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I hate my clothes. My wardrobe is full of 70% blehs. There is plenty of stuff to wear but at the same time there is absolutely nothing to wear.
Since I spoke so much of my awesome frugal wins last time, I decided to speak my mind about a perpetual frugal fail.
Update: I’ve been shopping on ThredUp for my new capsule wardrobe! Check out my review of ThredUp’s Goody Boxes and $10 off your next ThredUp order!
Most of my entire wardrobe pre-husband has been either second-hand donations from my mom’s friends, the clearance rack off Ross or whatever they had at Forever 21 at the time. I grew up in a low-income household and all we did was shop the clearance rack. If it’s on sale, get it, doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit right – just get it! That’s the mentality passed down by my mother who continues to shop junk today.
I remember my mother would return from Ross with something hideous…like a turtle shell colored knapsack and exclaim “look what they had on sale for $14.99!” She has a bunch of equally hideous plastic cloth-like bags that became nothing more than decorative trash in the corner of the room. She’s stuck on the price tag and object.
It’s a vigorous hoarding action confused with frugality by focusing for the bottom rung instead of the entire picture.
Exposure to High End
A friend of ours flew into town and we dropped by a high-end shopping plaza in Seattle to window shop. She has high-end taste in anything you can wear, eat and/or carry. She also has about 6 or 7 classic Louis Vuitton bags in her arsenal. I was tagging along because she said she would buy me a pretzel (which they didn’t even sell in that plaza because it was that fancy.)
Just imagine grabbing something from my closet versus her closet. There would simply be no comparison. We went inside Nordstroms and while she was inquiring on the status of her reservation for a handbag (takes 8 months on the wait-list for a Chanel apparently) I poked around the stuff they had on display in the other parts of the store.
I never understood expensive clothing before this. There’s not a single brand higher than Forever 21 in my closet. Why would I overpay for something that cost 10x times as much when there’s a cheaper alternative for a comparatively lesser quality? It’s just clothes right? My friend was an intelligent, no non-sense diva; how does she justify $125 for a sweater and $8,000 for a handbag?
Now she never gave me the lecture (although I wish she did) but I eventually pieced it out myself with the help of…stalking Luxe. Lol! 🙄
The Flippin’ Difference
Let’s get the most basic argument out-of-the-way. First of all, you can feel the difference. It’s night and day. I was poking around Nordstrom and touching everything like a pervert. The few thrift stores I rummage in has sections with designer brands like Prada and Misook. Even in its pre-owned condition, they were still light years better in quality than what I worn after just one single wash. I did a blind test with myself (picking out thrift things and guessing their brand range) which proves I either have a sixth sense knowing when something is higher end or the higher end things are drastically better in the most subdued way. I’d like to think it’s the latter. So that takes care of quality.
Also, I hate scratchy tags. 20% of my closet has scratchy tags. If I cut those off, then they’ll really have no value what-so-ever. What evil, careless people made scratchy tags. Yeah, like dude, I so want to associate your brand with my itchy discomfort.
I didn’t feel embarrassed in comparison to her clothes in a money/class sense but I did feel very embarrassed at my blindness when it comes to the finances behind clothing. After it’s put into money terms, my ears immediately perked up. If you don’t care about clothes, totally fine. We’re not a fashion blog, we’re a personal finance blog.
But you must speak money right?
If you talk money then listen: clothing is like investing.
Nothing makes more money sense than buying utility and reliability because these are the characteristics that can fare over a bad spot. In the investment world, historically well performing stocks are called blue chips. Blue chips are a key way to building wealth (says Warren freakin’ Buffett) and it’s also the same philosophy you should apply to clothing.
You should invest in your clothes like how you would invest in a stock. Remember the Birkin bag that beat the SPX?
ROI (Return on Investment)
I can’t tell you how many pairs of “factory odd” jeans I have in my closet yet I’ve never worn once. Therefore, they officially have a utilitarian value of zero. It doesn’t matter if they costed one penny, I still wasted that penny.
The funny thing is I felt right splurging for an occasion. That’s where fast fashion “logic” brought me. It’s an important event so you have to dress your best, right? Therefore it is a good excuse to splurge!
If you think about it, those items were “special occasions” which means the utilitarian efforts of those pieces were also very low.
It’s not always about the money as a rate of return.
Every Christmas I buy a few hundred dollars worth of brand new clothes in one go from China. The particular brand (Dabuwawa translates to Mainland Doll) I buy is higher quality than your typical oversea export and they have presence in Asia but –ahem– I don’t live in Asia. I can’t resell them because I have no access to TaoBao (Chinese version of eBay). There is no resale value (or hardly any) in the United States. But I still like them and buy them because they make me happy. It’s a style I cannot find in American apparel.
Those purchases, I’ve only wore it on occasion, because they’re not very American and I feel awkward when people stare at me. The utilitarian route is similar to the jeans I never wore except…one of my adorable wool costume capes cost about $100 and I wore it once because not many occasions calls for…well..a cape! But I still love my super cute cape and I wear it if an occasion called! If it was anything else:
One time wear at $100 is NOT frugal!
Another giant thorn in my side is simply looking over my closet and realizing I have no value in what I own. No liquidity = two horrific words to any investor.
When I was younger, I was the girl who didn’t want to repeat the same outfit. I fell victim to fast fashion and it’s such a money pit.
After I started clearing out my closet I was like…wait..I don’t have anything of value. I will probably toss my entire closet to the thrift store bins near by house but I don’t even think they want it. All of my stuff is trash. It’s utterly wasteful both environmentally and monetarily.
It will take forever to move this stuff. I have to beg someone to take this stuff that I paid a fair dollar for. That hurts. That hurts a lot. I’d like to think I’m smart with my money (and for the most part I am…) :\
The Price is Always Too High For Junk!
Let’s take into consideration the factory odd pair of jeans I purchased for $7.99 on a clearance tag sale a few years back. The price seemed right even though the fit was on the awkward side. I brought it anyway because where can you find new jeans for $8 anymore? But I have never wore those pairs of jeans. Why did I buy it then? That makes no sense…
Those pairs of unworn jeans have provided me zero value so far. I would go and resell my factory odd $7.99 jeans but guess what they’re worth? Nothing. They’re technically new yes but they have a very “meh” brand. Not to mention they are irregular as well as technically pre-owned. They’re also getting a bit stale in terms of style; no one wears baggy white bell bottoms anymore.
If I go on eBay with nice pictures to sell them, at best they would go for $2. After shipping and fees, I probably say I’ll be in the hole for $-5 more from selling them than if I just kept them! That’s my return on investment? That’s a fail.
Even if I donate them there is a good chance that my local Goodwill will not clock them into inventory. They have better options donated by other people than my irregular jeans. Therefore, my jeans will probably end up in a landfill and I’ve contributed to the fall of this planet.
“So a large portion of it—84% of used clothing to be precise—ends up in a landfill, where all the synthetic materials that went into making it in the first place either seep into the groundwater or are incinerated into the air as toxic chemicals. All because you wanted to save some money by shopping at Forever 21. YOUR CARDIGAN JUST CONTRIBUTED TO CLIMATE CHANGE. GOOD JOB.” – Bitches Get Riches
This is even worst than selling a stock at a loss. This isn’t like from a financial point of view if you were selling a losing stock. There is no tax and business incentives involved to cut your losses. The United States government is not going to give me tax credit for a pair factory odd jeans that lost its value.
So in the end, I’m at a 100% loss and I’m stuck with another piece of trash in the back of my closet and/or another addition to the landfill. Duck.
But wait, the stink with fast fashion doesn’t stop there! One of my favorite items was a bright magenta coat, a gift from mom. I usually hate the cheap things she gives me (“only $20!”) but this coat was soft and super warm too! “Yay” I thought to myself, “she brought something good.”
Then I washed it.
I was at the doctor’s office getting a check up and the nurse pointed out the entire tail-end of my blouse was covered in bright magenta fibers. My magenta coat was pilling and leaving bright magenta fibers all over the place. The bus. The doctor’s office. Myself. Howwwww embarrassing.
I really liked that coat. It provided great utilitarian value but it’s as durable as a sandcastle during high tide.
That’s like getting to know someone, trusting them and then having them disappear on you. Also, they pick-pocketed you.
I’m a size 4 and even if my legacy is a size 16 and they can’t use anything, in a rough spot, I would hope the word “vintage” would be able to help them out. Hopefully, at least one piece from my arsenal will be worth something by the time it reaches them.
I haven’t heard of anyone handing down a sock or a coat so I’m not backing up that elementary clothing can be a legacy. But legacy to me meshes together longevity and timelessness which are characteristics that is reflected in almost every avenue of modern life. This is one of my favorite concepts. Legacy! Even the syllables of that word is romantic!
If you have the money (and I would like to say we do and Jared is a wonderful provider) then the option of shopping smarter makes a lot of sense. That’s why I finally decided to pull the trigger on my “eBay cleanse” (crediting Millennial Money Diaries for the term 😋).
I’m finally doing something about it!
After I’m done decluttering and selling off/giving away my stuff then I need to apply a new principle to clothing. BUT FIRST, I have to declutter first or else they’ll never ever see light from the back of my closet and I will forever have clutter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still stingy with our money and I don’t feel passionate about clothes to go ballistics in Nordstrom and wait 8 months for an $8,000 handbag. There is a better way than both extremes and that lands in the area of truly “frugal & eco-friendly things” you can do to for your closet.
Hallelujah thrifty gods, I see the light.
This new development has nothing to do with my ego or appearance. I’m married, I don’t care, my man loves me even if I chose to live in a dumpster like Oscar from Sesame Street. We’ve both been through a lot together and our relationship will not be disturbed by the price of fabric.
Does that mean you’re going to blow $800 on a jacket?!
What? No, probably not. I have a particular preference for “costumes” which breaks down into Dabuwawa or Hanfu style that I’ll splurge despite the lack of usefulness. I just like them. I’ve liked both styles for years.
I think fashion is still a very personal thing and it’s not always about the investments. But it’s smart to have my staples (tees, jackets, jeans) to be sturdy and to hold it’s value.
An item of clothing is only worth as much as what someone will pay for it. It’s the same case pretty much everything. That’s why a 6,600 square foot loft in St. Louis, Michigan goes for $1.2 million and a 6,600 square foot loft in West Chelsea, New York go for $12.5 million.
I think that’s what tripped me up so much before. You basically have to shell out for anything good and since that’s out of reach…you’re just stuck with crappola from Forever 21 right? That’s also why my mom can’t wrap her head around it. There’s a difference between spoiling yourself with a department store item fresh and new with tags and a personal shopper. I’m not into that. I’m still very frugal. But I see utility now.
I understand the real frugality behind an item of much utility, quality, and resale. (And just throwing it in there: morally conscious production.)
I’m not going to buy a lot – that would be like this nightmare all over again. I’m also having trouble coming up with a basic attack plan of what I need if I did empty out my closet. I wonder if I can keep my entire closet under 25 items…
*I have no intention of buying new; I apply the principles to that of a car. The moment that tag is off, it’s like I drove a new car off the lot, I lost 25% of what I paid right then and there. I rather have someone else take that blow for me.
*Trying the capsule wardrobe idea!! I rather have 2 expensive but amazing things that I love than 12 cheap crappie things that I will eventually hate. I believe it’s going to save money in the long-run and avoid the cluttered mess I’m in now.
So that’s in the works for the next few months. I’m clearing out everything and rebuilding a new wardrobe from the bottom up. How exciting!
What do you guys think? Am I doing the right thing? Do you have any advice for me? What is your clothing budget? What’s your favorite store/brand/eBay seller? I would love to hear anything right now.
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