, which I don’t hate, seemed pretty reasonable. It still seems reasonable.
…and now we see how this game can become dangerous.

Image courtesy of 2Modern’s site and ads

Day 5

Something called Zappos Luxury has discovered me. I’m a fan of Regular Zappos — hello best customer service ever — but I have never heard of Zappos Luxury. There were no product photos in the ad, but I assume it’s a secret Zappos for people with money.

I investigate and am not disappointed:

Photo courtesy of Zappos Luxury’s site.

Day 6 

Designers are starting to market to me directly. To be fair, I’ve clicked on a LOT of ads for things I can’t afford at this point, and posted about a lot of them. But I have a migraine on Day Six and I can’t make myself click any ads. I take a nap instead.

Day 7

Chanel has found me and presented me an ad — not for its “high jewelry” collection — but for a series of movies about the collection.

Image courtesy of Chanel’s Facebook ad

This is taking marketing to the next level, because click as I might, I cannot find listings for the actual Coromandel collection or any prices. I assume that this is one of those “price on request” things, and given that the prices for the decidedly less extravagant necklaces in Chanel’s catalog top out at six figures, it might cost me more than I’m worth to even hear the price of the Coromandel pieces. So I’m just going to imagine the price and be cool with that.

After Day 7

The Chanel jewelry trailer seems like a fitting place to end, because really, where do you go from there? However, just because my week of clicking was over does not mean that Facebook’s ads were done with me. Here is a sampling of the ads I’m still seeing:

Bazaar thinks I might want to shop their editors’ holiday looks.

Image courtesy of ShopBazaar’s Facebook ad

Burberry is selling something called a horse blanket cape, and I like it, but the $1,000 price does put me off. (I am honestly more intrigued by the hobble leggings or socks or whatever the model has on her legs. I might have spent too much time online trying to find those.)

Photo courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue’s Facebook ad

I had heard about Balenciaga’s innovative silhouettes and garment construction, but this $3k leather might take that a little too far. I don’t think a jacket can be both moto and swing.

Photo courtesy of Barney’s site and Facebook ads

You do not need to actually see the name of this gold cowboy boot with cut-outs and an ankle strap to know that it’s called the Vegas boot, do you? Because this $1k shoe is pretty much Las Vegas brought to a boil, simmered overnight, and poured into a fancy shoe box.

Image courtesy of Barney’s Facebook ads and site

Today

It’s been well over a week since I started this experiment, so maybe it’s because I’ve stopped clicking on ads for expensive things that this popped up in my feed this morning.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon

Yup. Just a regular old $20 gold hoodie from Amazon. Maybe it’s because the experiment ended, or maybe it’s because Amazon just gets me. I am not into expensive fashion so much — although this high-fashion journey has been fun.

I’m just into weird fashion.

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