Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wardrobe Thoughts: When Saving Isn't Saving

In How To Dress Well On Practically Nothing, the author of the blog Couture Allure Vintage Fashion discusses a regular dressing on a budget feature in Ladies Home Journal -- specifically the column which ran in the October 1959 issue.

She writes:

The focus here is on investing in practical but versatile basics that you can accent in different ways with accessories. Mollie's coat wardrobe is complete with one tweed for everyday, a white dressier version, and an evening wrap. How many coats are in your closet? How many dollars have you invested in trendy styles, inexpensive fabrics, or unusual colors that don't work for everyday? Isn't it wiser in today's economy to spend more money on one practical coat in a high quality fabric and basic color that can be worn for years? A change of accessories changes the look in a few seconds.

Our mothers and grandmothers got along with far less clothing than we do today. Each piece of clothing was a carefully considered investment that was meant to last for several years, not several months.
This echoes the sentiments of my father, who always sighed (and argued and mocked) my mother's clothing purchases. He was (and still is) an advocate of building a wardrobe, not just buying garments because they were 'cute' or otherwise desirable -- or even on sale.

When my mother came home from the mall with bags, gleefully chattering about how this sweater was only $9.00, this skirt 50% off, these earrings too cute to pass up 'at that price', and "at $2 a pair, I had to get 3 pairs of gloves!" my father would sarcastically ask, "Just how much did you 'save' with all those bags?" (And he'd sue air quotes for emphasis too.)

When mom would reply with her total, he'd point out how she could have done better. For that amount -- no matter what the amount -- not only could she have had a better quality sweater, suit, etc., but one which was more practical too. And it was true.

For nearly every bargain $9.99 sweater she 'saved' $10 or more on, she had to run back to the mall for a skirt or jacket or slacks which would match it; it was no wardrobe item, but just a piece of clothing. And she had more sweaters in her dresser drawers (and boxes slid beneath the bed) than she could wear in two Midwestern winters.

For a $50 shopping spree of, for example, say 4 items at a 'savings' of another $50, she could have had one nice sweater, skirt, blazer etc. which would last her for years.

And how many pairs of gloves does a person need? Perhaps two (one at home and one in the car for adults; one to wear while the other pair dries for children). At such 'bargain' prices, mom (and all of us) would have been better off saving the $6 (or $16, if you count the number of gloves already owned) on cheap gloves to purchase one pair of more expensive, better quality gloves which would keep her hands warmer, wash better, & last longer. (Not to mention the money she'd then save not having to buy matching or co-ordinating scarves and hats!)

Mom still hasn't learned this. She still buys 'cute things at bargain prices' without thinking of building a wardrobe which will serve her -- or her budget -- well.

But me? I know better.

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