Finding a natural solution
There’s a growing movement of in-betweeners. These are people who are old enough and responsible enough that they can’t stand to purchase bargain clothing that falls apart in a few washes. They’re also too fiscally responsible to spend the equivalent of a couple of car payments on a maxi dress.
I salute the in-betweeners, yet I don’t envy their struggle. Locating clothes that are affordable yet ethically made abroad, or even made by independent local designers, can be quite a challenge. However, the need for more sturdy affordable options is definitely growing.
Photo courtesy StockSnap.
Not only does buying with the future in mind save you money in the long run, it’s also ethical, healthier for the planet, and safer for the people who live and work to create these items as well. Peter Dunn advises to aim to spend about 5 percent of your annual income on new, quality clothes. Follow these simple tips to make doing so much easier.
Look for high-quality fabrics and stitching. This boils down to buying fewer items that are higher quality. You can still buy clothes that look great, as well as wear and wash well within the same budget; you’re just going to have to purchase fewer of them. When your goal is long-term wear you need to be far-sighted in your choices.
If you’re uncertain what quality looks or feels like, visit an upscale store, even if you know their clothing is out of your price range, and spend some time examining the construction. How does the fabric look and feel? Gently tug on the seams to see how strong they are, and examine the number of stitches per inch (hint: more is definitely better). Take a look to see how well buttons and other appliqué designs have been added to the garments. Once you’re able to recognize quality when you see it, you’ll be able to make decisions about items within your budget.
Collect the classics. Items that can be worn in multiple seasons are considered “classics” or staple items, and tend not to follow flash-in-the-pan trends. If you really want to look on-trend (which is usually a recycled fad from a few decades ago anyways) hit up thrift stores and resale boutiques for stylish, well-made vintage clothing items and accessories.
Get it tailored. The better your clothes fit, the better they look on and the more likely you are to wear it. Factor custom alterations into your yearly budget and aim for purchasing new pieces that, if anything, are slightly larger so you can get them altered for a perfect fit.
Consider each purchase carefully. Clearly, if you slow down to consider quality, real cost, comfort, and style you’re going to end up making more wise decisions about many of the things you purchase. This method will force you to consider whether you actually need an item, and whether it is the best use of your money in the long run.
Becoming more mindful of your impulse buys and other spending habits (including how much you were really spending on disposable clothes) will help you change your perspective on the all of your finances.
You’re new, slower and less impulsive habits can even help you save money or pay off debts. Considering the true cost of items helps you make more informed decisions and set a realistic budget for clothing purchases.
Choose items that mix and match well. Look for pants that can go with a variety of shirts. Or shirts that can be accessorized easily to change the look. You don’t necessarily need a lot of clothing to keep your outfits looking fresh each day, just enough to let you get creative.
Look for repair-ability. Gauge how repairable the item will be if it becomes torn or damaged. Is it made from a material that is easy to fix yourself?
No longer can we ignore the power our purchases have to either campaign for change or contribute to the high cost of low prices. Our purchases have the power to either perpetuate the system of millions working for slave wages around the world, or reward ethical business practices, safe working conditions, and worker rights.
As a global community we can no longer afford to accumulate so much “stuff” that breaks beyond repair, falls apart at the seams, or finds itself threadbare after a single season. Even if an item is repairable, many of us are nervous to attempt such projects for fear of making a mistake.
The savvy shopper learns to focus on comfort, sustainability, durability, and options outside of the “disposable” culture. A culture where planned obsolescence creeps up in ever shortening lengths and the useful life of common household items is shrinking day by day.
As you tackle the stores in search of comfortable, high-value items, remember that a higher price tag doesn’t always mean that an item is high quality. Also keep in mind that you’re not buying more clothes, you’re buying fewer. You’re simply more discerning about your purchases and making smart decisions within a similar budget.