The Quality Conundrum

Posted on September 4, 2012

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This is part 4 in a blog series exploring our wardrobe and our lifestyle: who makes our clothes, where our clothes come from, and why a struggle for quality over convenience might just change our outlook on life and the world around us. Read part 1, 2, and 3. Here’s a recap:

We started by observing disposable dresses in the 1960s, took a trip back in time to see how consumer behavior and production practices have evolved since the ‘fast fashion’ machine took off in the 1980s, and gained some insight into how our clothing impacts our world over the course of its life cycle. But now, I want to focus in on little old us.

On rethinking what it means to be responsible

There is one main theme that I’ve sought to bring home over the last three posts. It seems simple enough, the fact that we all have the power to improve ourselves and our world by choosing to take a closer look at the whys and whats of our purchases.

I shop therefore I am by Barbara Kruger

Untitled (I shop therefore I am) by Barbara Kruger, 111″ x 113″ photographic silkscreen/vinyl, 1987

Being frugal is one thing. Being pushed around by a cheap fashion culture that tries to convince us we can afford no better than the $2 tee at Forever 21 (that will likely disintegrate within the next 48 hours) is another. This mentality leads to buying more of less, wasting our money in the long run, and devaluing ourselves in the process.

How much of what we purchase actually gets worn and loved or just finds a new and unfortunate home in the back of our closets? According to a recent Standard & Poor’s Industry Survey, the average American consumer is primarily looking for value with an “impulse-buy standard of quality” when they purchase clothing.

How are we feeling about ourselves?

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to make some changes. I’m ready to seek out clothing that I truly want to own, curb convenience cravings, and ramp up quality control. I’m ready to build a wardrobe and a lifestyle that is both flattering and fulfilling.

No matter our means, we all have the ability to create change by choosing purpose and personal care over inadequacy and impulse.

“Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we should view ourselves in terms of our own abilities, interests and goals. We can begin by making a conscious effort to upgrade our lifestyle and pay more attention to personal appearance and personal habits.” — Denis Waitley in The Psychology of Winning

When contemplating the value of a potential purchase, it’s important to consider more than just the hang tag that dangles from the armpit of our latest obsession. Elizabeth Cline over at The Good Closet encourages shoppers to look at the “made-in” labels first instead of the brand name or designer label, how the garment has been fabricated, and to look closely at the details. Are the seams solid, buttons well sewn on, zippers working, trim on tight (or hanging by a thread)? We owe it to ourselves to determine whether or not a garment is worth our money.

Cline’s writings — most notably her first recently published book Overdressed — are great resources for those, like myself, who are looking for ways to make better purchases. For a growing list of sustainable and ethical stores, brands, and designers, check out her Slow Fashion Directory.

Share your own favorite resources or shopping suggestions in the comments or by emailing me at stephanie [at] fashionatliberty [dot] com.

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Posted in: Shopping