Purpose: Western consumers are able to take shopping for granted, their major restriction being financial. This study aims to understand motivations to buy fashion items online in the culturally restrictive environment of Saudi Arabia, which imposes considerable fashion and behavioural restrictions, particularly on women. Design/methodology/approach: Qualitative research was conducted with a sample of 34 Saudi women in their home country providing a deep insight into the restrictions that women face when shopping and how they react to these restrictions. Two theoretical lenses, psychological reactance and system justification theories are invoked to understand and explain consumer behaviour. Findings: Motives for online shopping are quite different in a restrictive society. The definition of utilitarian motivations in online shopping is developed to reflect the drivers to overcome cultural restrictions or to align one’s shopping behaviour with them. Similarly, hedonic reasons for online purchases are expanded to incorporate nuances found only in such societies, where hedonic motivations include enjoying the breaking of societal restrictions. Originality/value: This study is conducted is focussed on a country in which little academic marketing research has taken place due to considerable restrictions on movement and access. Western texts on consumer behaviour are not fully appropriate for understanding such a society.