Buying Cheap–It Just Doesn’t Pay

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to our area’s finer shops to buy clothes. It’s not that we were rolling in disposable income, but she was a firm believer in quality over quantity. So instead of three inexpensive dresses, I might get one really good dress that would last until I outgrew it.

When I was older and started shopping on my own, my mom reminded me of her theory. Lines such as, “Cheap clothes don’t hang well, and they certainly don’t last” swam through my head whenever I walked into a store.

Even now, as a woman of a certain age, I still hear her words when I’m considering a purchase. Oh sure, I’m a big fan of places like Target for workout clothes and T-shirts (the store’s tissue Ts are among my favorites), but for more serious clothes, I usually go higher end.

But then, I blew it.

Two weeks before leaving for New York, I decided that my travel wardrobe needed a boyfriend blazer. I’d seen these slightly oversized jackets online and in catalogs, and I liked how they add polish and a bit of dressiness to a pair of jeans. I jumped on the Nordstrom Web site and found this one by Necessary Objects:

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It was in the junior department, it was only $58, and it was made of polyester, rayon, and spandex. The fabric content sounded dreadful and I wasn’t crazy about the fact that it didn’t have any buttons, but the price appealed to me and I liked the idea that it would be delivered to my door well before I had to pack. So I ordered it in black.

The jacket was certainly cute enough. It looked good with both blue and black jeans, and the striped lining really popped when I rolled up the sleeves. I didn’t particularly like the sheen of the fabric, but I thought I’d be fine if I stayed out of direct sunlight.

Three days into my trip, the lining of the blazer took a nosedive. It ballooned below the hemline like the jacket of a tacky, shiny, man’s suit. Since I tend to travel with equipment for any clothing emergency, I doctored it with my stash of safety pins and hoped for the best. All the while, that little voice in my head kept repeating, “You shouldn’t have bought such a cheap jacket–and you’re wearing pins, fer gawd’s sake!”

As soon as I returned home, the blazer went straight back to Nordstrom. The store has the best customer service in the retail world, and they took it back with no questions asked.

But I still wanted a jacket just like it. Fortunately, in Nordstrom’s grown-up department, I found this by Kenna-T:

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It’s a lovely tropical wool–four times the price at $238. But what a difference! Even though it has the same menswear look, the drape has a body consciousness that keeps it from looking like I swiped it from my husband’s closet. The armholes are cut higher, which visually elongates the body. It also has a single button that just seems to add a certain polish and finish. Best of all, it will likely look great for years.

So lesson learned–loud and clear. Cheap clothes will always perform like cheap clothes, and I simply don’t want to deal with a wardrobe that falls apart. Mom was right when she said that a few good items will serve you far better than a closet full of junk.

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