“Fashion is so often presented in the culture as a thing of froth, which, of course, it partly is; but the bubbles are blown with care and a sense of values.” - Anna Wintour
June 2, 2012
As I mentioned in my nostalgic post about Talbots Fall/Winter 2012 RTW, my parents used to love shopping at Talbots, The Bay, Holt Renfrew and various boutiques. As a kid, I spent the majority of my weekends restlessly waiting in changing rooms while getting increasingly annoyed at how long it was taking my mom to try on her pile of clothing. My dad would only add to the wait time by going around and finding more pieces for my mom to try on. But now the roles have reversed, and my parents are the ones falling asleep waiting for me.
But aside from me realizing that those childhood moments were actually good times, I also realize those moments influence how I look at fashion today. My parents were always all about quality at a reasonable price. Whenever my mom splurged, it was only ever on a classic or unique piece that was truly well-made and would last for years to come (she often mentioned how one day, I would be the one to wear it).
My dad too, always picked out only the best of the best. Don't take my dad for the typical man with no interest in fashion; he's highly intelligent in many subject areas, including fashion. He's constantly finding absolute gems, and I can't tell you how many times he's picked out something that I've ended up loving. It's from him that I learnt the value of a leather shoe - Italian leather shoe, as he would specify. He gravitates towards classic, well-constructed pieces, and I almost never buy anything without his careful inspection. I completely trust and value his opinion.
So I guess all those years watching my parents shop, and having them advise me against buying clothing too cheap in quality has honed my own eye for quality. Quality is one of the first things I look for in a piece, no matter where I shop. You buy something because you like it, and it makes no sense that you would want to see it fall apart later. I know people who's wardrobes are constantly changing because their tops get holes in them, or their shoes fall apart. For me, I only spend money on something I truly love, and with such an emotional attachment to my clothes (Is that healthy? Probably not.), the last thing I want is to have to throw it away a year later.
I have some friends who argue that expensive clothing just as easily falls apart as cheaper clothing, but what they're forgetting is that expensive clothing doesn't necessarily equate to good quality clothing (think: it's hard for a cheap top to be made extremely well, but it's easy for an expensive top to be made poorly), and that with good quality clothing, you have to make the commitment of protecting it. If you take care of your clothes, you'll come to find that good quality clothing does have superior stitching and cut. That $5 top may warp after several washes (that's happened to many of my cheaper clothes), but you'll find that your better made top still retains its original shape and structure.
Another huge difference I notice is the zipper. With well-made pieces, zippers run smoothly and take little effort to zip and unzip. I tend to zip and unzip my coat pockets a lot because I carry my phone and various cards in them. With my Joe Fresh coat, I have to use two hands in order to work the zipper and it often gets stuck at a certain point - not great when you're on a packed bus holding on for dear life while also trying to zip up your pocket so your phone doesn't fall out. With my Calvin Klein coat, the pocket zipper is so smooth I could mindlessly zip and unzip the pocket all day if I wanted to.
But my best example is wool coats. Take a wool coat from Forever 21. You'll find the fabric is wrinkly, thin, and tends to ripple along the hem. Take a wool coat from Aritzia, and you'll find stiffer, smoother fabric, and a more structured cut.
I would have never known, back when I was a kid looking at the clothes in Holt Renfrew and wondering why on earth people would wear these clothes, that one day I would be lusting after them. If I'm the only one who knows about the inner constructions of my garments, then so be it. It's that kind of knowledge that transforms fashion from a mass marketed business and form of entertainment to a very personal experience. I think I've rambled on long enough, but this has been something I've always wanted to post. People find me nitpicky about the things I buy, and maybe even see me shopping with my nose upturned, but there's a reason behind that. Nothing quite compares to the confidence a well-made piece of clothing can give you, and you certainly can't put a price on confidence.