Thursday, August 31, 2006

Disposable Durables?!

Today I read an article in my local paper: Disposable Duds, subtitled Cheap fashion encourages 'shop and toss' philosophy.

Reading it felt just exactly like…well…

Have you ever been walking up a flight of stairs and thought there was one more step…and there wasn’t?!

!!JANG!! goes your brain-pan.

The upshot of the article is this: apparently, a fair number of other people out there, are buying clothing they literally do not expect to wear more than a few times.


Thank goodness, the article goes on to talk about how the clothing is recycled: to Goodwill and similar charitable resellers (where I tend to buy it), to be sold wholesale (hmm, we are intrigued…), to be shipped overseas to the Worthy Poorer Than Us (gee, sorry about the poverty and starvation and bombs and stuff – here’s a lovely turtleneck from Forever 21!) or as a last-ditch effort torn up into industrial rags (I wonder what effect sequins might have on a cleaning rag?).

Which is certainly better than simply ending up ditched into the landfill.

But I still just find the whole mindset causes me a case of kerflumpery. I am kerflumped. I cannot understand how you could buy something like clothing expecting to toss it out shortly afterward.

One example given in the article:

The low costs and quick turn around among "cheap chic" retailers can also mean low quality. For instance, a cowl-neck tunic from Forever 21 retails for $17.80. Pretty inexpensive, no? But, the lifespan of the item? Well, that's a different story.

"All my friends refer to it as the 'one-night outfit' because that's about as much as you'll wear it," says Alexis Weber, 22, of Hayward. "You don't care if it gets ruined. It's cheap and probably going to go out of fashion really soon, so it doesn't matter if it doesn't last very long. And it's not like you can get more than a dozen uses out of it anyway,"



First of all, to me, $17.80 fir a shirt? Is. Not. Cheap. $0.25 is cheap. When I can get a t-shirt from Goodwill for a quarter? I will crow for days about how awesome that was. I consider…$1.25 cheap. I’ll give you up to $3.00 for a silk work shirt. But $17.80?

It had better be cashmere, that’s all I can say. (And here we see a stunning example of how spoiled one can become by thrift store shopping…)

Granted, $17.80 is cheaper than $178.00, which is close to a price tag I saw dangling from a rather lovely piece of fabric-art at Nordstrom. And far cheaper than the $600 a jacket I was fondling lovingly would have set me back, were it not for my certain knowledge that, far from giving it a ‘good’ home, I would be opening it up to all manners of indignities – first of all being put on me, and secondly having open season declared on it by the Denizens. No. I loved it too much to do that to it. I had to let it go, let it be free to be loved by someone more worthy. *sniff, sniff*

The idea of spending $17.80 on a shirt I intend to wear once or twice and ditch?

I reject it. At the DNA level, I reject it. If I’m spending more than $4 on a shirt, I expect to wear it for at least an entire season. Regularly. As in, say, once a week. For three months. That is the least I expect of it. {Insert usual disclaimer about being on the receiving end of ketchup-encrusted embraces from a Denizen}

What I find really astonishing about this is, I never regarded clothes this way. Never. Not even when I was a red-hot credit card fiend.

I once charged $2,000 in a single week on, uh, ‘stuff’. But not one piece of it was stuff I bought thinking, “Kewl! I’ll wear this to the pub on Friday night, and throw it away on Saturday!”

Partially I’m sure it is because I am pretty far from ‘fashion conscious’. So I’m not going to be the type who is going to buy cutting-edge fashion in the first place.

But honestly, my real problem is that the idea of buying a ‘durable good’ the way I’d buy a hamburger just goes so far outside my ken as to be unintelligible to me. “Your Earth ways are strange to me…”

Who are these people? What species is this? I can’t understand it, I just can’t…grok it.

Sure. I admit it. I once bought two shirts specifically to wear while painting the house. I paid $0.50 for the two of them, at Goodwill. I ruined them, just I expected to do. Paint splatters large and small, encrusted all over them.

I washed them, folded them, and stuck them in the bottom drawer of my dresser, along with the equally paint-ruined jeans I had been wearing.

You know. For the next time I’m painting.

Because me, I agree with Scrooge on this one: “Garments were invented by the human race as protection against the cold. Once purchased, they may be used indefinitely for the purpose for which they are intended. Coal burns. Coal is momentary and coal is costly. There will be no more coal burned in this office today.”

Nor will any ‘cheap’ clothing be burned, either. I don’t care how cheap we think it is, it still took time, money, labor, and resources to make it.

Disposable duds, indeed!

1 comment:

21st Century Mom said...

Oh my, my, my... you just wait until your little darlings have high school dances to go to and it's the big HOMECOMING dance they MUST have a new dress. You find yourself in Forever21, happy as a skunk in poop that you can buy some very trendy little number for $25 and not worry about how 'durable' or 'classic' it is. That or you will spend many nights up until 3AM madly sewing the latest something because aforementioned darling didn't start panicing until the day before the dance - the one you didn't even know about.

The payoff is that your little darlings will prefer shopping at the Salvation Army to most other forms of shopping for their every day clothes. It will all work out.