I was disappointed (yet again) this week when my latest O Magazine newsletter contained a link to an article on fashion finds under $100. Apparently, you can get an entire dress for $30, but the matching belt is $99…and that’s only if you use the special code…and the belt doesn’t even come with fireworks or anything. I don’t consider that a fashion find. I realize that probably makes me sound like a cheap skate (an accurate assessment), but I was born in the 1980s with the financial sensibilities of someone born in the 1890s, so get off my lawn! Also, I grew up kinda poor. We were technically middle class, but my parents were terrible with money. (They’re good people and I don’t begrudge my parents anything, despite the amount of angsty ’90s rock that I love.) It just means that I will always have Poor Person Mentality. In fact, I’m proud of it. It’s wasteful to spend $100 on a pair of trousers when you can get them for $15 in the clearance section of Old Navy. I know that there’s a difference between the materials used, the quality of thread used to sew seams, etc. However, if you are patient, you can get good deals on quality clothes at a variety of stores. Plus, a small price tag doesn’t have to equal low quality clothing.
I’ve also heard the theory about “investing” in basic pieces that will last years. I wear the same clothes for years and years, but I still don’t “invest” more than $30 on any single item of clothing and no more than $50 on a coat or shoes. Most people get tired of their clothes after a year or two. Most of the people I know get tired of their clothes even sooner (or they gain/lose weight, get stains on the clothing, tear holes in the clothing, etc.) Furthermore, think about what it means to “invest”. If you make $15/hr (that’s an average of the “all occupations mean”, and the two ranges for the top 10 non-nurse occupations from the 4th para. of this 2011 report from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, not completely accurate, I know, but this is my personal blog), then you have to work a full eight-hour day to buy that $99 belt (think about income tax, sales tax, any gas spent going to the store, shipping costs if buying online, time spent shopping, etc.) So when I think about buying anything, I always think, “Was this worth X hours of work?” I have yet to see a pair of pants worth a full day’s work, much less a belt.
That being said, if something is handmade from socially and environmentally responsible materials, I will admit that the product is worth more than something that is made out of kittens and sewn by children in a sweatshop. That does not mean that I will pay $99 for a belt, but it does mean that I won’t bitch about it as much.