Quality vs. Quantity: The Fashion Edition

My heading is a smidge misleading, since I’m starting out with a list of tips for dirt-cheap clothes shopping, but I promise it’s all related, and I’ll get to answering the Quality vs. Quantity issue later. 

First, I’ll answer the question I get asked most often in relation to my wardrobe: “How do you pay so little for your clothes?”  The short answer? Goodwill + a lot of patience.  But since that answer won’t work for everyone, I decided to throw together develop a shopping philosophy for finding good clothes on the cheap. Here goes:

1) Know thyself: You’re thinking – “Really, Abbie? We just want tips on how to find name-brand stuff at rock-bottom prices, and you’re hitting us with cliché psychobabble. That’s it. I’m leaving to go find a real style blog like Kendi Everyday.”

But wait. Hear me out. If you have lots of shopping dough, then you can afford to be a style-chameleon, literally changing colors with every passing trend.  But if you want to save money, you need to have a rock-solid sense of your own personal style…and stand firm on that rock when ponchos and knee-high socks go waltzing by.

For example, my style could be described by the following words: feminine, detail-oriented, colorful, highly accessorized, a little funky, and more than a little obsessed with white/cream/ivory tops with some sort of scalloped, lacy, ruffly, button-detail-business going on.

The proof:

IMG_3647

That, my friends, is a heap of TWENTY-FIVE of the exact things I just described, accumulated over the past 5 years or more…one could argue my style is a bit too consistent. Also, if you happen to be less wordy than I and can condense the above description of my fashion sense into a one or two (or, heck, four) word description, I’m open to suggestions.  “Accessorized Funky Ruffled Feminine Clothes-Liker” doesn’t have a very good ring to it.

Regardless of my label, knowing “me” keeps me from getting frustrated when, say, I’m shopping at Goodwill, and I need to sift through a whole lot of “uh-uhs” to find just a few “yes, pleases” in a reasonable time span. I know what I like when I see it, and I know that I’m unlikely to find too much that’s hot and now, so I don’t bother to look for it.

2) Ignore seasons: No, I’m not suggesting you wear wool tights in the summer (heck, no! I live in East Texas!) or tube tops in December (something we could get away with here, but I don’t really recommend tube tops…well…ever).  I’m just saying that you have to be willing to buy last season’s pieces—*gasp*—for next year’s use.  No, you won’t always be on the razor-edge of the next big fad, but the upside is that you will get to shop your own closet, sometimes (clearance) tags and all. 

3) Don’t worry about sizes: Shopping on the cheap—especially thrifting—won’t work if you are the type of person who is offended by fitting into a medium instead of an extra-small (what was the manufacturer thinking? I mean, gosh!). Be willing to consider any and all sizes, even the ones that are usually way too big/small.

4) Don’t just buy it because it’s cheap: I’m talking to myself here because I have been in this boat often (and sunk it more times that I care to admit).  Yes, it’s only $2, but you do that 50 times, and you’ve spent $100 (quick, somebody check my math) on things you will probably never wear and will just have to rebag and take right back to Goodwill.  I try not to buy cheaply made secondhand items, preferring to stick to known brands like Gap, American Eagle, Banana, and J. Crew when I can find them.  I definitely break this “rule” fairly often, but usually for unique pieces that I won’t wear super-often.

5) Allow yourself time to shop: If you expect to find amazing deals at clearance racks or thrift-stores in under 30 minutes, you must be out yo mind. I rarely make it in and out of Goodwill with much to show for it in less than 2 hours.  So, I try to plan ahead for Goodwill outings by carving out a block of time and bribing my children with sugary treats packing snacks, toys, and other diversionary supplies.

Which (finally) leads us to my title heading and the inevitable Quantity vs. Quality debate.

Question: is buying one $100 item instead of 25 $4 items (you love) and shopping very intentionally for only high-quality, long-lasting pieces really the best way to go?

Answer: Probably, but it’s not nearly as fun. ; )

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer nicer clothes to cheap junk (shocking, I know), but I also LOOOOVE variety, and, with my personality, if I bought that $300 pair of jeans, I’d feel compelled to wear them every day for the next 50 years to make them worth it (another aspect of knowing thyself).

Or…I could pay $5 and trade them out for another pair in a couple of months, sans guilt.

Now, I know this philosophy pokes its finger in the eye of almost every real fashionista’s advice—including the lovely Kendi of Kendi Everyday that I mentioned earlier and whose style and humor I have a major crush on right now (check out her fabulous “Working Closet” series here). 

But it’s what works for me.  I’ve tried to be the other kind of shopper.  I’ve spent hours researching an “investment piece,” assuring myself that I’ll really wear it enough to justify the price, but I always chicken out in the end and buy the bargain version or nothing at all. I blame my mother for cursing me with her chintzy genes (not jeans) as well as her love of a good bargain. I actually get a tad euphoric when I find a fantastic deal.

Speaking of which, the wonderful thing about thrifting/bargain-shopping is that you can have the best of both worlds.  Every once in a very blue moon, you stumble across that investment piece for a fraction of the retail price.

So, to close out the post, I thought I’d share a peek of my top 5 Goodwill finds of all time:

2011-07-06

Bonus: I noticed, as I was making the collage, that all of these pieces complement each other and could be remixed in several different ways.

Kendi would be so proud of me.

P.S. I should have written it as silk “dress” because Juicy Couture and I apparently differ (strongly) on whether bottom-grazing garments can, indeed, be classified as dresses.

P.P.S. If this is your first time here, and you’re wondering why I’m babbling about fashion, click on the Wardrobe Wednesday link at the top of the page or scroll down to the next post for a taste of my as-yet-unnamed (I’m serious about suggestions, people!) style.

Oh, and come on back tomorrow for Flicky Friday, folks! I’ve got a goody for you!  

 

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2 thoughts on “Quality vs. Quantity: The Fashion Edition

  1. Oh, dang! I didn’t even notice! Now, all I can hear is his voice in my head saying that over and over. Thanks very much. Oh, and you’re welcome. I was very tempted. The bracelet was cute. Oh, and no (about the jeans). I found those at the Tyler Goodwill.

  2. Ah, Les is subconsciously getting to you! (that last sentence…heheheh) He is a pump legend now in my mind. ;)
    Thanks for saving my bracelet! And not stealing it. :) Are those the jeans we found in Dallas or another pair?

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