Quality and Conformity

I’ve been thinking a lot about the proliferation of expensive items of clothing which are available for purchase. I know that they’ve always been around, but it seems that now more than ever, people are being encouraged to spend up BIG on clothing. It used to be that a few hundred dollars for a dress was extravagant — now it seems that people will spend close to $1000 on shoes without blinking an eye, & it’s not an isolated incident. These same women also have several thousand dollar bags sitting in their closet.

There are a few possible reasons for this. I think one of them is that with the internet, we can get realtime photographs of the latest celebrity at Starbucks, we can see what they’re wearing, & think, “I can get that too!”. It’s a modern version of “keeping up with the Joneses”, except it’s “keeping up with the Olsens”. We are taught, as a consuming culture, that we should have the best of everything, & damn the cost.

With credit card debt at an all-time high, it’s not the most difficult jump to make. People aren’t being valued more highly these days — it is just getting easier & easier to spend beyond your means. It is basic conformity: you see other people doing something & you want to do it too.

I saw a girl on Livejournal the other day asking which Louis Vuitton bag she should get. She said, “I really like this bag, but I like this one too, a lot of girls in my area have it though so which one should I go for?” I replied saying that I thought LV was ugly & a waste of money. I was surprised by how many people agreed with me, but come on! If a Louis Vuitton bag wasn’t such a status symbol, they would barely sell — they are brown with a hideous design. Another thing about owning a bag like that is that they look exactly like a good fake. This has devalued them incredibly, at least to the average person on the street.

Some things are worth what they charge. Hermès, for example, silk-screen their scarves by hand, & their bags are made by hand, one at a time. The money you pay is certainly worth it for this level of craftmanship & exquisite quality. The thing is, Hermès is exceptional & an exemplary company.

I can certainly appreciate the thrill of owning a good bag — but why not own a good bag which REALLY turns you on, rather than just a bag which every celebrity has? I mean, who are you trying to impress?

The other problem is that people are immediately associating quality with super-high cost. They think that if they want pants that flatter them, they need to spend over $500; they think that if they buy a bag which costs less than $1000, it will fall apart or look cheap. This is absolute nonsense! There is obviously a deficit of education in this area. The cheap crap & the expensive couture are not your only choices!

I have always spent quite a lot of money on clothing, but I rarely buy labels. The idea of owning something which everyone else has in their closet just screams “tragedy” to me. My point is, you don’t have to spend the equivalent of a house down-payment to look good, but you also don’t have to shop the bargain bins if you don’t want to!

My mother has always been immaculately dressed & it is because of her I realised that if you buy quality items, they will last a long time & look good for the entire length of their life. I have piles of clothing & I very rarely get rid of anything — the only major mistakes I have made are when I side-stepped my own “buy quality” rule. I have bought dozens of cheap t-shirts which soon lost their shape (& that was my fault & I have learnt from it, my god!).

I have been struggling with this whole thing as a concept recently, because for all my criticism of Louis Vuitton (et al), sometimes I see things that I really like which happen to be designer & very expensive.

My conclusions:

Buy whatever you like, as long as it makes you happy.
If you see a Marc Jacobs bag that you adore, then you should own it (especially if you can’t stop thinking about it days later, this is usually my test as to whether I actually want to buy something or just feel like spending money). The label shouldn’t be a consideration: you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting Chanel but you shouldn’t feel like a loser for buying something without a label.

Impress yourself & do your best not to care about what other people think.
Who cares about a label? Seriously. It is solely the domain of the exceptionally shallow & clueless. Don’t buy into that crap. You will feel far better if your bag is bright turquoise & matches everything than if you have a little Miu Miu purse which doesn’t fit over your shoulder.

Buy quality.
Or else you will spend even more replacing everything you own every few months.

Don’t spend beyond your means.
If what you want is expensive, save your money, then buy it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can afford something just because your credit card company is willing to lend you the money & because it hurts your ego to have to wait another week for something. You Will Pay Big, believe me!