Quality vs. Cheap Clothing – When Spending Money Is Worth It

Classic Trousers from Nordstrom

Classic Trousers – Nordstrom


I recently read an article about the 5 things you should never buy from Old Navy. I wasn’t surprised to see the article. And none of the items mentioned were things I would consider buying at Old Navy anyway – sweaters, t-shirts, shoes. Junk! If you’ve been in to a discount store lately you know what I’m talking about. No hems, just a surged edge. Ultra thin fabric that is almost sheer. To me it screams CHEAP! Cheap clothes may have a purposes, but for most things they’re more a waste of money.

Really, though, what kind of clothing should I expect for $5? I look at it as disposable clothes. And it saddens and frustrates me that the garment industry has come to this. That we, the consuming public, have been so loud about our demand for low cost clothing that we’re now given craptastic things and we’re joyously stocking up.

Disposable clothing has its place, like when you’re painting or scrubbing the grill. You just have to be willing to part with the clothes if they get ruined. On a daily basis, though, I don’t see my clothes as disposable. It’s not how I grew up. I know times were different ‘back them’ – yah, I’m talking about the 70s and 80s. Clothes were more expensive (well, from my perspective as the kid begging my mom for money to shop) and I was expected to take care of them so they would last.

There was no shopping at Old Navy, H&M, Target or Walmart. We had JC Penney and Sears for the most part, until I moved to southern California and the world of the mall opened up and all those specialty stores came to life. Wet Seal was ‘the store’. And everything was. so. expensive! But it was well made and it lasted. Well, at least for the school year.

As I was growing up I learned about ‘investment’ clothing. My Auntie Emma would take me shopping at Bullocks, Buffums, and Nordstrom. Shoes and clothes there were considerably more than the Sears or even Dillard’s prices I was familiar with. But, oh, the difference was so noticeable. I’m not talking about the service. I’m just talking about how the clothes were made. Not itchy fabrics, no bulky seams.

Auntie Emma dressed impeccably. She didn’t have a closet overflowing with clothes but she had plenty. She knew her basic style and built up on that. Start with the basics and buy the best! I can’t tell you how many times I heard that. She gladly paid $50 for a pair of shoes for me when cheaper ones could be had. But not only did I take good care of those shoes, my feet didn’t hurt and they lasted much longer than my less expensive and more cheaply made ones.

My closet is a mish mash of things. As you know, I am not good at shopping. I get overwhelmed and confused. Do I go for the more expensive well-made piece or do I just plunk down what already seems like a lot of money for something that won’t last very long? And why would I pay $12 for a blouse that is ‘Dry Clean Only’ which would end up costing me more to care for it? Sure, if that $12 is the sale price for a $90 blouse I can see it. But if I’m buying BabyGirl a dress at Costco, does it really make sense to then pay more to care for it than the dress costs? Confusion!

I know that there really is no such thing as ‘investment clothing’. That it’s a misnomer to get people to spend a ton of money on designer names. What I’m really focusing on is classic, well-made, clothing. Clothing that will remain stylish over the years because it’s well-made and will actually last more than a few months.

Old Navy never has been a store I shop at frequently, but the article was more of a sign about how clothing stores have been lowering the bar. Overall, I feel clothing quality is going down. But prices keep going up. What to do?

How do you shop? What are your ‘go to’ pieces? Does anyone else seem to think clothing quality is going downhill?


If You Say Yes To The Dress What Do You Have To Give Up?

Wedding 1994 photo (c) All rights reserved

Just a few weeks ago the world (ok, maybe not the whole world but enough of the world so that the news media could say ‘the world’) was mesmerized by the real-life marriage of a prince to his princess. There was speculation for weeks about the dress, the flowers, the hair, the hats and the guest list. And, of course, THE KISS!

I watched the royal wedding with BabyGirl and she will make a fantastic color commentator one day. While she wasn’t that into the wedding, she was interested in the clothing, hats and fascinators. It’s not every day you get to see a full wedding, and in her short 8 years she’s yet to attend a wedding. Although, she does watch Say Yes To The Dress.

Estimates show the royal wedding topping out at $60 million. Yes, that includes the nearly $35 million for security most of us won’t need. So, we’re down to a more manageable $25 million! Take out the ring, which was an heirloom and didn’t really ‘cost’ anything and we’ve got, well, still pretty close to $25 million.

This budget is so far beyond anything most of us would find realistic. My entier wedding was less than $10,000 – in 1994. And by entire I mean ev.er.y.thing! It wasn’t planned as a frugal wedding. I had a wedding planner, 125+ guest, cocktail hour, hor d’oeuvres, DJ, brunch, amazing flowers, a fabulous chuppa, place cards, the whole shebang! And it was at one of the swankiest 5-star resorts in town.

Sure it took a lot of work and focus, but it was exactly what CycleGuy and I wanted. And we had so much fun. So much so that our wedding started at 10:30am and at 6pm the hotel asked us to leave so they could set up for another event. Partyin’, partyin’, yah!

So when people ask me how I did it, I’m pretty honest when I say I had a budget and I stuck to it. Yes, even back then I was saving for someday! As I watch Say Yes To The Dress with BabyGirl, we often see brides trying on dresses that far exceed their budget. While this is fine if the budget truly is flexible, that’s not usually the case. By spending more than you budgeted you have to end up cutting on something else. Sure, the bridal dress consultants will say that it’s your day and you should have the dress you want. And I’m not going to argue with that. But trying on an $8,000 dress when your budget is $5,000 will only frustrate you. Either you can’t get the dress you want or you’ll cut somewhere else and feel so many emotions because of that.

It’s really no different than going to Neiman Marcus when you can only afford Macy’s. If you can’t afford the Louboutin shoes, don’t try them on. Period. End of story! Why torture yourself? Sure it’s your money and you can spend it as you wish, but if you’re not willing to eat beans and rice for 3 months don’t spend your money like you will. Same goes for a wedding budget. If you’re not willing to live without something then stick to your budget.

The dress consultant will tell you to cut the flowers. The florist will tell you to cut the cocktail hour, the caterer will tell you to cut out the place cards, and so forth. Everyone is staking claim to part of someone else’s budget line. Don’t give in! If you’re getting married, remember it’s your wedding. If you’re a parent of the bride and you’re paying for it, stand your ground! BabyGirl has already informed me that she thinks $5,000 is a good price for a wedding dress. I hope she doesn’t think it will be adjusted for inflation!

Weddings are no different than any other party. If you have a budget, stick to it. No, you won’t be able to serve Dom Perignon and Crystal on your $250 budget for a holiday party. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice party. I know you’ll agree with me that expensive parties aren’t always the best parties. I know you’ve been to those parties where they go all out and as soon as you get in the car you’re trying to figure out where the nearest burger joint is at.

I’ve got a Bat Mitzvah to pay for long before a wedding is on my radar. And don’t think for one minute that I won’t be planning and budgeting that event down to the dime. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the pretties and sparkly. And I’m a sucker for those. But I won’t hock my future for things that, in the grand scheme of life, don’t really matter. And neither should you!

What would you be willing to cut if you really, really wanted something but it wasn’t in the immediate budget?