The dilemmas of buying clothes

2016 update: the tops are still going strong, and in high rotation.  Both bras -> bin.  Pink one stretched out.  The teal one was a creeper, up over things it shouldn’t.  So it moved on 🙁

Yesterday evening, I involved myself in some retail therapy.  Planned spending on clothes (not planned on what clothes, though I did want a white top).

Oh my, shopping since reading blogs so extensively is such a minefield!

Firstly I was shopping in normal retail stores, so nice and new.  Not like Economies of Kale, who is so much more patient and shops at thrift stores (where, incidentally, I bought ‘new’ lavendar blue skinny jeans, ie never used, but sold at Red Cross for a majorly reduced price last week).  Sorry, no photo of those today.

Then everyone reviewed the Overdressed: Shocking Price of Cheap Fashion by E Cline.  Consider

But I also read personal finance blogs (the most extreme of which now deletes my comments as I challenge some of their ideas) and they talked about being frugal to become a millionaire, and I think, at what cost to the people who make the clothing?  (Jacob from said blog probably stopped reading back when I posted about buying $300 shoes!)  Admittedly, none of these purchases pushes the ‘clothes’ threshold the two clothing cost thresholds he mentions!

All this weights on my mind as I browse stores, and make decisions on what to buy.  Here’s what happens on my shopping mission:

Here's my thought process!
Here’s my thought process!

So it’s any wonder I came home with anything!  This is even before I try things on, and the self esteem monster reveals itself. This monster has curves in all the wrong places!

white linen shirt, blue line shirt, cotton strip top
Ducks in a row – all natural materials!

In the end, I spent a lot (in the ballpark of three hundred dollars) for two linen shirts and a cotton light weight 3/4 sleeve sweater.  The first two were made in Vietnam, the last made in China.

I then bought one bra (definitely made is a sweatshop, and ‘reduced’ to $19), and another bra from Myer, just as likely to be a sweatshop item, but priced higher, and both made in China.

teal bra and baby pink bra
Lovely bras – one for under the white top, and the other cause I’ve been wanting a teal bra since forever!

Overall, I love my new purchases.  I feel like they fit my style and age, and at least with the tops, I ended up with natural fabrics and a price that seems fair, even if they are made in developing economies.  The bras are definitely not fair trade, but I’m just not sure where to even start for a ethical bra (though I have read about Jen’s search, linked above).

How do you balance cost vs materials vs where things were made, and assumptions you make about the conditions of the workers?  Is your figure the last things from you mind when you’re shopping now, and how do you feel about that?

23 Replies to “The dilemmas of buying clothes”

  1. Having pared back my wardrobe a lot, I am committed to buying things that fit properly and will last a decent amount of time. I think most companies who offer some domestically-made clothes (such as American Apparel and New Balance in the US) seriously overstate the percentage of their products that are made domestically. I am rather mistrustful now! Probably thrift shops and local designers are the best options. Failing that, I have started to avoid synthetics, and just buy less. Probably no new sparkly things this New Year's! PS – Thanks for the link-up and I like your flow chart!

    1. The link up is absolutely no problem, you've all taught me so much and given me so much to consider. I do agree there's some 'nationalistic' washing of products. Country Road used to be super Australian, but I don't think so now. Another company, Cue, is all made in Australia, but from Italian fabrics. And $350 for a work style dress! Definitely agree re:synthetics, though it's harder and harder to find all natural fabrics, and in some instances, like sportwear, I do think synthetics out perform natural fibres. Likewise with stretch items like undergarments.

      I say go for some fun stuff sometimes, like NYE. It's a drop in an ocean, and maybe wear it every NYE if you can :p Or fancy dress in between?

  2. I do pretty much the same thing and it goes like this:

    1. OOH PRETTY!
    2. What's it made of? If Polyester, it goes back on the rack.
    3. Even if it's made of crap (but not polyester), does it look and feel nice? If so, continue.
    4. Where's it made?
    5. What's the price?
    6. Would this go on sale?
    7. Do they have my size?

    … if it makes it even to #4, there's a good chance I'll buy it. Nowadays, it's getting harder and harder to make it to #4 on my list 😛

    Thanks for the link 😀

    1. Yeah sometimes things feel lovely but I have no idea what they are made of – and I'm suspect that the first wash will pull them all out of shape. I can imagine it's hard to get past #4 often! Actually I was just browsing a thrift shop, and found something made in Mauritius?! I'll put the photo I took up on my facebook account to supplement this post.

  3. Love the flowchart!!! I follow a similar process and often come home with nothing…it's such a bonus when you can find things that (a) fit and (b) are pretty and (c) at least partially fit the buying parameters. I do my utmost to buy "ethically made" (often really expensive) but if I can't find it (like the bras) I don't sweat it (oops, not a good pun.) It's a lengthy search to find ethical suppliers but I know that over the next year or so I will slowly find the "ethical" ones.

    1. I started typing out a list, and realised a flow chart would be more interesting! I'm pretty sure it's not a regulation flow chart though! It is such a balance though, to find something that fits, looks good (or makes you look better) and fit the cost/ethics/materials considerations too. Let me know if you have any success with ethical underwear, until then, thank you Target!

  4. It's a work in progress at this point, but so far I've been focusing on article construction and quality first, and country of origin a close second. My cheap wardrobe largely fell apart while I was paying off my debt, so I've been focusing on buying nicer quality items one at a time. In the last year and a bit, I've purchased a Canada Goose parka (made in Canada), a pair of classic bootcut, no stretch, 7 for all Mankind jeans (Made in USA), and I'm planning on picking up a pair of Frye boots I've been eyeing up for months tomorrow (made in USA). I haven't fully switched items like t-shirts over yet, but mine aren't currently falling apart either.

    As for bras, I didn't end up buying this brand for ethical reasons, but rather because they actually made pretty bras in my size. Most of my bras are manufactured in Belgium by a company called Prima Donna. They might be worth checking out?

    1. Construction is certainly a component of the quality of a garment and how much you pay. Some items, like those you list, are worth the investment, as they'll last a long time. T shirts, no matter the price, it's hard to know if they'll get mis-shapen or continue to look sharp. I'll definitely read up on Prima Donna, thanks for the tip. And welcome back to the blogosphere, I've read you latest post, just not yet commented.

  5. I couldn't come up with a date that I shopped in a normal retail store for clothing. I don't budget for big clothing purchases which means when I decide I need new clothes I head to the thrift shop. I avoid synthetic fabrics when possible. It's not perfect and I would like to add more organically sourced items to my wardrobe at some point but at least I am voting with my dollar by not giving the stores my dollars.

    1. That doesn't surprise me about you! I struggle to have the patience to comb through the racks, find nice stuff, and then not in my size. That being said, I keep trying!

  6. You're such an engineer! To have a flow chart for buying clothes! Lol. Love the end of the process!

    It is a pain having a conscience, isn't it? Why can't we just buy cheap clothes like other consumers and hang the environment and the workers? Anyway, we can feel virtuous in our mindful state,

    1. I did create the flow chart for my reader's amusement, but it seemed the best way to explain my thinking! I agree, wearing a very unethical dress today I thought 'wow, when I bought this less than a year ago, I didn't think twice about it's fabric, where it was made, how much it was'. How quickly things change!

  7. I haven't purchased anything new in a while, mostly because I don't feel that I need clothes. I've never been a big spender on clothes, or even shoes/accessories, so I try to be as cheap as possible. I'll have to do more research into this topic, so thanks for the links! I feel as though it's a similar debate to buying organic (supporting local farms and your health) or not. Sometimes I am too frugal.. I really dislike shopping though, as most of the time I just can't justify buying things anymore. Half the time nothing fits me anyway! I'd much rather shop for my boyfriend.

    1. You're right – I didn't really 'need' clothes, but I try to replenish stock once a year (usually when I take a holiday to cheaper places like the US, or more stylish places like Europe). So I had this yearning for some new things in with the old. I find it hard to justify the spend too, and want to be cheap and frugal, but the ethics now weigh on my mind more than previously. Less than a year ago, I wouldn't really have cared about cost vs price.

  8. This is a tough one. I try my best to look for things made in the US, but often the fabric is made elsewhere. And companies aren't exactly forthcoming with this information. Other than that, I try to wear things as long as possible and repair small problems myself so I can at least avoid buying a ton of clothing.

    1. I totally agree with repairing things – my socks are a prime example! But you're right, there's not really that much info on our clothes – I'm actually surprised they all have 'made in' in them, no matter where they are from. Must have become a trade law or something.

  9. I go through a similar process myself but since I tend to acquire too many things I also have steps like "do I already own something similar" and " will this still fit me if my weight goes down (or up) by 10 lbs".

    Hopping over from Mochi's site. You had me at flowchart!

    1. Welcome Tania! The flowchart just suited my sort of brain – any wonder I'm an engineer! Interestingly, my process helps me have less, rather than more, but I still end with a little duplication of items.

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