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Clothing the Mama

Shopping. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a fact of life. Right?

I used to like shopping. In my early 20s I finally graduated from University and got a job that paid me enough to have some disposable income. And on my lunch breaks or on my way home from work I’d pop into the shops and browse around. Just checking things out, sometimes trying things on. I bought new things regularly, I suppose, but I was in there looking for deals often enough that I was able to snag items that were really cute, on sale, decent quality, natural fibers, etc.

clothes shopping

But these days? Shopping is like pulling teeth, I swear. Popping into the shops to look for deals with two little people in tow is just not going to happen. My disposable income has gone to the same place as my ability to stay up partying till 5am. And my ability to just wear what is already in my closet has grown by leaps and bounds. I try not to look too shabby, but honestly, if it’s not torn, stained or ugly and it fits comfortably, I’ll wear it.

Unfortunately, there comes a point when clothes do get torn or stained. Last weekend I decided I’d just pop into the shops with Claire while Bea was at a birthday party. I had to get in and out under an hour, I had my nearly-three year old with me, but I was still pretty optimistic. Surely I’d find a few good pieces to fill out my wardrobe, right?

But I didn’t see anything good out there on the racks. I saw a lot of synthetic junk, poorly made by mistreated sweatshop workers, cut from thin cloth. Some things were already torn or snagged sitting there on their sale hangers. I got one decent long-sleeved t-shirt and went away feeling yucky.

Even though I went shopping specifically because one of my daily-wear shirts grew a hole, did I really need more new clothes? It’s a question worth asking. How much is enough? Even if what I have is less than what most people have, could it still be more than what I really need? In The History of a Cheap Dress, Elizabeth Cline looks at women’s clothing purchases over the past hundred years. She says, “As clothes have become cheaper, our clothing consumption has gone through the roof. In 1930, the average American woman owned an average of nine outfits. Today, we each buy more than 60 pieces of new clothing on average per year.” Even taking that hole-y shirt out of the equation, I do own more than nine outfits. Maybe I can make do with less.

So, what to do? Where do you get your clothes? How much time and energy do you put into searching out good quality items? Do you save up for quality clothes that will last or buy cheap things more frequently?

I am leaning towards making my own clothes, not because it’s cheaper, but because I would rather spend my time sewing and my money on good quality fabric. I know one thing for sure. I am done with choosing quantity over quality. I would rather have nine good quality, ethically produced outfits than 60 crappy ones.

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  • Cynthia @ The Hippie Housewife February 24, 2012, 10:58 am

    My main (thought not sole) source of new clothing for the past few years has been Etsy. I don’t often buy new clothes but I try to check there first if there is something I want/need. All of my favourite clothing pieces are from Etsy, and I feel better about supporting an independent artisan than a big chain clothing store.

    Of course, it has the distinct disadvantage of not allowing you to try on the clothing before making a purchase!

    • michelle March 5, 2012, 8:03 am

      I’ve been eyeing some beautiful clothes on etsy lately too, but there’s a bit of sticker shock when I look at the prices. When I engage my rational brain and work out the cost of the fabric, time for a person design a pattern, cut it out, sew it and do any finishing work, I know it’s a bargain.

  • Lydia February 24, 2012, 11:46 am

    I usually shop at a second hand store for everyday clothes for myself and my family. Usually it is very inexpensive and if you don’t mind looking around a little bit, you can find things that are in almost new shape. That doesn’t mean I never buy new, but when I do I feel like I can buy something nicer- usually handmade- and feel ok about spending the money on it.
    Oddly, one of the things myself and my three year old both like about second hand shopping is the lack of options- there isn’t an overwhelming display. So, as in other areas of life, when you have less to choose from it seems somehow easier to choose!

    • michelle March 5, 2012, 10:38 am

      I totally agree about working with less choice rather than more! I’ve been discouraged from shopping at my local thrift store because it’s huge and overstuffed with selections, and not actually that cheap. I don’t want to pay $6 or $7 for a pair of kid-sized pants when I can buy them new at the store for $10. It’s probably time to start looking for a new thrift shop to check out!

  • Dawn February 24, 2012, 4:05 pm

    I pretty much only shop at thrift stores. There’s a cute little on near us that I frequent a lot. It’s the type of place that is super cheap ($3 shirts and $5 pants/skirts) but they don’t always have what you want, so each time I go I get 2 or 3 things for $10. It’s a great place to bring the kids as they have a nice kids corner with toys and books, and I feel comfortable with the stores small size, that I can leave them to play while I browse and even try on clothes.
    I do own a lot of clothes, but I find that my clothes get stained so often so then I have to get rid of them, or make them into something else. I’m also going up and down in my size so I have many items but they don’t all fit. I have jeans that range from 10-14 but because my body hasn’t settled on a size, they are just there in my drawer.
    If I buy new items, I choose Joe, which is affordable for my budget and I find the quality is pretty good.
    If I can afford them, these are my favourite brands of clothing: http://www.stilleagle.com/magento

  • mrsculpepper March 4, 2012, 6:48 pm

    We are a family of 5 and I doubt we buy 60 new (or even new to us) items of clothing for the entire family in a year. The hubs and I are at the same sizes we’ve been at since forever. We happily accept hand-me-downs for the kids. When we buy we start at goodwill. I’ve got plenty, probably more than I *need* but I’ve still got stuff I’ve been wearing for the past 10 yrs. I buy cheap and keep wearing it :)

  • Carollida March 19, 2012, 7:53 am

    I have found a love for easy pieces. Every thing in my wardrobe matches, and I try to stick with simple pieces that look nice, and are well made. I love 2nd hand shops! We also believe in less is best. I am a sucker for designer everything, but I have found a few fantastic designer pieces is well worth the smaller wardrobe. I buy all my designer clothing from 2nd hand specialty shops. I have thought about going all natural and organic with my clothes but I figure I am doing my part with 2nd hand too ;)

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