Cheap Clothes are Expensive: Why to Buy Quality Pieces Instead

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Quality clothes last longer for the money you spend, they’re more comfortable, and they make you look and feel good while you wear them. Best of all, you can find quality anywhere. It comes down to buying less mediocre stuff and using that money on a few nice things that last forever.

Apply the “Comfort Principle” to Your Clothing

The comfort principle is simple: spend your money where you spend most of your time. That’s why it’s a good idea to splurge on a nice mattress, comfortable desk chair, or a decent laptop computer, considering how many hours a day you sleep, work at your desk, or use that computer. Think about it, we wear our clothes all day long – at work, at home, at the gym: every occasion calls for some type of clothing. It makes sense to buy clothes that earn you the most happiness out of your time, and stand up to regular use.

Quality Clothing Makes You Look and Feel Good

People come in all shapes and sizes, yet a lot of cheap clothing is mass produced in a “one shape fits all” manner. Low-quality dress shirts, for example, can look terrible on people not shaped a specific way. If a shirt is too loose or tight in the wrong places, you feel self conscious and uncomfortable, and it shows in your body language. If it fits you well and you’re comfortable, however, you can get a nice confidence boost.

Whether we like it or not, clothing is also a part of our identity. Your clothes can emphasise social status, as well as a certain level of professionalism. A few quality outfits can make you look like a person that takes pride in your appearance. Spending money on quality clothes might seem frivolous if you’re a frugal person, but in some cases you can’t afford to not spend the money, especially if you’re trying to land a job or network with colleagues.

Do the Maths Before You Buy

Generally speaking, cheap, throwaway clothes aren’t cheap in the long run. Poorly made clothing with thin material wears out faster and requires you to spend time and money repairing or replacing it. The key isn’t to spend more on clothes across the board, it’s to spend a little more on a few nice items and not a lot of low quality items.

This can all be broken down into a simple equation. Fashion blogger Legos In My Louis recommends you use the “cost per wear” equation. It works like this:

(price of garment + maintenance) divided by the number of times you’ll wear it

Say you bought a nice (but pricey) $100 pair of jeans that will last you five years before they get threadbare and wear out:

$100 + $10 (washing, detergent, stain remover, etc.) / 780 days (roughly three days a week for five years)

That ends up being around 14 cents per wear. Say, instead, you bought a $30 pair of jeans that will last about a year and a half before they fade and wear out:

$30 + $10 (washing, detergent, stain remover, etc.) / 234 days (roughly three days a week for a year and a half)

That ends up being around 17 cents per wear, and you have to go buy a new pair every year and a half. Plus, you’ll probably be more comfortable and look better in the nicer pair. Of course, this equation is only ideal for clothing that gets worn regularly. If you’re only going to wear a swimsuit 10 times in a year, for example, the “cost per wear” equation doesn’t really justify spending hundreds of dollars on it. In that case, a cheap swimsuit will probably last just as long, and save you money that you can spend on the things you wear all the time. Also, it’s hard to know how long clothing will hold up. That’s why it’s essential you do some research before you buy.

Do Your Homework and Avoid Impulse Buys

Cheap clothing  lends itself to constant impulse buying, which can be much more dangerous for your wallet than the occasional splurge on something nice, durable, and well-made. Spending $20 here and there doesn’t feel like much when it happens, but it can add up fast. You could spend more in a year on clothing that way, and possibly end up with a lot of stuff you’ll never actually wear.

When buying high-quality (and sometimes more expensive) clothes, however, you know you’ll be spending a little more, so you’re more inclined to research before you open your wallet. It’s better to have a wardrobe with a few versatile, durable things you love to wear than a wardrobe stuffed with things that aren’t quite right. Buying expensive, high-quality clothing forces you to truly consider each one of your purchases.

And having quality clothing in your wardrobe isn’t just valuable because you spent more money on it, but also because it means something to you. You devoted real thought and consideration to your purchase, and didn’t just buy because they looked good on the mannequin when you walked by.

How to Make Sure You Buy Quality Clothing

The most important trademark of quality clothing is its construction. An expensive dress that is made of thin material and poorly sewn isn’t a quality item—it’s just an expensive dress. An expensive dress that fits nicely, is durable, and put together well, however, can definitely be worth the purchase if you like it enough and know you’ll wear it a lot.

If you’re not sure what high-quality looks like, start by getting a good point of reference. Go to a store you know sells high-quality clothing (even if it’s out of your price range), and look at the details of each garment. Notice how many stitches there are per inch (more is better), what the clothes are made of and how the fabric feels (comfortable but durable), and how well buttons are secured to the garment (a loose button will fall off).

Now you can head to a store closer to your usual price range and compare. If you’re looking for a quick way to check durability, go right for the seams. Grip the fabric on both sides and gently pull them away to see if the thread is holding the fabric together tightly. If it gaps or starts to pull apart, it was stitched poorly. Once you know what quality clothing construction looks like, there are a few other simple rules you want to consider while you shop:

  • Don’t get blinded by brand names. Even brands that usually have high-quality clothing can try to sell you poorly-made stuff (especially at outlet stores).
  • Always try clothing on before you buy it. Make sure it’s comfortable and that you like the way you look in it (even if you’re shopping online).
  • Spend more on timeless pieces. Garments you’ll always need like nice skirts or pants, dress shirts, and even a versatile dress or suit are worth paying for quality.
  • Spend less on rarely worn items like swimsuits and other seasonal stuff. If it’s only cold for about a month out of the year where you live, you probably don’t need a pricey North Face jacket.
  • Get things tailored. The better something fits you, the more likely you’re going to want to wear it.
  • Aim to maximise your total number of possible outfits. Look for tops that can go with multiple pairs of pants, find a suit that can go with a wide variety of shirts, etc. The more you can mix and match, the fewer garments you actually need to maintain outfit variety.

As you shop, always remember that expensive doesn’t mean quality, and that you’re not spending more, you’re just buying less.

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