Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Another blog post by a New York Jew

Reading Belle's post about the latest in women-shop-the-recession lifestyle articles, I was reminded of this video tour of a sample sale from New York Magazine, in which fashion reporter Aja Mangum has this to say of a decent if uninteresting handbag: "$525. Now it's, like, $125. You could actually, like, buy this in different colors, they're so cheap." Which they aren't, really, but which they are compared with the dresses shown earlier in the clip. Mangum urges us to buy trendy clothes that were once in the four-figures and now 'merely' three, even items we sort of know you'll never wear, because OMG discount! When confronted with a "dress that was $1,325 is now $129.90," a discount of over $1,000, buy up!

Which is truly terrible advice. Sample sales - sales generally - can be fun, but the first rule of them is not to go if you swoon every time you see a tag 'proving' an item once cost five times its 'sale' amount.

Expert advice below*:

1) You don't really know that Item X ever went for the alleged retail price. Or maybe it did, but for five minutes. (See: Banana Republic.) Or maybe there's as much truth to the 'original' price as there is to the 'designer' labels on consignment clothes. The question you ask yourself at the sale should be whether an item is worth the amount for which it's being sold, not the amount once (allegedly) asked. There's often a good reason the asking price is asked no more. But even for items clearly worth $100 ('worth' defined as, looks like the kind of thing that would go for $100, not as in, should cost $100) going for $5 a pop, remember that you are not earning $95 through your purchase, but rather spending $5 that could have otherwise gone to a bagel and a mocha, say, or a beer, or whatever other carb-filled alternative comes to mind. Face it - you're going to wear the once-overpriced delicate-knit cotton t-shirt, not sell it immediately. And once worn, no t-shirt is worth $100, so attempting a resell once your shirt has mocha and beer all over it - which it will, in time - is basically out of the question.

2) Be careful with 'quality.' That an item is expensive, or was once expensive, is no guarantee that it will in fact 'last for years.' Nor do you know, when buying a dress or jeans, that you'll even want the thing years later - when I went nuts buying girls' t-shirts at the Paris Petit Bateau back in 2003, I didn't do so in order to still wear them today, but lo and behold... Whereas what a mistake - the dust layer is now about as thick as that shoe's sole. Where you should consider quality is in the opposite direction - a pair of clearly one-wear earrings at Topshop, $30? Reconsider.

3) Choose brand loyalty (not to be confused with label whority): The best sale is one on items like one(s) you already have and wear all the time. Which means it pays to get off the high horse of 'oh, but I don't want to be that girl who pledges allegiance to J.Crew.' The best guarantee that you'll wear something time and again, and that it's not on the verge of falling apart, is past experience.

* If I were to start (another) group blog, it would be called Cheapness Studies, and would feature strategies of how to not spend any money, ever. Although I fear I'd be readily outdone.


Miss Self-Important said...

I would totally contribute to that blog. That way you won't be outdone.

Phoebe said...

Well then! If this finals/grading period ever finishes up, the Cheapness Studies Blog just might start up. Any more takers? I'm thinking it could be an interdisciplinary approach to solving one of the world's great problems. (Thus "Studies.")