Please stop saying that

Please Stop Saying That

As a stylist, I feel it’s my professional duty to compliment great style when I see it. Over the last few years I’ve noticed a familiar trend developing. After dishing out a well-deserved compliment, I often hear a reply similar to, “Thanks, it was only twenty bucks!” Ugh. It’s so disappointing to hear someone boast about how little they paid for their outfit. Please stop saying that.

There are so many things to love about a garment besides its price. For example, I love the way my favourite navy sweater feels when I slip it on; I love the way my animal-print maxi dress flutters while I walk; and I love reminiscing about my first trip to France when I wear my cropped red jacket. When deciding to make a purchase the price of a garment will always be a consideration, but should it be the primary consideration? If the main reason you like a garment is because of its low price, maybe you don’t really like it at all!

In Ellen Ruppel Shell’s compelling book “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture,” she discusses the history of consumerism and how we began to embrace cheaply made goods, including clothing. “Despite growing prosperity, the new middle class found it increasingly difficult to keep up, and, as do many of us today, started to ‘trade down’ to ‘trade up.’” In order to be able to afford an expensive trip or vehicle, middle-class consumers cut corners on other goods such as clothing. Then, as more people embraced this strategy, and flaunted their low-priced goods, discount shopping lost its stigma.

I’ve heard tales of fast fashion bargains and too-good-to-pass-up deals from friends, family, colleagues, and clients across the socioeconomic spectrum. The allure of getting something for next-to-nothing is a temptation at every income bracket. My mom once bought a faux snakeskin trench coat because, “It was such a good deal, Kristin!” Needless to say, the only time this trench coat saw the light of day was when my brothers and I trotted it out for a laugh.

The issue, as Ellen Ruppel Shell notes, is that our “focus shifted from the object to the deal.” If the deal is good and the price is low enough, the product being considered is almost inconsequential.

The issue, as Ellen Ruppel Shell notes, is that our “focus shifted from the object to the deal.” If the deal is good and the price is low enough, the product being considered is almost inconsequential. When someone reacts to a compliment by blurting out the low price they paid it’s because it was the deal that sold them on the garment. Other attributes, such as its shape, colour, feel, or sustainability credentials, weren’t meaningful factors.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb which says: “A cheap price is a shortcut to being cheated.” To me, this means a garments’ enticingly low price can cheat you out of the opportunity to wear clothing that truly makes you feel great. It’s a classic dilemma: quality or quantity? I don’t want to sacrifice the joy I feel when I re-wear one of my favourite pieces, in exchange for a closet full of new items I wouldn’t even try on, let alone buy, were it not for their deep discounts. Clothing is our chosen skin. It envelops us through all of life’s moments and, in doing so, acquires a shared history. When I look in my closet I don’t just see price tags and deals, I see date nights, weekends away, job interviews, and celebrations. Let’s choose garments we are proud to experience life with.

It’s important for all of us to think more critically about our purchases because, thanks to fast fashion, our access to extremely low-priced clothing extends far beyond sale season. Endless temptations await us instore and online. The next time you’re debating a purchase take time to analyze what it is about the garment you like. Would you have considered it at all if not for its price tag? Having a more thoughtful approach to shopping will endear us to our clothing and, thankfully, provide us with alternative responses when complimented on our outfits! 😉

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