While we’re waiting for the forums to relocate to this exciting new server, I’m going to write about clothing again. I only do it like once a month or so. You’ll live.
I wrote a while back about how long it took me to realize the importance of proper fit for clothing. Because I’m kinda dopey about stuff like that. As I’ve been shopping for better apparel over the past year or two, I’ve also come to another realization, one that makes me a little sad: You get what you pay for. Because I’m kinda a cheapskate (and perpetually broke thanks to the cost of supporting two people in San Francisco on a gaming press salary, but never mind that).
It’s easy to look at the price tags on luxury brands and scoff about how ridiculous is that they cost so much. Not that a button-down shirt should be $5 or anything, but a $200 shirt seems pretty excessive, right? Then I came across a Prada shirt at my local consignment shop and tried it on and it all clicked: That sort of thing costs a lot because its quality is so high. The fabric felt buttery soft: Super fine yet incredibly durable. Great stitching. It flowed. It felt fantastic. It probably cost several hundred dollars new.
And therein lay the problem. Once you start paying attention to things like fit and quality, you kind of choke at the prospect of something like Gap or Old Navy, which are kind of cheaply made and tend to be much too large for me even at their smallest sizes. Fast-fashion retailers like H&M tend to sell a better fit, but their clothes are practically made of tissue under the premise that you’ll toss them out at the end of the season and buy a new wardrobe. On the other hand, even if I could afford to drop triple digits on a high-end shirt or trousers, my hearty Midwestern upbringing makes the idea sound like heresy.
And that is why I buy most of my clothing second-hand. I’m fortunate enough to live in a city with a wide array of used clothing options: There’s a high-end consignment shop a block from my office, a more middlebrow chain called Crossroads that tends to be fairly selective and seasonal when it makes its purchases but doesn’t expect you to pay 50 bucks for a previously worn shirt, less discerning shops called Buffalo Exchange and Out of the Closet (where purchases double as a charitable gift to AIDS research), and even Goodwill. I’ve built probably 75% of my wardrobe shopping at these places, and they’ve been good to me. I’ve accumulated a remarkable array of designer and uh, semi-precious label apparel that other people decided they didn’t want any longer. I’m not too proud to wear someone else’s discards if they’ve been well-cared-for — and with nicer clothes, that’s usually more likely. Even when I find something that needs minor alterations, it’s almost always worth it: Dropping $12 on a Calvin Klein shirt or $30 on a Zegna jacket that both need their sleeves taken up for $5 per sleeve beats $60 for a new shirt or $600 for a new jacket… especially since I’d still probably need to have them altered to fit my short mutant body even if I got them new.
“Yeah, great, but all I have around here is Goodwill.” First, I find that unlikely; every town of decent size has a few second-hand shops. Secondly, even Goodwill can yield some nice treasures. I’ve found $90 Thomas Pink shirts for $6 apiece. Today I bought three brand new pair of trousers for $10 each since some random retailer apparently decided to dump a few dozen pair of surplus slacks on my local donation center. You never know. I almost picked up a $12 Armani jacket there, too, but it was just a little too wide in the shoulders. And, after all, proper fit is the whole point. Who cares how cheap your find it if it doesn’t fit?
Turns out that finding the perfect delta between fit and finance is kinda tough. At least I’ve developed a better understanding of why women spend so long shopping: They have to balance those things and the fact that women’s fashion is all over the place and totally unpredictable. Man, we should have written about that for gender and sexuality week.