A bit more of an introspective post from me today… I mentioned at the start of the year that I was going to try to invest more of my money into experiences over ‘things’, by which I basically meant ‘clothes’ – by far my biggest area of spend when it comes to anything outside basic subsistence. Actually, I’ve gone one step further than that and have also been trying to take a whole new attitude to buying fashion – for the first time ever I’m trying to make a real effort to prioritise quality over quantity. Now, I’m a real bargain hunter and I can’t resist a cute thing regardless of how it’s made or where it’s from, anything under £20 seems a good deal to me.
However, I think I just got to that point where I realised I was buying things primarily because they were cheap – meaning I had money leftover to buy other cheap things – and not because I really wanted to wear them. It turned out some of the items just weren’t that nice due to poor construction of materials, or actually I just didn’t like them that much after all. And after so many years of buying like this I’ve got nowhere to store anything, in a house that was rather lacking in options to start with. I wasn’t wearing some of it because it was quite literally out of sight and out of mind, crammed into the back of a drawer somewhere. I realised that the solution to all this could be to invest more of my limited shopping funds into quality. It would mean less stuff, but maybe that was a good thing!
So while I didn’t really ‘do’ resolutions this year, I had already started down this path to change my shopping ways and I’m still at it several months later. But is choosing quality over quantity really worth it? And can I keep it up?
1. I really love the things I buy
Take it from me, there’s nothing like dropping £100 on a dress to make you question whether or not you really want it. To even consider that spend of money on one addition to my wardrobe, I have to essentially not be able to live without it… oh ok, maybe I can live without it, but perhaps my life would be of a much poorer quality if I didn’t have a dress with an Eiffel Tower print on it for my birthday. The great thing about spending money on quality goods is that it’s a much more considered and therefore less impulse purchase and because I feel guilt at buying pretty much anything over £20, it’s a process that takes many, many days before I persuade myself it’s a good idea. The result is that by the time said item turns up, I’ve basically spent weeks imagining all the things we’ll do and all the fun we’ll have together, so by the time it gets here I’m practically considering eloping with it to Vegas. Actually, now that I think about it, that dress would be perfect in Vegas… Anyway, the result is I’ve got something I love and already know how I’ll wear in multiple ways and can’t wait to do so – in terms of life enrichment, quality wins.
2. The obvious – it’s usually better made
Now, it’s no guarantee that if you’re dropping £100 on a dress that it will be worth every penny you spend on it, but it usually greatly helps. Admittedly, sometimes you’re paying partly for the ethics of how the item was produced too (thinking of brands like Bernie Dexter and Tara Starlet, for example) – i.e. without harsh factory labour in China etc. That also feels good for me the buyer, but actually I don’t know enough about where everything I buy is made to make that a deciding factor in my choices (I know, I’m the worst kind of person). The quality though – the living, breathing beauty of some of these more expensive pieces, is definitely something I can appreciate in very real terms. Take my Coast dress from last year; the cut of this dress, the thickness of the material, the lining – it all spoke of a higher standard of production than I’m used to and it showed in how it looked on me. It was what, in fact, got the wheels turning in my head about whether I should really rethinking my spending habits in the first place… These are pieces you buy to treasure because mostly, they’re built to last. They’re not things that will be crammed down the back of a drawer (in a random room of the house by this point) and forgotten about.
3. The beautiful designs
Sometimes you get lucky and find a cute novelty-print skirt in a supermarket
, but most of the time if you want something extra special you can expect to pay for it. I guess it makes sense; if you’re a brand making clothes for a budget, you want to mass produce, cheaply, the kind of things that the majority of people will want to buy. When you apply this logic to clothing, it starts to become clear why particular patterns, styles or finishes might cost a bit more. And while I did find an amazing pattern in a supermarket, the skirt wasn’t even close to the fullness of a high-end repro brand’s. It feels like for the truly beautiful pieces of clothing, the ones that are as pretty as they are well-made, you need to pay more to a brand that produces higher-quality items. Take my pair of pink glittery Irregular Choice bridesmaid shoes
– you’d be unlikely to find such an original and equal equivalent from a cheaper shop; and if you did, you could bet the glitter wouldn’t be of the same finish – perhaps it would even fall off. It certainly wouldn’t have the same high quality lining on the inside or the suede heel. It’s the extra touches that can take an item from everyday to extra special and you’re just more likely to find those from a brand that charges for them. Sometimes, owning something that is that bit more extraordinary now feels more worth the price to me.
4. The excitement of saving for ‘best’
A pattern I’ve noticed emerge since investing more in quality pieces is that I’m particularly doing so to wear them for special occasions. This just seems to be the way it’s working for me so far, although I wouldn’t rule out e.g. investing in a winter coat I’d wear every day. What I’ve realised is that having something really special to wear for a particular event or activity just makes me look forward to it all the more. Perhaps this is something to do with how interconnected my confidence is with my appearance, but hey, us introverts need to take what we can get where we can get it for enjoying leaving the house, right? Along with all the social anxiety and dread is a feeling of looking forward to wearing something really special. I should probably clarify that I’m not buying expensive things just to wear them on one occasion once, more that this is the first time I’m allowing myself to wear them.
1. When the price isn’t justified
Sometimes when you spend a lot of money on something, it’s worth it because you get what you paid for. But there are times when even quality is overpriced and there are times when a price tag isn’t justified at all. I don’t want to name and shame this particular brand, but there is currently a dress in my closet that thankfully I didn’t pay full price for, which would have been £80. It’s covered in good quality sequins that don’t come loose – great; it’s got boning and fits like a mini-corset up top; excellent; it’s got an elasticated inside strap so that with the boning as well you can ditch the bra; amazing… or at least it was amazing, until on only the second time I did it up the strap snapped clean in half. Oh, and one of the sides of the dress hasn’t been stitched correctly, so there’s a weird lump of fabric on the hip (I swear it isn’t my body). And you know what else? The hem is wonky. As I say, I didn’t pay full price for it so when I complained to the company and they didn’t reply (!) I kind of gave up. But it really made me wary. This was a shop that rarely has discounts, so I expect many ladies bought that dress full price. If I had, I would have been even more upset. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time I’ve heard of a brand not living up to its prices, particularly in the repro world. I genuinely think I’d send something back that wasn’t worth the money, but what a lot of hassle for all involved! It can be very hard to tell if something is overpriced before it turns up.
2. When it goes in a sale eventually anyway
It’s all well and good spending £100 on a dress, but there’s nothing like that feeling of dismay when it turns up on Zulily for £66 a few weeks later (looking at you, Eiffel Tower dress, gah!). I’ve so far tried to be savvy, and particularly invested in those brands where I know their discounts or sales are few and far between. Case in point for the pieces in the picture above – Pinup Couture, Bernie Dexter and Victory Parade don’t usually come down that far in price. Until Bernie decided to partner with Zulily, anyway. PUG will have the odd 15-25% off for special occasions, Bernie Dexter often has 25% off deals but (apart from Zulily clearance – no I can’t get over it), that’s it and Victory Parade pretty much never. Something I always do with these high-priced brands is put them in my basket, go through checkout until payment and then exit the site. PUG and Bernie Dexter both sent me discount codes when I did this, so it can be a handy tactic. But if things get knocked down I’m gutted. Particularly because I’ve had to pay custom fees and international shipping rates on top of the item prices in these cases. I just don’t think I can accept that I haven’t got the best price for something – that part of the bargain hunter in me will never go away, I’m fairly sure.
3. Feeling pushed to invest when I can’t afford it
If I’ve got to the point that I love something so much that I’m considering spending a fair amount of money on it, the next thing that will happen is the ‘But what if it goes out of stock before I have the cash…?’ fear. I have so far found I can only tolerate this for about a week, before I crack and put it on my credit card. Earlier this year, this happened with three separate, pricey things and suddenly my credit card had nearly £250 worth of debt on it. I felt dreadful about this all month and it took me a few pay days to recover from such a hit in one go. I just don’t have the kind of disposable income to be able to spend this kind of money on clothes in one month, but in all cases I couldn’t bear to let the item go, particularly as I am planning to wear them on my birthday weekend. Often these expensive brands have high prices because their pieces are limited, and knowing this does nothing to help my worry…
4. Genuine fear of damage
Seriously, what will I do if I drop something down my Bernie dress?! It’s not like something I’ve spent less on. I’ve emotionally and financially invested in higher quality pieces and can’t stand the idea that I might accidentally ruin one. I mentioned I’m a chocoholic before – you have no idea how many pieces of clothing I’ve dropped chocolate crumbs on. I don’t let myself have Cadbury Flakes anymore because I end up wearing more of it than I eat. Mostly, these wash out just fine. What doesn’t help though, is when I panic and try to get the stain off before it goes in the wash and smoosh it into a light fabric. I’m definitely going to panic if I get something on an Eiffel Tower… And that’s just chocolate. I don’t tend to be a clumsy eater, but if I’ve got something new, the spillage risk is, for some reason, about 90% higher in the first week of its life vs a year. You can up that to 95% if the item is light coloured – like when I dropped something in my lap while wearing white and black patterned trousers the other week the first time I wore them (yes, on a white bit). I don’t like stressing like this about expensive clothes, so I’m less likely to wear them casually over something I don’t feel as attached to. Which just seems a shame!
So, all in all, I’ve definitely changed my shopping habits this year but I don’t think I’ll ever feel that happy investing in pieces. If I love them I’ll get over it, until they go in a sale that is! Then I tend to look at them like they’ve personally conned me and it takes the happy buyer edge off a bit… So, maybe a few more higher price items will join my wardrobe this year, but with buying a house and a wedding to pay for it’s now a bit less of a priority again.
What about you, what are your thoughts on the quality vs quantity debate?