Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can you have Quality without Good Taste?





First, let's define "good taste" very specifically.  Let's define good taste as something that appeals to both your current self and your future self.  This may be ten years or longer for casual clothes, and often just five years (although still, hopefully longer) for business clothes.

There are two possible strategies for buying clothes (with obviously some overlap and going back and forth):
  • One can apply a good taste strategy, maintaining a stable collection of clothes, replacing items as necessary.  This model allows for an amortization of costs over time. Some characteristics from both the supply and demand side are on the left side of the chart.
  • Or, one can apply a high style and fashion approach.  Here, one is constantly replacing almost entire wardrobes every two or three years, and perhaps more often (see right side of chart).  This is environmentally problematic, despite being used by some of the people who have self-identified as being very environmentally focused.   
Many people on this blog and others describe a desire for well made, American made clothes that are affordable.   This may require adopting a core strategy to wardrobe building with a focus on items that meet both one's current needs and future (i.e. the good taste approach), and using the addictive right side for some flavor, but sparingly.

59 comments:

CM said...

The problem with a good taste strategy? "Expensive but fair" is increasingly difficult to find... or betrays itself as only one of those buckets after 6-12 months.

Thrift shops are becoming the purveyor of choice for most of my wardrobe. Doesn't get more environmentally friendly than that! And oddly, I often have better luck finding well constructed, classically styled garments secondhand than in stores or catalogs today.

Anonymous said...

Let's see...

The left side lifestyle diagram feels boring; the right side? Sexy! Exciting! wealthy! Yeah new clothes! How else can I fill out my apartment sized walk in closet ever season? Besides, Who's going to keep the factory workers employed in the 'emerging' economies? As a retailer I'd be mental not to go after customers who buy every season rather than sell one outfit every ten years...

WRJ said...

Makes sense to me! Except I think describing the "impulse" side of the equation as a "strategy" is being generous. It's an indulgent, short-sighted, emotional response to marketing stimuli, with very little thought or planning involved. Which is fine on a rare occasion, as you point out! But destructive and wasteful as a general practice.

I think somehow the attitudes of children raised by baby boomers to believe that they can be anything they want to be but not taught the values of critical thinking and delayed gratification and the now-dogmatic defense of fashion by its apologists that it is a form of escapism tie into the growing prominence of the "impulse" side of the equation.

WRJ said...

Oh, also, our liberal consumer credit policies and generous though recently tightened personal bankruptcy laws certainly play a role in driving impulsive buying habits.

GLH said...

Well said Muffy. While in college, I once purchased a pair of pants one size too large in the waist so that I would still be able to wear them when I "filled out" a little with age. The good is that after 20 years my waist hasn't changed, the bad of course is that the pants don't fit. Clearly I made a poor decision, but the decision was made on the premise that I would pay top dollar for something that I thought would be long lasting.

Bob Henkel said...

I am not clothes conscious enough to really speak on this topic. I just know what fits me and what I feel comfortable in. Can I buy an Italian custom made suit every year? Sure. But why would I?

As noted ad nauseum on this site--we want quality, durable products that we will perhaps pay a little more for, but they have to do the job over the long haul. You can have all that and perhaps also meet the scrutiny of the fashion police if that is required. This isn't rocket scientry.

BlueTrain said...

This thread raises some difficult questions, especially if you have the historical perspective. For one thing, domestic production does not necessarily imply quality. These days, however, it does imply expensive but even that is not necessarily so. There have always been inexpensive things available, which were sometimes cheap, because there is a market for it. It might be surprising to realize that at one time, "imported" usually meant more expensive and to an extent, with certain products, it still does. Even now, domestic production still moves around the country seeking lower costs and those aren't just lower labor costs.

But who knows what a fair price is? Beginning with the days of wild inflation a few decades ago, it's hard to say what something is supposed to cost. All that matters is whether or not you can afford it and whether you're willing to pay the price, fair or otherwise.

But to speak to the initial question, of course you can have quality without good taste. One's own taste is not always that good, by which I mean, it might not appeal to others. So we also make an effort to adhere to the group norms of what constitutes good taste, in spite of the fact that you wouldn't be caught dead wearing a pink shirt.

I might also add that good taste, high quality, conservative styling and a high price do not result in something that will necessarily last any longer than something that costs half as much. But then, that pretty much defines a luxuary good. Will a BMW outlast a Chevy?

Returning to clothes, however, is the future you more important than the present you?

Greenfield said...

I could not possibly agree more.
One corollary, however; in the "Good Taste" column I would also place "usefulness." One big problem I have with Bean, Orvis, etc. these days is the vast majority of their women's offerings are not clothes that will hold up for actually DOING anything wearing them. After all this time, do they not know that women DO things, not just sit around looking decorative?

I got the new spring Bean, took one look at the cheesy designs and hideous colors, and escorted it to the recycling bin forthwith.

And yes, you can spend a mint on extremely bad taste--go look at Coach bags nowadays for egregious examples.

Andrea M. said...

I do not consider myself 'preppy' in the least; I'm from Texas, after all. But I am interested in 'left side' clothing and that is why I read this. However, I, like CM above, have found that such things are indeed few and far between. And places that used to sell quality clothing do not anymore and I don't want to spend $150 on a pair of pants that will not last as long as my $35 ones.

nutrivore said...

While what you state is mostly true, I don't automatically assume that Made in the USA or Europe equals better working conditions for the employees or better wages.

Forever 21 was investigated not so long ago by the U.S. Department of Labor for its sweatshops in Los Angeles. And the Chinese now have a car manufacturing sweatshop in Bulgaria.

Morever, not all developing country retailers have sweatshops. I buy my pashmina (cashmere) sweaters and scarves directly from Kashmiri weavers on my annual trips to India. They are suppliers to famous brands (think tan, black and burgundy checks) and they work on their own terms.

That said, most of my bags are from Red Oxx and Tom Bihn. Not preppy, but Made in the USA and absolutely the best.

Anonymous said...

"Costumes", well said.

Max said...


I very much agree with your observations. I have however had the experience too, that Made in USA, does not always mean better quality. I bought a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes a while back, and I love their design and fit and have bought another pair since, but the leather quality on that first pair did not justified a 270+ Dollar price tag, even if it was made in the USA by American workers.

The other factor that is important to consider in this context, in my experience, is the journey of actually finding one's personal style with age and life experience. Not everybody has the fortune to grow up around authentically and consciously well-dressed and preppy family or friends and might go through a style and dress evolution and learning process for a while before finding themselves and thus their most comfortable personal dress style. Lower priced items might help to find your authentic style more quickly and easily, because one does not have the price tag barrier that might prevent one from experimenting, especially with high priced shoes.
What I personally frequently used to do, and still occasionally do, is to go to second hand stores first, when I want to try out new and different clothing, color or dress styles.
I only do this for clothes though, not for shoes.
When I like the second hand items I bought for a fraction of the retail price, I then later, when I have the funds, invest in new, higher priced, high quality brand name items of the same style, color etc.

Otherwise, I absolutely agree with your advice, suggestions and perspective.

I always give my clothes to Goodwill or some other local charity when they do not fit my body or personality and style anymore. Even the clothes I originally bought second hand (if they are still in good shape) I give away again. Re-re-cycling. Since I am rather tall, and most of my friends are shorter than me, the family and friends pass on option is not available in my case most of the time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Muffie. Every item of clothing made in the US is not high quality, but if the US is going to be relevant in making clothes, a significant portion will need to be both high quality and classic in design.

B B said...

My thanks go out to Goodwill because I don't have to be confronted by reminders that I often have been on the red side of your illustration when I really would like to commit to always being in the blue. We are smack in the middle of the month that confounds me most. Somebody please bring back well-made "resort wear" of the sort that used to be available at Talbots after the holidays. It's February, I've found a place that's warm, and I just need a few new things...

Bill Ingram said...

As I've posted before, I have some sympathy for the wannabes, the poseurs, etc -- imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. After all, I'm not a True Prep, myself. I went to public school in Virginia for god's sake! Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren have succeeded in selling the country on their knockoff 'preppy' look as the couture du jour for the middle class. This is, for the most part, fine with me. I prefer it to t-shirts, blue jeans, and sweatsuits. As long as I can still find the clothes I like (flannel trousers, oxford button-downs, khakis, wool sweaters, but very little more), I am not bothered by the junk other people choose to buy and wear.

But, herein lies the problem. As more and more trusted clothiers join this race to the bottom, it is becoming harder and harder to find the good stuff at all. While Bean still sells wide wale corduroys a few months out of the year, they might be the only place left. But good luck finding a shirt that isn't non-iron. Worse, now that they're in the Style/Fashion game, what happens when the style changes? Will they change, too? Will they have any choice, since they will have, by then, lost all their old customers?

Anonymous said...

In really enjoyed reading the insight of the Bean employee. I am in my early thirties, grew up with Beans (mostly: mocs, boots, coats, sweaters and totes/bags) and have had a difficult time adjusting to the changes. Every year (for over 10 years) I received the Kingsfield sweater on Christmas morning. Though this tradition ended (ok, I put a stop to it) 7 years ago, I still wear them, but the quality has changed dramatically with the times. I suppose I am just one those ladies who knows what she loves and wants more of that...and admittedly there is a bit of lost nostalgia.
Muffy, your example is true...most people my age have many costumes tat they don.
Jessica from Ohio's Western Reserve

Greenfield said...

Do you people all REALLY source your clothes based on social justice issues in countries of origin? I find that strains credulity somewhat, even realizing there ARE zealots out there who will only buy organic cotton farmed by monks, washed in spring water and woven by hand while chanting for Whirled Peas. ; )

I'd personally be happy just to find something that FITS loose, isn't laced with unpronounceable chemicals, and won't fall apart the 3rd time I wash it!

WRJ said...

@ Michael: I have to respectfully disagree. Today I wore to my business casual workplace: a Polo camelhair overcoat, made in Italy; Polo khaki-colored flannel wool trousers, in a traditional, flat-front fit, made in Italy; a Polo alligator belt strap, made in Italy; a roughly 8-year-old striped Polo oxford, still going strong; and a roughly 6-or-7 year old flannel gray Polo cashmere crewneck, going strong. No logos, all exceptional quality, all traditional in fit and design, all (if I do say so myself) falling within the parameters of "good taste" as defined here.

Yes, the good stuff is mixed in with loads of crap. The very same could be said of Brooks Brothers, except their good stuff is not anywhere near as good as Polo's. And Polo is probably the only mainstream retailer still selling a real natural shoulder as a matter of course and, IMO, sells ties that are (made by hand in the USA or Italy) superior to Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and the rest. Unfortunately, most of Polo's tailored clothing is only available in brick-and-mortar stores, but it's there, and it's great.

The issue I have with other companies (like Bean or Brooks Brothers) who sell crap is that it seems to be at the expense of the "good stuff". With Polo it isn't, so I really couldn't care less if they also sell logo tees and hoodies.

Flo said...

"As a retailer I'd be mental not to go after customers who buy every season rather than sell one outfit every ten years..."

I think that is a horribly inaccurate observation for most of us who want to buy quality. Truthfully I am buying less because of the lack of quality, so that mentality is rather counterproductive. If items were better made, I would probably buy more, but I'm not going to throw my money away on items that fall apart after one or two washings--and I'm not being facetious, this has happened to me, and I'm sure that it has happened to others as well. My money is going to thrift stores and in to my bank account instead. I still buy new, but definitely not as often as I used to. And I doubt that most people completely purge their closets every season either. If they do, they are the types that are going to do it regardless of price or quality.

FYI--a made in USA tag doesn't necessarily guarantee that it's actually made within the 50 states either, it can also mean it's made in one of our territories. One of which was guilty of hiring people from-you guessed it-China! Nike, Ralph Lauren and several other companies had manufacturing facilities that were guilty of this.

Kathy said...

Muffy, your diagrams are wonderful! I chuckled at OMG and so cute. Well done!

Greenfield, If you would write a blog I will be the first to sign up. I always look forward to your comments.

Anonymous said...

Taste is in the eye of the beholder. Good taste, however, could be described as form following function, quality construction (I would include traditional Levis in this category, although I think I hear a gasp coming from somewhere along the coast of Maine), tailoring that makes sense, materials that are as natural as possible and colors that don’t swear when combined. As with great art, clothing in good taste stands the test of time, at least for a few decades. Styles do change (men no longer wear powered wigs) and that’s fine, but design basics must be present for a new item to be in good taste. The big question might be, who are the arbiters?

We live in rapidly changing world where people want to stand out and be noticed, a somewhat foreign concept to readers of this blog. Burberry’s latest offerings may be an extreme example, quite possibly the product of lysergic acid diethylamide dropped into their water cooler by a playful satyr.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are the Walmarts and Targets of the world, which sell clothing at universally affordable prices. Problem is, the stitching comes unraveled in the shopping bag while you drive home.

Those who read this blog are a shrinking target market. But have no fear; we can still find delicious truffles even if it means digging a little deeper in the soil. We have our trusty handler to guide us, those who need guiding that is. Which brings me to impulse buying.

I can honestly say, I have bought an article of clothing on impulse only once. It was a pair of Brooks Brothers slip-on loafers, not the tassels, but something made in Rome. The quality was exceptional, but the styling was suspect for a traditionalist like me. They were expensive, and I could feel the adrenaline rush as I opened my wallet to pay the bill. They made it home to my closet, where they remained in solitary for years, over to the left, away from the general population. I wore them once and put them right back, their only visitor a shoe tree. With the advent of eBay, I finally liberated them and swore to myself, never again.

MGC

John G said...

@Greenfield: Put it this way -- I would much prefer to have made in the US, but I'm happier when BB and LLB make their shirts in Malaysia than in China, happier still with a polo shirt made in Peru (which Freedom House ranks as "free"). That's a completely different question from whether the shirts should be wrinkle-resistant.

Michael Rowe said...

John G, very nicely put.

Anonymous said...

MGC, just one impulse buy? Color me impressed!

Anonymous said...

I just want well-made traditional clothing. Don't care who makes it. Prefer US when affordable.

Anonymous said...

I believe you can absolutely have quality - in craftsmanship and materials - without good taste. There can be colors and cuts of clothing that are exceedingly well made but just aren't appealing. And no matter how well or where an item is made, sometimes it just doesn't appeal to our future self the way we thought it would.

As for impulse buys vs. stocking a closet with classics, I agree in concept. But like it or not I am influenced by subtle changes in cut and style that come and go over the years. I do not like cheap, trendy clothes. But the quality Coach handbags that I not-so-gently stockpiled in my early 20s no longer work for my lifestyle in my late-40s. Many of my beautiful wool sweaters that I collected in college have been donated to Goodwill over the years because while they still fit, they just don't fit the way I want them to anymore. Most are too short waisted, despite their very classic origins. I think they were purchased in good taste, and with my future self in mind...but my present self needs something different.

I make many impulse buys, sometimes looking for that elusive, perfect pair of khakis and sometimes in search of a pop of color or style to brighten up a drab season. I have a closet full of quality clothes, most of which I really love and many which I bought quite purposefully, but I suspect that in ten years there will have been significant turnover within.

I disagree with many that there are no quality shops and brands. Maybe not for men, but the marketplace is open and inviting for women. I find many beautiful and beautifully made things, often on the Internet, but - and this is a big but - I'm not looking to replace an item I once loved from twenty years ago. I'm okay with a slightly different take on a classic, quality garment.

Terri said...

Re: destructive & wasteful buying habits...

"Unravel" is a haunting short documentary shot in India and capturing the inexplicable waste and questionable taste of western fashion preferences. Can't find the full film online, but there is a trailer on YouTube.

Paraphrasing the most haunting line for me is the explanation one older woman gives for our level of waste - "It is more expensive to wash clothes in America than to buy new ones."

And it's hysterical to watch the women as they attempt to model some items that fall on the far right side of Muffy's chart.

Anonymous said...

I think your construct really has two dimensions: low/high quality and traditional/emerging styles. There are certainly traditional items that have decreased in quality over time and there are certainly contemporary items that are extremely well constructed, whether in the US or abroad.

As many have mentioned, the idea that something is manufactured in the US is no guarantee of quality. When I hear a manufacturer blowing the "made in the USA" horn too loudly I always recall Detroit in the 1980's trying to sell inferior domestic product under the banner of patriotism (remember the K-car?). Guess what...it didn't work. Foreign manufacturers produced superior products at both the high and the low end and consumers voted with their wallets. Eventually, Detroit was forced to focus on what it should have been doing all along...producing a better product that actually met the needs of the customer. I also see companies like KJP using the 'made in the USA" card as an excuse to charge truly outrageous margins for their products.

BlueTrain said...

How many of us would admit to recreational shopping?

sara said...

Although I enjoy this blog, the comments and agree with most of them, I sometimes wonder if we don't forget a reality which most people in this country face now.

The average gross income is about $47,000 per household. After taxes, that amounts to what? Approximately $3,000 a month? That's not a lot of money if your rent or house payment is $1,500 and you're trying to raise one or two children on the remaining $1,500.

In this part of the world, many people are lucky to make $10 an hour and spend $40-$50 a week on gas just to get to work. (After buying some of the new light bulbs recently, my husband wondered how some people were going to even afford those). Shopping at WalMart is the unfortunate necessity for the majority of Americans these days.

JDS said...

I don't "shop" for clothing. I do "equipment replacement". Thrift stores and ebay are sometimes good sources for economical buys and the styles I prefer. A Burberry's original trench coat for $100, BB ties for under $20. New Bill's Khakis last me about 8 yrs. before they develop holes in the pockets and frayed cuffs. My whole wardrobe (not counting sweaters and outercoats) hanging in the closet, measures less than 36" across. 'Not a "clothes horse", lasting quality and "traditional" style are important. "All the World's a stage....."

Anonymous said...

For me, the one company that stands out head and shoulders above all others with respect to the high quality/good taste criteria is Patagonia.

Cheers,
Gary

Pigtown*Design said...

Could you also delineate the columns as "Style" and "Fashion". Style endures, fashion changes.

Thanks!

Chesapeake said...

Thank you for stating this so plainly. I have always looked at this distinction as the difference between "buying" and "acquiring" items. The former implies short-term satisfaction while the latter implies a longer-term approach that considers future needs.

Taking an acquisition approach also takes the focus off the initial price tag and instead shifts attention to the long-term value of the item (price per use).

I'm curious as to the community's view of a company like Filson. They are a "mixed bag" of product quality (similar to Orvis and LL Bean) but as an American company with an extensive Made in America line, they are worth a look.

Steven B said...

I agree with WRJ. Ralph Lauren still makes some good mens clothes. The polos come in nice colors, and hold up pretty well. I'm not crazy about the pony, but I custom order them in low-contrast colors. I buy t-shirts from the double R store. They're expensive, but I love them. I've had some misses — the solid sueded broadcloth shirt has gone WAY down in quality. It just pisses me off to walk through Brooks Brothers now. I bought some madras shorts from "Bills Kahki's" — but I still prefer the ones I got at RL. And I've always had problems with the colors LL Bean serves up — going back to the 80s.

Anonymous said...

Quality is important, naturally. But I still prefer made in America, however hard it is to find, because at the very least I am helping to keep my fellow American employed.

DSF said...

Three-cheers to those who get their stuff from thrift shops, garage sales, eBay, etc. They know that there is very little retail demand for high-quality clothing and that few retailers sell it. That know that even the most expensive boutiquey items are rarely manufactured above the mid-level standards of a decade ago. They know that brand-names are just trademarks to be bought and sold on the open market, and that it is pure illusion attach any sort of "heritage" to even the most elite labels. They know that no one in the clothing industry cares about the shrinking wafer-thin demographic of middle-aged ex-preppies who want to dress like characters from a Frank O'Hara novel.

If you want a sports jacket that looks and fits and feels like a BB Own Make from 1980, go out and buy a BB Own Make from 1980. I just did, one in my exact size, almost brand new, for $60.00. That might be the last jacket I ever get. Time to move on to more important pursuits, like finding the right unguent to treat my lumbago.

BlueTrain said...

To Chesapeake, I'm sort of a follower of Filson as well as one or two other practically unknown manufacturers, at least around here. Filson has changed dramatically over the last few years and not necessarily for the better. Unfortunately, they are subject to all the same problems that L.L.Bean has been and possibly more so, because of an even narrower product line. So what happened?

First of all, their traditional market all but evaporated. Only so many people want oil finished tin pants and coats. Their line of woolen garments is still mostly available but is expensive, though no more so than similiar garments from anyone else (more or less). So in order to grow or even to just stay in business, they've had to add other products that they don't produce themselves, although they've always sold things from other manufacturers, and to outsource some of their own labels. But you've heard that story before about other people.

There seems to be a certain level of sales that a manufacturer needs to maintain or they will disappear--or else rely just on a tiny market share like Russell Moccasin. It's a basic business problem: how to stay in business. Filson does, however, produce a lot of their own stuff, though I'm not privy to any real knowledge of their sales, costs, product mix or who their market consists of. But there is a market for relatively expensive made-in-American goods like they produce and not only in the U.S., either. And some of their oil finish garments are still carried by logger supply houses like Madsen's and Bailey's. Their oil finish garments are really unique (Barbour really isn't even close) but they're still expensive.

Anonymous said...

sara - The economy is the point.

When L.L. Bean decided that not enough consumers would tell the difference between well-made items and junk, and outsourced production to China to make higher profits for the management and Bean family, how many people in Maine and elsewhere in the US were put out of work? Whenever Kiel James Patrick and Sarah Vickers make promotional material to advertise all of the Made-In-China junk (like L.L. Bean Signature, J. Crew, Kate Spade), more U.S. jobs goes away. Then we are stuck with the doom loop that you are talking about.

Meanwhile, the strongest parts of the economy today are probably electronics and entertainment. Like it or not, those industries have very strong user bases holding the vendors accountable to the highest standards. The fans are very picky and the companies rise to the occasion and become globally successful.

Those are just some of the reasons I think the Daily Prep is not just fun, but important.

Anonymous said...

I love your chart!!! Very sensible way to look at what you're buying. I buy American when I can and try to buy high quality things for us. I will wait to make a purchase. We both have a number of clothing items that were bought long ago. I've always said I'd rather have a handful of expensive, high quality, tasteful things to wear, than a closet full of disposable, trendy trash. --Holly in PA

Colonialpara said...

The most recent fashion abomination by Bean with their multi-colored Bean boots is not the end all of poor design and execution.

My once favorite store, i.e. Brooks Brothers does this as well, especially in their latest men's dress shirt offerings of the non-iron type. So many of the colors and patterns are so completely INCONSISTENT with either preppy or WASP understated fashion as to (in my mind at least) be out of sync with what Brooks Bros. used to be and stand for).

The Red Fleece collection, the Milano trousers are also more examples of Claudio Del Vecchio's misguided attempts to rebrand BB to attract a younger clientele. In these two cases, these labels are for the very skinny male, perhaps even the smaller boys in middle and high schools.

Del Vecchio has also imported some utterly ridiculous and gaudy patterns and colors for men's ties and some of them are not of an especially high "quality" in their manufacture, yet command excessive and ridiculously high prices.

Getting back to Bean and quality in general, I think another example of changes over the years would be the Norwegian Fisherman's sweater. MY most recent purchase, which is probably 4-5 years old now reveals that the sleeve cuffs seem to stretch out of shape quickly at the wrist (unlike my first ever purchased in the 1970s and its next replacement in the early 1980s.

Anonymous said...


I've always tried to wear natural fabrics as much as possible because I just can't stand plastic. My two boys mostly wore cottons in the summer and cotton cords with woolen jumpers in winter. I would spend a bit more rather than have them in the cheaper (and in winter, colder) acrylic alternatives. This ethos has quietly affected both of them in their adult choices, which is pleasing to see.

Charles Gresham said...

One thing I have always kidded my wife about: If you find some article of clothing you really like - better buy two of them. For when the first one wears out...you won't be able to find a replacement years down the road. Still true today.

Greenfield said...

Colonialpara:

Yuppies don't know any better. Or care how they spew that money they made 15 minutes ago. . .

Anonymous said...

MGC, A masterpiece!

Max said...


Reply to Charles Gresham's comment:

So true Mr. Gersham! I follow the same strategy. Makes me sleep better at night, knowing that I have quality backup.
I guess I have Low-Quality Anxiety Disorder, and the ''better buy two of them'' approach seems to be the most effective cure against it for me in the attention-deficit, fast-paced and often low-quality retail environment we currently find ourselves in hahaha

Thank you for helping me feel less neurotic and strange about my attire buying habits ;-)

Hadilly said...

I have to agree with Anonymous 2:37 AM. Clothing mores do change over time. Last year I got rid of multiple pairs of BB trousers, still in great shape, nice fabrics, but just looking completely wrong when worn. When I bought them, I thought I would still be wearing them decades later. Wrong.

I also concur in that there are some lovely options for women right now, Emerson Fry, Brora, Dobbin, the rose..., Petit Bateau, Mollusk, Eric Bompard, Patagonia, Vintage Shoe Company...

I applaud buying second hand for many reasons, but one can find beautiful clothes out there!

Mona Vernon said...

I agree with Anonymous 2:37 overall.

I think the few classic items that are timeless are not enough to make a wardrobe or a daily outfit for a working women in a corporate setting. My suits from 10 years ago looked dated and had to go despite being still my size.

Casual wear is easier to describe as timeless.

Lollyg said...

I agree with so many of the comments. There isn't one clothing company that can be relied upon, anymore.

Although I want to look nice and appropriate, I also don't want to spend the precious hours of my life shopping endlessly for my wardrobe. I can't help feeling that buying clothes is now akin to shopping for a used car.....

John G said...

@ Michael Rowe: Thanks very much for your kind words.

Flo said...

I'm curious to see how many of the ladies in this group have found themselves in the mens department instead, for various reasons--better colors, better made, etc? I know on a recent trip to a Tommy Hilfiger outlet I wandered through the ladies section gagging at some of the styles and colors (and once again, lack of quality), but did end up purchasing a sweater from the mens department.

Anonymous said...

Mona Vernon and the commenter at 2:37am Feb. 12 make very good points. It's especially necessary for women in the workplace or other public sphere to evolve gradually in style and to update the wardrobe to present an image that is fresh and current. Cuts and preferred colors do change over time. With casual and sporting clothes, yes, one can enjoy and get away with wearing a jacket or sweater that's 10+ years old, but a women's business suit or dress from 2001 will look vintage. One can be classic and still look up to date by buying a few high quality, current designs in good fabrics and adding/discarding a few pieces slowly year by year, as the French and Italians do.

Anonymous said...

@Flo

I always shop in the men's department at Ralph Lauren!! I'm very tall, and the custom-fit buttondowns and polo shirts are the right length for me. Fit issues aside, I do like the men's color and style offerings more than the women's.

I also shop the Woolovers site, thanks to this blog (!), and have to buy unisex/men's styles for the arm and body length. I also find that here I naturally gravitate towards the classic men's styles for appearance and color.

All of my pants need to be tall or long inseam, and dresses/tunics usually fit me better in a tall as well. But I've found that there are plenty of womens retailers that offer tall sizes in these items and can accommodate me.

Marianne said...

Like commenter Max, I too suffer from "low quality anxiety disorder". I have a terrible need to have 2 of each items that I love in fit, color, design, and usefulness. For such rare quality/good taste items I lean on thrift stores and ebay. And my wardrobe tends to bulge because of this.

Which leads me to a question, in the pursuit of quality clothing in todays current market are there any minimalists out there?

Anonymous said...

These posts have certainly stimulated thoughts about "quality anxiety," and other issues of acquisition, particular regarding clothing for women.

While I have always believed that I have an eye for quality and what is classic, I have come to realize that there are subtle changes through the years that will result in an item of quality no longer looking quite right, or something that is in fine condition that just doesn't seem to fit my age and current lifestyle.

One example is a good quality RL (no pony logo) cabled cashmere sweater that I probably purchased before the turn of the century. What bothers me is that it has these dropped shoulder seams that, I guess, looked right at the time because there was that period when clothing was sort of over-sized.

This sweater that I thought was classic now seems dated, and I think that whenever I see clothing with shoulders that extend beyond where they should naturally end.

Androgynous clothing doesn't fit my true persona, yet I'm not ruffles and lace all over the place either. I think it is more complicated for women.

Julia

Anonymous said...

@Julia

I agree. My husband has no desire and no need to update his wardrobe. He's happy with what he has, and that works well because classic men's clothing literally never seems to change.

Even the most classic women's clothing items change cut and sometimes color over time. And my viewpoint also changes subtly, probably influenced more than I'd like by social norms, how I was raised, and advertising.

Like you, I don't wish to wear a totally androgynous wardrobe, and ruffles and bows don't work for me. Also, changing phases in life have brought about attitudinal changes in how I wish to dress. In some cases, I have the confidence to carry off a slightly more risque cut, in others I prefer to be more conservative. To be honest, I would not enjoy wearing the same thing year in and year out. I'm glad that my husband does, though!

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 4:28

Yes, yes...everything you said. Same with my husband--exactly what you said.

I have lived in different climates, on different coasts, in different cities, and have been in such varied environments and circumstances that some adjustments were practical, necessary, and just felt more comfortable.

Years ago I was at this pub type restaurant in Upperville, VA with my husband (horse country), and two couples came in together wearing all black. I saw locals at nearby tables glance up and softly utter, "New York."

There are regional differences. Always interesting.

Julia

MOLLIE'S MOM said...

When I think of good taste I have images of a person wearing well-fitted clothing that is not flashy, trendy or pretentious but rather classic,humble and made of quality materials. I have a similar reaction to people and their cars. I remember years ago interviewing several accountants and the one I chose drove a much older classic Jeep Wagoneer with the paneled sides. I chose him because it was clear that he and I shared the same values and that was important to me since I was hiring him to assist in managing my money. The other accountants that were driving shiny brand new cars didn't impress me at all and frankly, left me wondering if I would be paying more for their image and lifestyle rather than conscientious service.
It seems that most all clothing today is of poor quality and cookie-cutter styling despite the price tag and this is probably the root of my frustration. As a youngster, I was encouraged to purchase only a few high quality practical items for my wardrobe. I always wore high quality shoes ( my parents believed that quality shoes were absolutely necessary during a child's physical development) that were purchased at shoe stores where my feet were actually measured! The high quality department stores were the place to go if we needed personal assistance with proper fitting. As a young adult with limited income and a desire to purchase my own clothing, I wasn't always able to afford the best but, when I did need something nice, I always had options. Today, I don't feel that I have options and that I'll only end up paying more for junk. That old adage ' you get what you pay for' doesn't seem to apply to goods or services anymore. Like CM posted, I look on Ebay and Etsy now for quality classic items when I need them. My friend's daughter just opened a vintage clothing store in New England with her grandmother and they are doing quite well.

Herman said...

The flow chart. How true, how true.