Friday, September 27, 2013

The Value of Investment Purchases ///

Lately, I've been re-evaluating my fashion purchases.  I love to shop as much as the next person, but after cleaning out my closet recently and finding far too much to toss/donate, I came to the conclusion that I'm not investing on classic pieces that will see me through the years.

I think people hear the word 'classic' and images of tweeds, button-down shirts, trousers and loafers come to mind, and although I love all of these babies {have you checked out Jack Wills or Steven Alan?}, I know they're not for everyone.  What I, personally, mean by 'classic' is something that you just absolutely adore.  A piece you love so much you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you'll be adorning yourself with it for years to come.  In fact, it'll fall apart before you want to stop wearing it.  That's how much you love it.

I read a book recently:  Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline.  It was a true eye-opener.  In the back of our minds I think we all have an a certain assumption of what the conditions for textile factory workers are.  In many areas across the world, those conditions are, indeed, terrible.  And to add insult to injury, they're paid too little to even live on. 
More often than not, extended families {as opposed to just parents and children} that work in textile factories are forced to live under the same {tiny} roof to save money and get by.

The most poignant idea I read in Elizabeth’s book was this:  When you spend $7 on what looks like a fabulous blouse from Forever 21 {for example}, how much of that $7 went to the laborer who made it?  Imagine how that money is divvied out.  A certain percentage must be allotted to cost of materials, shipment costs {how much it will cost for the factory owner to send the blouse to the fashion retailer in the USA}, factory operation/maintenance costs, laborer costs {how much the laborer gets paid to make it} and very possibly more.  Suddenly, $7 split up that way doesn’t seem like a lot.  The laborer won’t get very much for making that blouse.

So how does that laborer make any money at all?  They make hundreds {if not more} of that same blouse.  And they have to make them fast.  When production is that rapid, quality is lost.  That blouse may only have cost $7, but it’s a good thing because it certainly won’t live out the year!

After I read Elizabeth Cline’s book, I found myself reshuffling my fashion priorities and asking myself new questions:  How often will I wear this?  Do I really love this?  Where can I realistically wear this?

I was surprised {while going through my wardrobe} how little I wore many of my garments.  And it wasn’t just because of the seasons.  That sweater wasn’t lying on the bottom of my dresser drawer because it was a little too warm out.  I wasn’t wearing it because it had 1 inch long studs festooning the shoulders.  Only a year later that sweater seemed entirely outdated.  That’s about $25 I’ll never get back.

So, I made the decision to only buy items that I absolutely adore; things that flatter me, but will withstand the test of time.  I must confess, I’m pretty sure that if I walked into Forever 21 or H&M or Gap, I could find something I love within minutes.  But I know that that dress or top or pair of shoes won’t last.  They’ll tear easily, pill too quickly, stain randomly, shrink or {even worse!} stretch out unexpectedly.  Just in one closet clean sweep alone I probably donated/tossed out a couple hundred dollars worth of items that I only wore a handful of times because they’re already outdated or they simply fell apart.

It’s a personal decision, but in my eyes, I’d rather spend a little more on clothes that will last rather than a few dollars on clothes that are too trendy and go out of style within months or fall apart after one season.  It means I shop a lot less; hardly ever as a matter of fact.  But I prefer it that way.  I do a lot of window shopping and that has its merits.  I find myself coming back to the same dress or blazer or pair of shoes; coveting them and drooling over how beautiful they are.  I can’t afford them now, but I’ll save up for them.  It means that when I actually can get them, I love them that much more because I had to wait and earn them.  Saving makes them special and the quality is top notch.

And there’s the added benefit of being capable of looking on 5-year-old photos of myself and not exclaiming, “Oh my Gad!  What, did I live in neon and studs?!”  My ‘slow fashion’ purchases will look fabulous 1 year from now, 5 years and decades into the future!  I say ‘slow fashion’ because better quality clothes are made in smaller factories where time is taken to produce a superior garment.  The laborers here are paid much more {something they can actually live on} and the batches are smaller so attention can be paid to attractive details that you just don’t find in places like Forever 21 or H&M.

In the meantime, I still have old clothes that I feel guilty throwing away.  So, I’m going to refashion them.  This old dress for example is something I wore maybe twice and will never wear again.  This was a Marshall’s purchase.  I took the studs lining the hem and cut them off.  Yes, studs are trendy, but I’m hoping to find an understated way of re-fashioning them.  Perhaps applied to an old clutch?  Or over the pocket of a baggy old T-shirt?  Or {along a completely different vein} maybe I’ll glue them to a picture frame to adorn my room.  {Stay tuned!}

I’m not suggesting that every time someone needs a new top they absolutely must spend at least $100.  But I can’t be the only one who’s cleaned out their closet and been shocked with how much they tossed!  And if you added up all those clothes, how much did you throw away?  You may have only spent $15 on a sweater and $10 on a top and $20 on shoes, but you just tossed two sweaters, four tops and three pairs of shoes.  That’s $130!  That kind of money could buy you one nice silk top.  $130 for one item may make some gasp, but you're not really buying a label, it’s investing in a piece that will last.  The reason that it’s more expensive is because often it’s made from biodegradable or natural fibers (silk, cotton, linen, etc.), laborers are paid more, and the facilities are smaller with better working conditions.

It’s food for thought, at any rate.

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