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?