Allison Bornstein’s “Cookie Theory” Will Help You Resist the Dupe

Allison Bornstein’s “Cookie Theory” Will Help You Resist the Dupe

When a TikTok video of stylist Allison Bornstein’s “cookie theory” surfaced on my feed, it was like she peeked into my brain—finally, someone who understands the mixed emotions of shopping therapy. The nearly two-minute video begins with her saying, “You know when you're on a diet,” and quickly captured the attention of fashion enthusiasts, with one claiming, “This is the best analogy I’ve ever heard.”

As the author of Wear It Well and creator of the “three-word method” and “wrong shoe theory,” she is known for her online presence, where anyone can book a Facetime styling session with her, followed by an email with shop-able links. Even a mere follow on her page is like having expert wardrobe advice at the click of a button. 

Adding another theory to her resume was no surprise, but I was surprised at how much this one resonated with me and my wardrobe habits. As her analogy goes, if you’re trying to cut out sugar but really want a cookie at the end of your meal, you might find a low-sugar alternative to resist the sweet temptation. However, this spirals into eating multiple semi-healthier treats, ultimately leaving you unsatisfied without the desired cookie. 

The same goes for shopping. When you have your sights set on an item but are unable or unwilling to purchase it right away, it’s easy to find a dupe that checks the boxes for the time being. Reading Katherine J. Igoe’s story on the “cookie theory” further clarified that I am a victim of this thought process. 

Take The Row’s latest jelly sandals, for example. Following their debut on the Pre-Fall 2024 runway, many were eager to find where they could get their hands on the hit footwear style of the summer. Priced at $890 and currently sold out everywhere, it leads people to turn to Amazon or Mango dupes.

While not the most regrettable buy, this scenario succumbed to overlooking the cookie jar. It is influenced by society’s “I want it now” mindset propelled by overconsumption, social media, and microtrends. “I think often it’s worth it to wait and get the thing that you really want instead of five things that are close,” Bornstein wrote on her Instagram. “Cost per wear is also often significantly higher when we have invested and got what we really want.”

Patience is key when buying, saving, and purchasing luxury goods. Ultimately, the “cookie theory” is more economical because quality clothing and accessories you truly love last longer, receive better care, and remain timeless. Waiting is the best advice I have ever received regarding fashion purchases. If you wait, many things will drop off your list of wants. 

On the flip side, splurging on trendy items like jelly sandals doesn’t seem to align with economic sensibility either. Bornstein would probably argue that if you can’t see yourself wearing it more than five times, it isn’t a purchase you should make. However, I propose that renting could be a middle ground. Embrace the “less is more” philosophy and consider a try-before-you-buy approach, finding a balance that suits your style and budget without a guaranteed commitment. 

Today, I put her “cookie theory” into practice. While I’ve been eyeing the Khaite Danielle jeans for some time now, I’ve noticed that Gap and Aritzia offer similar options. But keeping the wisdom of Bornsetin in mind, I’m not going to buy the easy dupes. Perhaps in a few months, they might appear on a resale site, or I can utilize this time to further explore different brands and prices to discover the ideal match.

“Shop a little less. I’m not saying don’t buy stuff. I’m not saying get rid of everything you have. I’m just saying: Maybe have one extra thought,” said Bornstein.

-As always, elevate your wardrobe with respected fashion and embrace the shift in style