July 13, 2010

The Cost/Quality Conundrum

Since finishing Fashion Rehab I have been making more conscientious decisions when it comes to adding pieces to my wardrobe. Although I still love to buy things on sale, I am definitely not just buying for the sake of buying. Did I recently acquire an amazing CC Skye cuff from Gilt the other day at half-off? Yes, I did, but I have wanted one for quite some time and it was a nice way to round off my accessory collection. It is timeless.

You may find this odd, but the biggest buying conundrum I have faced since Fashion Rehab ended is actually in the t-shirt department. How can you really tell if one is going to last? A few weeks ago I bought an inexpensive striped t-shirt from H&M, not because it was trendy, but just because I REALLY liked it and stripes are so classic. My first choice was one from Rachel Pally but it was well over a $100 and I just couldn't bring myself to buy it. Unfortunately the H&M one now has a hole in it. You might have seen this coming, but truthfully I do own some pieces from H&M and other modest retailers that have lasted for years.

Which one is the best deal?

So you are probably wondering why I didn't buy more of an averaged priced t-shirt? Like one for $30? Or $50? Honestly, I just don't think you can guarantee that they would last any longer than one for less. Who is to say that the cheap and cheerful retailers don't share the cutting floor of the factories with the middle of the road labels? My dream (although a complete and utter economic nightmare for the entire manufacturing industry) would be for every label on every garment to say where it was made, by whom (the factory name plus the hourly wage of the employees), and a small list of the names of other labels being manufactured there. It would take all of the guesswork out of the shopping process! You would know if Michael Kors and Mossimo were cut from the same cloth, so to speak, and then you could make an informed decision about your purchase. Yes, certain dye lots are more expensive and of course any detail on an item drives up the cost, but regarding the basics I am just dying to know the truth. Are some stores marking up their products by 50% and then others by 500%? I know we pay for the names on labels but are we also just prey to some really savvy marketing by some very shrewd CEO's?

In the meantime I am going to grab my needle and thread and sew up that little hole in my H&M shirt. After all, isn't that what Fashion Rehab is all about?

Love, A


365 Fashion Rehab said...

I would like to comment and say "yay!" to my rehab sister, A! What a great piece - I totally agree with you on the label debate and have the closet full of inexpensive items bought well over five years ago to prove it!
This is quite the conundrum... Guess we'll just have to keep trying?
Love, P

Plummy said...

I've had the same conundrum recently. It's just so hard to tell what is going to last for some items. I have jeans from Target that have lasted me ages, and some more expensive ones that have stretched out almost immediately. Then again, you often see the reverse. Some things I don't mind fixing up--stitching on buttons (which seems to need doing, no matter what the price point of the item was!), restitching hems that have come undone, other small things. However, the most aggravating problem for me is fabric quality--it doesn't matter how nice the buttons look if the fabric has gotten pilly within a few wears! There's nothing to do about it either, which is annoying, and it's so hard to tell what fabrics will stand up well and which just won't. Price point seems to matter less with this problem as well. Thoughts?

HailesHeartsFashion said...

I love this post. I shop only on the highstreet simply because I dont have enough money to shop anywhere else. I occasionally splash out on shoes and even then I have noticed such a difference in how durable the item is in comparison with high street bought shoes. oh and btw I love ths $48 stripped top! Xx

Alecto said...

i suppose shopping all these years (and stringent criticisms from my mother) has taught me to know what is quality and what is not. i have, however, noticed that trend pieces from h&m tend to be of a lesser quality. i own shirts/skirts from h&m that have lasted for years, so i guess it's a bit of a hit & miss. i also own a shirt from madewell that got a hole in it the next day (and I didn't even wear it...go figure. so i have started to embrace the holes...they're almost inevitable regardless of the brand or price-tag.

Moda Epidemic said...

I have to do the same. Focus more on buying special pieces, quality pieces rather than just buying stuff on sale thinking that i might use it. The closet shrinks and I don't really know what i own anymore.
In terms of brands, I have to say some things like e.g. t-shirts i will not buy expensive. I see these t-shirts for $80 and i think that i can get the same one at Forever 21. And that $80 tshirt doesn't always mean better quality. When you shop a lot you can tell what is worth what. Touch it, feel the fabric and you'll know.

Yvonne said...

If I only had the top a few weeks and still had the receipt (er.. could find it in my purse) and it got a hole in a seam I'd be so taking it back and getting a credit.

Saying that when I shop I go a lot by the feel of the fabric. I avoid fabrics that are so thin as to make tissue paper look thick. I find things drape/fit best on me when they have a bit of lycra or spandex in them. They also seem to do a bit better in terms of lasting.

I'm a new reader and enjoying your blog :)


Marissa said...

I've found that higher-priced clothes are usually superior in terms of fit and feel, but as far as quality and holding up to daily wear... meh, not so much. I have plenty of Vince sweaters I've had to get rid of due to holes and pilling, and t-shirts only last so long no matter how expensive they are. If the cheap stuff fits well, I'm all about it.

P.S.- I'm now your 100th follower. Quite a milestone. Congrats!

LyddieGal said...

I do believe that most of the time you will be paying for a name rather than quality. It would be wonderful to know just where clothes are coming from.

I also continue to believe that how you care for the clothes is the biggest factor in their lifespan, no matter what the cost. So yes, I buy the $15 tees and then wash them on the delicate cycle and air dry. They last.

Chic on the Cheap

365 Fashion Rehab said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone's responses- thank you! It is true about how you care for your clothes, LyddieGal, I totally avoid the dryer as well, which also helps with the fading of fabrics.

Plummy- I agree, the pilling of sweaters is beyond annoying. I do know that acrylic is possibly the worst culprit of pilling and it seems to be in almost every sweater during the fall season. I try to go for 100% cotton or cashmere (when the wallet allows). Dry cleaning may also extend the shelf life of your sweaters, too!

Marissa- thx for being our 100th follower!!!

Love, A

InnyVinny said...

The method I usually employ is to first look at fabric content and then, if it's knitwear, rubbing the fabric together to see if it pills. I also check for stitching and finishing. It's a little obsessive/compulsive of me, but that's the only way I can tell.

Online shopping is always a dicey proposition, but as long as I can mend it, anything I can afford is fair game. =D

Oh, and everything I'm iffy on I wash in cold water on the delicate cycle and air dry like Lyddie above.

MandG said...

my mother taught me many tricks to spot quality. I guess her being raised in the depression and a trained seamstress (and home ec teacher) gave her a keen eye to quality details. There are simple things like how the seams are finished, are the patterns matched at the seams, how well are the fasteners attached, etc. But there are things which are harder, if not impossible, to see like how well will the colors keep before fading and will the fabric pill.
Trendy retailers like Guess and H&M are 90% crap, imo.

Sometimes you simply have to learn over time through trial and error.

Adelle (the Fashionista Lab) said...

This is a great post. I too wonder why some t-shirts are so expensive (i think we all remember that $1600+ ripped Balmain t-shirt!). I really like RVCA for t-shirts because they use a cotton/poly blend that is soft and drapes well. They look and feel fancy but retail for just about $30. Not bad!

I recently came across a super-cute Stella McCartney t-shirt on the Outnet that once cost a few hundred dollars, but was discounted to $124. The beauty of that t-shirt is that the print is original and so is almost like wearing art. I wouldn't pay $124 for it, but I would pay half of that. I'm guessing/hoping it would be well-made, too.

365 Fashion Rehab said...

MandG- thanks for sharing! I feel like I have a good eye for tailored pieces but it is true that it is so much harder with knits.
hey Fashionista Lab! Thanks for the tip about RVCA t-shirts, I will be sure to check them out. The price is right and like the fact that that they are a blend. I also am obsessed with the Outnet! It is the closest I can ever come to affording the luxe goods.
Love, A

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