History in the Making

Will the Trend of Cheap Ever End?

Have you ever told someone that you liked their top, and you heard “Thanks, it was only $8/£4/€1/whatever cheap cost”? That always takes me aback, as I didn’t comment on the price of it whatsoever, but revealing how cheaply it was purchased seems to be a knee jerk reaction now for most people. I am in no way arguing for spending money for no apparent reason, but why have we, as society, become crippled by a need to be cheap? Why is buying things cheaply considered an accomplishment? (Note, I did not say frugally.)
Will CheapEver End_

Behind the Scenes

So, is everyone just ignoring the abhorrent labour practices that we all well-know is going on behind the scenes of fast fashion, cheap home goods, and pretty much everything else? Obviously money does play a large role in my purchasing decisions, but as a human being, I can’t just ignore the abuse, low pay, and inhumane treatment that is going into those items. Can people truly just put the blinders on and ignore that? I in no way can afford an entire slow-fashion, hand made, artisanal wardrobe, and have fast fashion pieces, but I do try to only buy those pieces when truly necessary/warranted.  Is the lure of cheap prices so strong that you just forget that it is happening?
Retail Shopping

The Real Price

Does anyone know what the actual price of things should be nowadays? Not the rock bottom, super slashed, questionably attained price, but the normal price of an item made by someone paid fairly? And if they don’t, does anyone actually care to know? The cost of everything is dropping and dropping and dropping- look at how much of your household goods can now be purchased at the dollar store, and how much of your wardrobe could be purchased entirely at H&M and Forever 21. But are costs actually dropping? Or is the manufacturing and production process employing more and more questionable practices and poorer quality materials to accomplish those prices? Heads up: a properly made t-shirt should hit at least $20. Now, I know that several of you angrily started typing a response about how ridiculous that is, BUT that $22 t-shirt should last at least 2-3 years with proper care. (Not the faded, stretched out, unravelling items that I see on a daily basis…) Do you actually educate yourself on the true cost of a purchase before arbitrarily deciding what you think is a fair price?
Money

More, More, More

I truly don’t understand why people need to do hauls, or continually buy clothing. I as much as anyone love to look at new clothing and imagine what it would be like in my wardrobe; that doesn’t mean that I need to continually purchase those things… Am I odd for trying to make the most out of what I have rather than owning things that are used a handful of times (if at all)? Can anyone explain to me why you would need to continually buy new clothing, candles, make up, shoes, tupperware, vases, pillows, whatever it is? (This is my issue with subscription boxes- I’ve no idea why anyone would need to continually replenish anything and collect more things on a monthly/quarterly basis…) You can’t possibly use it all. If you already have 20 dresses, and you buy 5 more but have no more time than normal to wear them, what are you doing with the dresses you aren’t wearing? And if you own 15 candles, and purchase 3 more, do you burn several different scented candles at once? Hoard them for the apocalypse when your Pumpkin Spice Attitude candle will apparently save you? Why do we need so much of everything? 
(I would love to focus my blog entirely on style. I mean, I would certainly maintain another blog to talk about history, books, travel, baking, and everything else I love, but I have more than enough ideas and materials to discuss style ad nauseum. However, every style blogger continually features new pieces and hauls, and I’m really trying to a conscious and ethical shopper. Does anyone know of any style blogs that focus on what you own, rather than shopping [either new or second-hand]?)
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Pride?

From what it appears to me, people do seem to keep a great deal of pride in procuring something cheaply. I don’t understand this pride, in the face of what I discussed above- sure, you bought that dress for $25 but it was made by a woman working 18 hour days making less than $1 a day. Is there pride in that? And is there pride in adding yet another item to a stuffed wardrobe that you may wear twice and then move on?
To me, I spend time and care into deciding what I will purchase. I research my choices, and decide what is the best option for my budget, needs, and wants. When I can make the purchase and can finally use whatever it is, I do feel a pride in the fact that I know that it’s the right piece/item for me, and that I worked X amount of time to earn the money to purchase it. And I find that I take far better care of items (and enjoy them more) when I know that I worked hard to purchase that, rather than knowing it is cheap and not worth much to start with. Also, when someone says that it looks nice/is a good choice, I have something to tell them about it rather than the small amount of money I paid for it.

I know that many people will either angrily stop reading this post (probably have already stopped), or told themselves that I am out of touch. (FYI, I have a very tight budget, and typically plan 4-8 weeks ahead to buy a new piece of clothing.) I’m in no way arguing to go buy designer clothing for no apparent reason. However, think about everything that goes into that super cheap item next time, instead of mindlessly purchasing yet another skirt or table runner.
Will cheap ever end? Are we ever going to turn the corner to well made and fairly priced items being the norm again?
Until tomorrow,
The Historian!
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19 thoughts on “Will the Trend of Cheap Ever End?”

  • I think everyone had their own spending habits. I for one will buy certain designer pieces during periods when I can afford to as I know I’m buying quality that will continue to look great and almost new after years of continued use. I do clothes shopping around once every 6-12 months. My purchases are based on more quality than cost, so if the material looks good and the stitching is done well and the care instructions are reasonable then I will buy it. Also it depends on what I’ll need the clothes for, as in I’ll never wear expensive clothes or favourite clothes in situations where they could get ruined. How people choose to spend is also dependent on their personality, skills and interests. Outside of fashion, I like to do research into brands and services because I’m not skilled in labour for example, I’d probably need to hire someone to fix something around the house and home. Spending shouldn’t be a shameful experience, but sometimes people act as if it is. How you choose to spend your finances should be easily more important than how much you actually spend.

    • Everyone does certainly have their own spending habits! Another reader left a great comment that really lines up with what you are saying- there should be a step in the buying process where we ask ourselves if we really need whatever it is or simply want it. I do agree that everyone is entitled to their own spending habits but it becomes problematic to me when: a) these habits en masse contribute to an already deteriorating climate, and b) there are people suffering because of those habits. I can in no way claim that I will never buy another fast fashion piece again, because my budget only goes so far! But I do hope that I can consciously think about every piece that I buy, and also care for them properly to get the maximum life possible out of them so that I don’t have to rebuy in two months because it’s already worn out from going in the dryer when it should be hung to dry. Thanks for stopping by, and giving me more to think on!!

  • I’m currently renovating a half bath in my house. By my own hand. People think I’m crazy. Many have told me so. Why don’t you just hire a contractor, rather than put in all that hard work?
    Because when I am done I will be able to look at the beautiful thing my hard work made.
    As a society we don’t value hard work anymore. We rarely value those with the skills to make things by hand.
    I don’t know what to do about that…

    • That’s exactly it- I feel a lot more pride in owning and using something when I’ve done the necessary work and research, or put money into it. I don’t spend wildly, I’m very particular about what I do purchase. It’s a nice thing to know that I worked X amount of hours to pay for this, and I will enjoy using it!, or to know that I stripped, painted, and sealed (or whatever it is) and enjoy the fruits of those labours when I use and look at it. However, as you say, I’m not sure what to do about that. Cheap and disposable is the answer to everything nowadays, and most people don’t seem to want to change 🙁

  • I understand what you are saying, but I get concerned that the expensive prices I’m paying aren’t really for better quality but just to line the pockets. And I think some of those people happily saying a low price are doing it because they snagged an expensive piece on sale. I know someone who refuses to pay more than 25.00 for any shoes or clothing. She doesn’t go to thrift shops or cheap stores. Instead, she waits until the item she wants goes on clearing rack sale and usually has a coupon to help with the price. It helps her save money while being able to wear stylish, well-made clothing.

    • I do know a lot of people who wait to shop for sales but I find that problematic for my own life/wardrobe for a few reasons: a lot of the times, I don’t actually end up with the item that I wanted because it sold out before it made it to the sale racks, I may end up buying an item that I can’t wear for close to a year (which isn’t inherently a bad thing but a little frustrating), and I find that I do have more pride and take better care of items when I know that I worked for X amount of time for them. (Coupons tend to be quite an American thing- oftentimes in Canada, coupons are cannot be stacked with another deal, so it is a choice between the regular sale or the coupon, roughly the same.)
      I also find that it doesn’t address the questionable practices behind the scenes, which is something I am very much struggling with right now. Whether or not I buy that dress for $70 or $30, the women who made it earned 30c for each garment (or whatever small wage it is). Sure, I’ve “cut down” on the company’s profit, but that doesn’t benefit those women in any way, and I don’t set out specifically to take anything away from people, companies, or organisations. And I can understand that people do find happiness in couponing/snagging sales, but I think at a point it can become an obsession and still ignores the fact that somewhere someone is getting the short end of stick. It might not be you, but someone is.
      Ideally, I’m hoping to work towards an entirely sustainable and ethical wardrobe. As someone still starting out in their career, obviously it’s not realistic for me right now but I hope to make my way there! My hope is that we can all take a little time in our purchasing process to think about all of the parts of the process, not just the tail end where we purchase, but it takes a long time for any of us to get there without a doubt. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer, and giving me a lot to chew on!!!

  • Very thought provoking. Somehow, many of us have been conditioned to buy more and more just because the price on the tag is cheap. It’s important that items be affordable, but there needs to be a step in the buying process, where we first consider whether we actually need the item. I’m trying to teach myself that. It has drastically changed what is hanging in my closet now, versus my closet just a few years ago. I like having fewer items now, with the realization that these items last longer, they transcend year-to-year trends, and I feel better; more stylish even, wearing them.

    • “There needs to be a step in the buying process, where we first consider whether we actually need the item.” I wish I could get this on a banner and hang it in every mall!!! That’s exactly it- as someone early on in their career paying off student loans and making car payments, clothing and “extra” spending is very limited for me, and if I need new hose or tights, I’m probably still grabbing them from H&M because my budget doesn’t stretch to the $25 higher quality ones yet.(One day!!) I am also finding that I’m buying fewer things that stay longer, and I actually have a goal to keep and use clothing for at least 3 years, hopefully closer to 5, before they are past their prime/ability to be fixed. I have to say, it’s a lot easier on my wallet now haha!!

    • It’s so true, Lorelle!! I was really disappointed to see a business owner I follow on Instagram (who promotes responsible business practices) promoting disposable travel cups to take to work because they are easier. Have we gotten to a point in society where using a travel mug and washing it once a day to use it the next is too much effort?? And if the answer is yes, what does that say for the planet??

  • I just bought two pairs of black dress pants on sale yesterday. Wear all the time at work. Reason why I had to toss a pair out they were that worn and a few others near the end. I agree no idea why people shop shop shop I think instant gratification and maybe other issues. Always good post

    • I don’t have any problem when you need to replace things that are worn out (ESPECIALLY for work), because I don’t think it’s appropriate to wear clothing that’s past it’s lifetime. However, I think you have hit it on the nose- people want to see that new shirt or those new shoes NOW, and who cares if I wear them twice and don’t look at them ever again after that until I go to do a closet clean out in 3 years time? All of that money and time that could go elsewhere!

  • I do like your idea of discussing style without continual reference to purchase, but I’ve no idea how you’d swing it. I worked as a designer for a producer who was manufacturing in the UK, the produce also sold there. This was decades ago, before manufacturing was stripped out of Western countries, but was beginning to be moved to low wage economies. What I took from the changeover was that prices didn’t drop but profits rose. So I’m not sure about your 20dollar tee. Even paying western wages, there are considerable economies in mass produced clothes. The flip side of manufacturing abroad is that control is lost over the product and quality drops. That’s why we are inundated with cheap crap, poor fabric, buttons falling off, sizing erratic, garments twisting or shrinking in the wash. The prices for these inferior products are not to my mind significantly lower than the cost would be if made in Europe or the USA, but the profits are higher.

    • I think that you could talk about the style/make/quality without including affiliate links to earn money off of every single item (which seems to be the hallmark of “true” style bloggers these days), and talk about general trends across a few different items in a category without getting so specific to one particular item? It’s disappointing to me that 2 very large bloggers I follow have specifically said that they are going to do no-spend months but still accept free clothing from PR companies and link to whatever item they can to make a dollar. (This is a particular point of friction? with me, as I don’t earn anything from my blog because I am still grappling with the idea of sponsored posts or affiliate marketing, as I don’t want readers to feel as though I view them as consumers rather than a community member and friend. I don’t sell things to my friends 🙁 )
      This is very interesting to me, and I suppose that those bigger companies that dominate the style and home goods industries will always be out for maximum profits. I would like to start buying more locally made/ small business products where the chain of production is more limited- I might be paying more, but the people involved will actually make an ethical wage and the quality seems to be higher.
      I have so many questions for you, but I will limit it haha: when the manufacturing processes moved out of the west, did your process as a designer change?? Were you forced to design a specific way (to include or not include things) to suit the newer and cheaper process, or would they take what you designed and figure out the cheapest way for them to manufacture it??

      • I left this job soon after. The way it worked was that the retail company (brand) bought the designs in, so that manufacturers employed designers. As the buyers for the brand began to explore overseas manufacturers, they took some of the designs and put the manufacture elsewhere. I presume that they moved towards in-house design when they moved wholly to outsourced manufacturing. The point I was focusing on was that price to consumer did not, at that time, drop when the manufacture was sent to low labour cost countries. My impression is that consumers have been doubly conned, both accepting a lower quality and accepting guilt for the conditions of manufacture in undeveloped economies. Basic clothing which changes little season to season can be produced cheaply without paying peanuts, but a higher labour cost results in reduced profits. If you don’t sew and want to get artisanal or bespoke products these will cost a lot more, small production and one off work is expensive. I’m conscious of the powerless majority in the West being guilt tripped for ills they don’t create.

        • I can totally agree there- it is the company who calls the shots, and the consumer who pays the price for those decisions. And while I am being guilt tripped for those decisions that I truly didn’t have a hand in making, it doesn’t sit right with me to completely ignore it either. From the research I’ve done, clothing prices have fallen over a number of decades- I wasn’t specifically referring to the movement of the manufacturing but rather the drop in prices and qualities over the last 50-70 years. I think that companies need to take responsibility for themselves and take ownership of the reality of the decisions that they make, but it is also up to the consumer to tell these companies if they agree or disagree with them. Sadly, the only thing they seem to listen to is money!

  • I have finally bought myself two new pairs of shorts for summer after my old pairs finally bit the dust after seven and fourteen years of use. I try to use what I have for as long as possible and do not have a huge wardrobe. So no anger over here…i think that your post was very engaging and persuasive 🙂

    • My goal with all of my clothing is at least 3 years of regular wear, hopefully closer to 5! There is a finite limit on the amount of clothing you can wear in a week/month/year, and at a point, you are just collecting things to hang in a wardrobe. I am not against switching over seasonal wardrobes, but if you have clothing that is sitting for years, you need to trim it down (and not use your newly emptied wardrobe as an excuse to fill it again). I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it!!! (And aren’t ready to crucify me, eep!)

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