Elizabeth Cline is the author of
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.
What's the problem with the way we buy clothes?
: We've broken away from the seasonal cycle of clothing. You no
longer see new clothing lines two to four times a year; you're
seeing them every week. The problem is that consumers are hooked on
a cycle of buying and tossing clothes-or keeping them but not
getting a lot of use out of them.
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What does that mean for our finances?
: We're spending the smallest percentage of our income on clothing
that we've ever spent. But we're essentially throwing that money
away-$20 here, $20 there. It's not a lot, but if you're only going
to wear an item once or twice, whatever you're spending on clothes
goes down the drain. That's the psychology of cheap: We don't value
things we pay little for. With clothing, that means we're less
likely to sew a button back on or try to get a stain out.
Are men caught up in this "fast fashion" cycle,
: The men's market is less fashion-sensitive. It's easier to find a
mid-market garment that is reasonably well-made and reasonably
priced. But the fashion chains, such as H&M, are going after
men, and they're becoming more frequent consumers of clothing.
How can people get better value from their
: The key is being mindful. Set a budget, and think about how you
want to spend it. Americans buy eight pairs of shoes and 68
garments every year, spending about $1,100. If you bought two to
three pairs of shoes and ten garments per year, you'd be investing
in clothes that aren't going to fall apart. Look for things that
have a unique design or are classics, so they don't look dated as
quickly. Follow the care instructions for proper laundering. Take
them to a tailor to be mended or fit properly.
Where can you find (and how do you recognize)
: If you have a local or higher-end department store, start there.
Dillard's, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom carry domestically produced
lines. Find handmade and vintage clothing on
. Flip the garment inside out and look at the seams; see if the
buttons are sewn on securely. To learn about quality, I went to
thrift stores to look at clothes made before 1980, when things were
still pretty well put together.
This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance
magazine. For more help with your personal finances and
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