You hear the arguments again and again:
Buy less stuff, but better quality.
It's cheaper in the long run to purchase the best you can afford.
|Does your closet look like this? Neither does mine.|
But like many people -- Americans, in particular, I'd argue -- I feel conflicted about the less-is-more message. Yes, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my possessions and I need to declutter, but I also like to have a lot of stuff around. I like options. One pair of high quality black leather shoes may make logical sense, but then how about the cheaper black leather shoes you can wear in the rain?
|Carmen Miranda liked to rotate her platforms.|
1) Having more stuff means needing to do laundry less frequently so we have time for other things.
2) Having more inexpensive clothing means that if we spill tomato sauce on our shirt during dinner (guilty!) we don't have to have a panic attack. (Same goes for weight fluctuation-related anxiety.)
3) Having more stuff means we can put together outfits from a wider range of styles and colors. It's like the Crayola 64-crayon box with the built-in sharpener every kid wanted in elementary school. Why limit yourself to just 16 crayons?
Over on Sewingartistry.com today, I read about the book, Lessons from Madame Chic that, among other things, tells you how (and why) to limit your wardrobe to ten items. TEN!
It all makes sense when you read the author's argument: it's the way the chic French do it, it's easier to get dressed, you can invest in better quality clothes, blah, blah, blah. And on one level, yes, it's true: it's easier in many ways to have fewer choices of what to wear; you're more likely to be well-dressed if your clothing is of higher quality (whether you actually look better is debatable); it's better for the environment not to be creating so much low-quality clothing (but worse for the workers). It's just more enlightened.
|It costs as much as college, but it's Hermes.|
I too appreciate quality, readers. For example, in 1987 I bought myself good quality, classic, relatively expensive Persol sunglasses in Italy, and I still wear them twenty-five years later. But that didn't stop me from accumulating a dozen more pairs of sunglasses of widely varying quality in the interim. Variety is the spice of life!
Do rich people with easy access to the best of the best actually buy less? I don't think so, and nobody's suggesting they should. It's always the drones being lectured about paring down and trading up, and the person lecturing may or may not have a vested interest in changing your buying habits, say, getting you to purchase the "luxury" brands that advertise in the magazine they write for, for example.
The other thing about the less stuff-better stuff argument is that it assumes that those who prefer quantity over quality could actually purchase the more expensive and higher quality item if only they knew better. But many of us are much more likely to have $20 to spend ten times a year, than $200 available on a given day to spend on a single shirt or blouse. And finding the item that warrants the high price may require a greater investment of time than just opting for the cheap-and-familiar. We also may not have familiarity with higher quality brands or feel comfortable (or welcome) in fancier stores.
|"We do not carry your size, Madame."|
And again, if we do purchase the $200 shirt and later on our taste changes, or the styles change, or we snag the fabric on the corner of our office cubicle, then we're out $200, which really sucks.
Not everything cheap is low quality either. Like I mentioned recently, I've owned a pair of white linen pants from H&M that didn't cost more than $25, and worn them for five consecutive summers. If I'd paid ten times that amount, would I have gotten ten times as much wear? Would I have looked ten times as good in them? Probably not. Knowing that if I spilled red wine on them I'd only be out $25 meant I actually wore them more and felt more relaxed in them too.
Friends, I don't mean to sound contrary; I get why it often makes sense not to accumulate closets full of crap. But at least as far as menswear goes, you really can find well-constructed clothing at every price level. The difference, in my experience, is often in the quality of the fabric (not that the pricier stuff is more durable, but rather more unusual) and the construction details, which are often unnoticeable to anyone but the wearer (if that).
What say you? Where do you stand in the quantity vs. quality clothing debate?
Are you OK with wearing clothes of lesser quality if it means you have more choices in your closet?
Do you maintain the same approach in your garment shopping as you do in your sewing (i.e., sew less, but better quality stuff)?