It’s been awhile I know. I’m coming up on final exams which means hours and hours spent at my desk on top of the hours and hours spent at placement. I’ve not had the headspace for things outside of my field. I should be studying now, but it’s all a blur.
During my procrastination I sat down with a Strand Arcade (mall in Sydney) catalogue and came across a pink A-line Lisa Ho skirt in the order of around $1000. I nearly choked.
Here is a photo of it not fitting the model properly and fancied up with a belt:
I know a lot would be asking, what’s the big deal? It’s a designer skirt, what’s your point?
Skirts are one of the first things novice fashion designers learn to draft in fashion school. Specifically, plain a-line skirts. They are the easiest thing in the world to draft and make. I’ve done it. And my field is the opposite to fashion school. It took me half a day and I was going slowly. Unless that skirt is made out of fabric worth hundreds of dollars per metre (which it’s not), you wouldn’t get close to it being worth that kind of money.
So what kind of value do you get from the skirt? The answer is none. It’s a flat colour a-line skirt that you could make yourself or have someone make for you for under $100, using the same fabric, and since you chose the dressmaker yourself, probably with construction skills superior to the factory worker who did the Lisa Ho one. And it would fit you perfectly.
What about the designer? Isn’t that part of their creative vision? The answer is no. They’re also a business. For every complicated, more expensive to create garment, there has to be a fast cheap garment that they can charge a shitload for and make ridiculous amounts on because someone will buy it. It doesn’t even matter if it doesn’t sell and they have to reduce it to $400 because then someone will still buy it, think they got an amazing bargain, and the seller is still laughing all the way to the bank.
So who buys this stuff? We all do. There was a thread recently on the Vogue forum where a discussion ensued about the way we see our own bodies in light of all this media about dressing to ‘disguise’ the socially unacceptable (apparently) parts of our body. The OP who started the thread (in all innocence, I feel for her), said she didn’t want to have to think about this stuff, she just wanted to share ideas on dressing for ones shape. Fair enough.
Bear in mind though, that designers rely on women not wanting to think about it. They want you to see the label, to see the idea they’re creating in their advertising, for you to link the idea with the purchase, and then the idea with yourself when you make that purchase. And once the sale is made they don’t care one bit about the massive remorse or the fact that you just maxxed out your credit card buying an idea because you’re unhappy with the current idea of you. When the current idea of you is just fine, you’ve just got a shitload of media telling you that you’re not. But that’s another post.
All right, you say, so what sort of garments should you spend the big bucks on, if you’re feeling so inclined? Here’s my list
- Shirts that fit you really well. These are hard to make, hard to fit, and hard to buy. Spend the money.
- Draped dresses. Draping takes work and is timeless – avoid the fitted tube dress at all costs, they’re probably the third thing the first year fashion students learn to make.
- Good, thick coats that also fit you well – they will last forever.
- Anything with an uncommon detail that you haven’t seen elsewhere. Chances are some real work has gone into it.
Avoid spending big bucks on:
- Stretchy jersey stuff. Unless it’s silk jersey (but good luck finding that). Wool jersey gets a bit more leniency from me but given that we’re one of the largest wool-producing nations in the world, we shouldn’t be paying too much for it (even though we are).
- Simple skirts. Go to Witchery and spend a quarter of the price on the same skirt! It really is the same skirt!
- Shitty see-through silk. There’s grades of everything and I’ve seen silk of worse quality than nylon. If you’re surprised when you look at the fabric tag, put it back down.
But most of all, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to question why things are the way they are. Ask yourself why the super-cool model with messy hair and faux-disaffected look on her face appeals to you so much. Or why you would pay $1000 for something that is essentially worthless. Would you pay $1000 for a 1 cent share? Of course not, you’d pay it for a $1000 share. Remember the old saying “a fool and his money are easily parted“. Spend your money on the things that are constructed with talent and work and care, not on the things that only want to take your money and give you little in return.