Monday, April 05, 2010

The Five Cs of keeping your look fresh: Counting the Cost

Now that I've spent 30 days telling you how to look younger, I think it's time to discuss some of the other subjects I mentioned in The Beauty Boomer Manifesto. One of these is the cost of our clothes.

Earth to fashion magazines: "investment dressing" is an oxymoron

If you've been around as long as I have, you've been told over and over again to spend heavily on your basics. To sink real money into shoes, bag, wool overcoats, and suits. They tell you you won't look polished or professional if you pay less, and that nobody will take you seriously in your $50 shoes and $100 coat. They tell you it's OK to break the bank on these important pieces because they're an investment.

I cry bullshit.

Clothing isn't an investment

On the spectrum of necessary expenses, clothes come in somewhere between groceries and a new car.

First of all, clothes are a consumable with a shelf life. It might not be the shelf-life of a Twinkie, but clothing isn't gold bullion; it doesn't last forever.

Second, as soon as you drive that outfit home from Macy's, it loses 30 percent of its value. So unless you're buying Fortuny evening gowns at thrift shops and flipping them to the Met's Costume collection, you're not making money on clothes.

Now, the nice thing about reaching our stage in life (I won't call us middle-aged for fear of offending Rosina) is that it's perfectly appropriate to spend heavily on items that are going to get a lot of wear. Or on items that have a serious job to do. Or that award you serious joy points.

The other day I was at Forever XXI with my daughter, shopping for Easter finery. I was waiting to pay for her new dress, and it occurred to me that the bra I was wearing cost more than the dress I was buying for my daughter. And as screwy as that sounds--how can two straps and a quart of spandex cost more than an entire dress--it's a perfect example of the point I'm trying to make.

My daughter will outgrow a dress in less time than it takes me to fold a load of laundry. It would be a ridiculous waste to spend Lilly Pulitzer-levels of money on a dress for her.

On the other hand, there is no sum too high to spend to get the girls--well, if not too high, then high enough. Somewhat perky. And unfortunately, I'll be wearing the same size for long enough to amortize the cost of my expensive bra.

Sometimes I think I should be wearing a sign that says "Body by Wacoal."

So don't let a sales associate or a fashion magazine talk you into spending more than you're comfortable with. If you hear the phrase "investment dressing," my advice is to stick your fingers in your ears and go "la la la la I can't heeeeeeaaaaarrrr you."

Unless the piece in question gives you serious joy. Or earns its keep. Which in my case, wouldn't be a pink and green shift dress--but would be a great-fitting bra.

This post brought to you by Poppy's collection of Wacoal bras.


  1. Heh. I discovered Wacaol about 10 years ago and haven't looked back. My girls get great support and, damn, if those bras don't last a freaking long time (but I do not wear the same one two days in a row and I DO handwash and hang dry them--dude, for the money they cost, I want them to LAST!).

  2. Hi Grace--I do the same thing--hand wash and hang to dry.

    And you nailed it with not wearing them two days in a row. I read somewhere that spandex needs to take a day off to snap back into shape. (Who knew?)

    At $60 a pop, they deserve lots of TLC!

  3. Lol! You couldn't offend me, Poppy. Make me laugh, make me really think, yes, but offend, no. Only dweebs offend me.

    What in heaven's name is "Wacoal"? It sounds like some weird English fuel. I must look this entity up.

    I have some "investment" pieces dangling sadly in the nether reaches of my closet. One (bought during a period of complete insanity and worn once to a wedding) was a black St. John cocktail suit which would apparently be appropriate right up to, and in, the mortuary. It was supposed to creaselessly accompany me on cruises (I never cruise) and to soirées, after-work parties, and fine dining outings. So far, since I have worn it once, It cost me $2,000. On the other hand, I bought a lovely black wool clingy little dress number from Forever 21for $38 and have worn it at least six times, bringing its cost-per-wear down to (God. Get out the calculator, my math is rubbish...) $6.33. Nowadays, $2,000 on an outfit is just insane/politically incorrect, you name it. It's a mortgage payment and then some. So much for investment. I'm with you all the way.

  4. I must check out the Wacoal bras. Are they lined? Since I nursed my son (17 years ago!) the headlights have been on permanently. I look great and feel better in a really good bra. THAT's an investment worth making!

  5. Keep this in mind when your daughter wants a ridiculously priced Homecoming/Prom dress. Despite what she says? She will NEVER wear it again!

  6. When I think about 'investment' dressing, it's spending the money on clothes that you wear to work, that will help you make more money at work (rather than less), so things like a great pair of dress pants that you'll wear week after week for years.

    Great bras are also so important - so many women as they age tend to wear their breasts way too low, and it's frumpy and ageing.

    And you're lucky to get away with only spending $60 on yours - my size requires a bigger investment of around $90 or more!

  7. Your blog was recommended by Jen Lancaster and I am LOVING it! I enjoy your writing style and your content, thank you!

  8. I will say that cheap stuff, under certain circumstances, doesn't last.
    Some of the stuff I swore by when I was a SAHM has been very easy to kill now that I'm a You-Are-Old-Enough-To-Be-Alone-For-A-Couple-Of-Hours-A-Day-I'm-Going-To-Work Mom.

    And very little goes in the dryer.

  9. Damn Straight Pops- you're on the money here. I think "investment dressing" is nonsense too.

    Do you believe in the Cost Per Wear theory? Mr FF swears by this.

  10. Rosina, Wacoal is a line of bras with a bunch of specialties. They have a petite line, but I'm looking for a good minimizer, and they do that well.

    Fannie: First I have to survive eighth grade graduation. Luckily, I have a pal who told me the place to go to get long white dresses for a reasonable price. Otherwise it could break me.

    MAW: By lined do you mean that foamy stuff? I don't know about that. I eschew any kind of padding, because it's really NOT NECESSARY.

    Imogen: $90 bras?? Oh goody! I have something to look forward to!

    Maxie: Thanks! Any friend of Jen's is a friend of mine.

    bird: I agree about the dryer. In fact, some of my daughter's stuff would get killed if I put into the washing machine. Delia's, I'm looking at you.

    Faux: I'm all about cost-per-wearing, although if I did the math, I'd be buying $200 bras, and $300 jeans, since those are what I wear five days out of seven. (Um ... I wear other stuff with them.)

  11. I buy expensive bras because they out perform the cheaper ones, they last longer and look better and I feel very chic wearing I totally get where you are coming from...I am finding a lot of great info here...keep it coming!

  12. Poppy, LOVE this blog! I've been a fan of yours since I was introduced to mamarazzi by Jen and she sent me here too! I'm a faithful reader of Jen's and now of yours! Great tips, keep 'em coming! Will absolutely check out Wacoal, I've been a VS girl since I HAD boobs but always looking for great foundation pieces. Any ideas on post-baby sucker-inners? Still looking for the best one, until I lose the "baby weight" that is. One may wonder if you can still call it "baby weight" when your youngest is 3? Hmmmmm....

  13. Poppy:

    I used to be a Wacoal fan until I switched to Le Mystere and still have a few in my stable. Natori is my favorite sports bra. Cotton + underwire = bliss! The girls are positively immobile. Thanks also for the no two days in a row tip - that was news to me and I am grateful for ways to shore up my investments. Love your beauty manifesto and will check in soon!

  14. I did come over from Jen b/c if you love her, then I love you!

    Yay! make me pretty.

  15. Yay! Came over from Jen, I await your wisdom...and your magic wand.

    You, go , girl!

  16. I am so delighted that the divine Miss Jen recommended your blog. Amen sistah to all that jazz. I am all about finding the deep joy. And a great fitting bra is it. (Hard to find if you have girls like mine - that don't live at Victoria's Secret). I will be checking out Wacoal asap.
    Personally I like the idea that I can find a bargain. One of the best pair of shoes I got were Isaac Mizrahi black leather pumps, ridiculously high for the insane price of $5. From Goodwill. Never worn. Love them!
    I am a new follower of yours! Thank you for the inspiration today. I don't blog about pretty (but I make pretty things and blog about inspiration). Come visit if you have a chance. Enjoy the day! Erin

  17. Came here from jennsylvania and bookmarked you right away. I was glad to read so much of what you wrote (the myth that is "clothing is an investment", in particular).


Gentle Readers:

For the time being, I've turned off comment moderation. Please don't spam; it's not nice.

xxx, Poppy.