Sunday, March 24, 2013

$90 yoga pants revisited

In a recent post on materialism, I gave Lululemon yoga pants as an example of a desired but not that desired purchase. I would like to be able to readily afford said pants, but can't. But the pants themselves, eh. If they were my dream item, I'd have bought them and scrimped in other areas over the course of however many months. They're not, and I haven't. But knowing that perfect workout (lounge) wear exists, and that I'm not in a position to upgrade, reminds me of my, ahem, life choices (grad school, the light, the end of the tunnel...), and thus makes said pants more special than they'd be if I were in the $90-no-big-deal income bracket.

Well. Shortly after that post, not merely Lululemon, but the very pants I was referring to (actually more like $98) became the center of a scandal. Not only were the black yoga pants recalled for being too sheer (inspiring an internet-wide laughing fit), but the stores are apparently so inept at PR that they're asking customers to bend over and show just how sheer the pants are if they want to return them. There are evidently still more problems with the pants (pilling, dye-bleeding), such that we who own inferior workout (lounge) pants get to be all smug.

In any case, scandal and personal-finance concerns aside, I also realized that the pants I was quasi-coveting would be no good for another reason entirely: they flare at the bottom, and I live in tick country. If I'm going to run in the woods (or justify the purchase of loungewear with that twice-weekly occurrence), I need to wear something in the leggings/running tights family. Which are never incredibly flattering, and thus not worth spending much on.


Britta said...

I have a pair of slightly flared yoga pants my mother bought for me as a senior in high school at Marshall's. I can't imagine they were more than $20, and they are 1) insanely flattering, 2) 12 years later still look new and have kept their elastic. This might be because they are a leftover from an earlier time when clothing was in general constructed better out of higher quality materials. (I'm thinking of the ON blouse I bought at a thrift store at age 16 (so going on 15 years), and which I still wear and has kept its shape and color through god-knows-how-many washes, vs. an ON shirt I bought in 2009, which stretched out, discolored, and fell apart in about a year. I still wear GAP stuff from freshman year of HS and it still looks nicer than the one GAP cardigan I bought 2 years ago (the last time I found anything in the GAP worth spending money on.)

With the caveat that I don't shop at really high end places, in general I'd say there's only a little correlation between price and quality. Some really cheap stuff is really cheap, and some of it is surprisingly well made, even in the same store (H&M is like this). Some 'expensive' stuff is shockingly poor quality (I'm looking at you, UO), or wildly uneven (JC, BR). Thrifting skills come in handy, because at this point there's no guarantee a $50 t-shirt will be better than a $5 t-shirt in terms of construction and durability. With things like shoes and coats, the correlation is stronger and a lot of the expensive stuff is very nice, but high price is still no guarantee. You can buy synthetic leather boots for $200 off of Piperlime, for example. (Conversely, unless it's some amazing clearance deal, $5 shoes are usually not worth it.)

Anyways, long winded comment, but I guess for me, being rich would be able to buy something that is of the quality, style, and comfort level I desire without regard for price, which may be high or may be quite reasonable, rather than being able to buy X brand.

Phoebe said...

"being rich would be able to buy something that is of the quality, style, and comfort level I desire without regard for price, which may be high or may be quite reasonable, rather than being able to buy X brand."

Brand is a proxy for quality. As you note, it doesn't work 100%. But if we mean by "quality" not just durability but design, brand does enter into it quite a bit. Everything might be junk made in the same factories, but the designs at J.Crew may be preferable to those at Old Navy, etc. Brands aren't just about status - they're shorthand for information about a product. Someone who cares about yoga-pant quality might not care one bit about handbag or t-shirt quality.

But what you say about brand decline is... I suppose what this Lululemon debacle is about. My interest in pants from the brand was inspired both by the store being among the few near where I live and by word of mouth that these pants are both super-flattering and durable. From what I've read, this was once the case, but they built up a nice reputation and then raised the prices and let the quality slide.

But, as for why older clothing lasts longer, it seems it could also be that the clothing you or I had years ago that didn't hold up, we've long since gotten rid of. So we're comparing the best of 1995 with the full spectrum of 2013.