I don't get fashion

The clothing information from my photoshoot just went up. Holy crap.

Strenesse cotton wrap top, $220; Pamela Robbins, 914-472-4033. Joe’s Jeans cotton blend jeans, $158; joesjeans.com. Old Navy synthetic ballet flats, $20; Old Navy. Her own necklace.

Just to remind you, this is what that outfit looked like:
$158 for a pair of jeans? $220 for that shirt?! I’m glad I didn’t know that when I was putting it on, or I probably would have destroyed it due to my nerves of trying not to destroy it. I just… don’t understand fashion. I’m not paying more than $30 for a shirt that simple, and when I’m splurging on jeans I’ll shop at The Gap when they’re having a sale.

I could probably concoct that identical outfit for less than 50 bucks. Are these pieces incredibly durable? Are those super famous brands that I’m just oblivious about? Is this like when I watch America’s Next Top Model and don’t understand why they’re screaming happily about something?

The only thing in my price range were the Old Navy shoes, and those were casually destroyed during the shoot. They didn’t have flats in my size, so the just cut the backs off of these. I was wondering why they were so unfazed by destroying their property – it’s because they were worthless compared to everything else!

Oh, and the necklace isn’t mine – it was one of the staff’s. I was wearing my gray Scientific Method Surly Ramics that day. I tried to negotiate getting it in, but failed. Sorry, Amy!

And my outfit was cheap compared to the rest.
Most expensive dress: $1,250
Most expensive shoes: $1,095

I think everything in my closet isn’t work a thousand dollars. Gah.


  1. John Sherman says

    You said:”I just… don’t understand fashion. I’m not paying more than $30 for a shirt that simple, and when I’m splurging on jeans I’ll shop at The Gap when they’re having a sale.”All of that may be true but — holy smokes! — you look really great in this picture!

  2. says

    I can’t say I understand fashion either, but I do believe that quality of jeans can make a big difference for fit, sturdiness, etc., Some jeans are just awkwardly designed and won’t fit well, but others will kinda conform to you with time.Of course, some companies just ramp up the price without improving the quality of the denim…

  3. Rbray18 says

    i understand you on the fashion thing,but i am on other extreme end of fashion kinda,not movie or t.v. geek but i wear nothing but solid colors black if possible,and i prefer sweats to anything else far as pants go,and hell,paying more than 15 for any piece of clothing is insane in my book.and i see clothes as nothing more than protection from the sun or other elements.

  4. says

    This is true, which is why I don’t mind spending $40 or $50 for a new pair of jeans. In my experience, stuff from The Gap or Express fit a lot nicer and last forever. Old Navy jeans fit nice, but get holes super fast. And anything from general stores like Target or Walmart are pieces of crap.I couldn’t tell much difference between the $150 jeans and the nice ones I own, though. Maybe they’re indestructible.

  5. says

    Fashion is a strange industry because the basic functions of clothing (modesty and warm) can be fulfilled very, very cheaply. The next tier of function, comfort, generally requires only a modest cost increase. None of these desires are really costly, and thus aren’t great ways to make money. So in order to make profit, fashion had to create the demand for their product. They did this buy actually raising prices, turning clothing into luxury items. A $220 shirt exists because someone will buy it to show that they can afford to own a $220 shirt. It’s only function is to be that expensive item. Entire stores full of clothes exist only to be an accessory that screams “wealth.” Those who care about fashion use it as a tool to divide themselves into those who “get it” and those who don’t; between the haves and the have nots.

  6. bob42 says

    I recently developed a fondness for 100% silk Hawaiian shirts. They’re well made, breathe (essential in Texas,) comfortable, and I like the way they look. I’d never spent more that $20 on a shirt before, but to me they’re worth the (~$90) cost. To compensate for the excessive expenditure, I’m not wearing any pants.

  7. says

    Usually you are just paying for a name. I paid $120 dollars for a pair of jeans once – but only because they were the first pair I ever tried on that I didn’t need to get hemmed. I’ve also splurged on some Betsey Johnson dresses. You’re paying for the name though, sad but true. When I worked at J. Crew I would get a lot of dresses, pants, blazers etc for really cheap (normally those items would be over $100 easily), but they would fall apart almost instantly. The shit I buy at Forever 21 or H & M is super fucking cheap and typically lasts longer than the more expensive items I buy. Plus if they DO fall apart I don’t care because I paid $12 for it. Meh.

  8. says

    Yeah, she looks good, but she also looks good in her profile picture. Think of all the stuff you could buy from Guitar Center with the money saved….ok maybe like one thing. But still.

  9. says

    I will never, ever, ever understand fashion either, or fashion prices. That outfit is insanely plain for that price, though you do look awesome. Anyone who spends that kind of money though on a plain grey shirt must be out of their minds…

  10. says

    I will pay $30-40 for a pair of Carhartt’s buts that’s because I destroy jeans in my line of work. The Carhartt’s hold up a little bit better but they still get shredded. Of course I wear jeans until they are destroyed, much to the ire of my wife. Anything more than that and I start to get confused.

  11. olifantje says

    I bought a 400 dollar jacket a couple of months ago. My financial situation is still recovering from that purchase…. But the number of compliments that I keep getting when wearing the jacket make me feel really good. I promised myself that I will buy at least one of such items each year. What I won’t do is buying stuff that’s overpriced just because it is from some fancy brand.

  12. says

    I think in many instances you’re paying for a name, but sometimes you get a better fit and better quality fabric. Like olifantje I recently spent a lot of money on a jacket. It’s warm but not bulky, and it looks great. I plan to keen it for a long, long time. I made the decision to get it instead of getting lots of little things that wouldn’t last.I always prefer buying good quality stuff on sale but sometimes I rip labels off jeans so no one knows…

  13. says

    I love that shirt, but I don’t love it $220 worth. IIRC, I’ve got stuff from Banana Republic that drapes that nicely, and it was well below that price point.You look great regardless, and like others have said, you also look great in your profile pic. I’m still all agog at the article though — how awesome!

  14. bob42 says

    Some years ago I got a bonus at work and used some of it to buy two new suits and a few ties. Two weeks later, the company went business casual.

  15. mcbender says

    That outfit looks good, but it doesn’t look good enough to be worth that kind of price in my opinion (I honestly don’t see too much of a difference between the way you look there and the way you dress normally, aside from makeup).I’ve never understood spending that kind of money on clothing, but then I’m more than willing to drop $100 on a good bottle of wine, so perhaps it’s just a difference in priorities.

  16. Kiwiwit says

    Like it or not, you do look like you’re wearing $1,000 worth of clothing in that photo. It seems like alchemy rather than science but the difference is usually in the quality of the fabrics and the making. Think of it like quantum mechanics – very weird but supported by the empirical evidence (i.e. you looking so good in that photo).

  17. Buffy2q says

    I don’t get it either. I’ll admit that while I cringe over the prices I’ve paid recently for some items ($20-$40 per piece) there is a noticeable difference in quality over the $5-$10 stuff I used to get. Nonetheless I can’t fathom how a $220 top could be that much better. I’d be terrified to wear the thing.

  18. says

    hahaha… I shop at Gap too when they have sales of course, or American Eagle. I usually pay $50 for jeans and something like that or less for shirt/t-shirt. That is I think as much as I care about outfit even if I owned the whole world.

  19. says

    I don’t mind spending money on clothes that look good. Often that top-dollar garment will sit *that* much better than the $10 equivalent. However, it is definitely true that somethings are marked up because of the brand name.

  20. Jim says

    So you’re telling me the image had “This is what the NEW FEMINISTS look like” under it… yet everything you wore was all set up by outside fashionistas??? If you want to show what a group looks like have them wear their usual fashions, not something dreamt up by others! I just lost all credibility in that magazine (not that I had much to begin with).

  21. says

    We did get to pick out our outfits. That’s why I’m wearing something boring and not a fancy dress or stilleto heels :P

  22. says

    I can’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on clothes.. I pride myself on only once ever having paid more than $30 for a formal dress (the bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding). My own wedding dress was handed down.There are designers that I’d be thrilled to find in a thrift or consigment shop, but even if independently wealthy, I don’t know if I could bring myself to buy any article of clothing that cost more than my phone and internet bills combined.

  23. says

    I can’t bring myself to spend a lot of money on clothes.. I pride myself on only once ever having paid more than $30 for a formal dress (the bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding). My own wedding dress was handed down.There are designers that I’d be thrilled to find in a thrift or consigment shop, but even if independently wealthy, I don’t know if I could bring myself to buy any article of clothing that cost more than my phone and internet bills combined.

  24. Jacques says

    Full confession: I am male by gender, and have never understood female clothes. Except for jeans,

    you have no pockets!

    Shirts, which you call blouses, are covered with fringes, cuffs and collars that make them more difficult to clean than a man’s simple dress shirt, and then you sue the poor dry-cleansers who want to charge you more for what takes them more time to deal with. So, they raise the price for every “shirt” and the men lose out. Then, there’s the change in fashion every year. I have a gray, herringbone suit that I bought in college, (I’m in my 50’s) that I can still wear if I have a job interviews, or someone’s dead. I have a dark blue suit of the same vintage, if someone I know dies. What you wore in your photo shoot will be “out” next year, and whomever dresses next years “More” magazine model will sniff dismissively at what you wore. (Danged if I know why, you look fine to me. But my opinion doesn’t count, I’m old enough to be your father. ^&%$ in S. Carolina, I’m old enough to be your grandfather…) And don’t get me started about how y’all walk us around the mall making us “shop with you….

  25. Jacques says

    Edit: you have no pockets was supposed to appear in blockquotes, and my gray herringbone is suitable if I have a job interview or gets married. My dark blus is the only suit I reserve for death.

  26. says

    Women’s clothes are a rip. If I pay $200+ for a sports jacket, I expect it to last at least 10 years (actually, I have three that I paid $125 for 20 years ago and they are still in good shape).If a woman pay $200+ plus for something, it will be popping threads in less than a year.If there is a legal racket worse than women’s fashion (politics excluded), I don’t know what it may be.Aside: First Daughter has taken to assembling her wardrobe from clothes found in resale shops. She concentrates on the 1950s and 1960s. She has a a great wardrobe.

  27. CoatandTie says

    As the family of a fashion student, let me let you in on a secret. My partner spent several weeks in school learning about differences in quality in JUST STRETCH JERSEY. Let alone denim, denim took forever. There is A LOT MORE going on in these clothes than it appears to nerds like you and me. What some people said about raising some prices in order to make them a ‘luxury’ brand is true to some extent, and there are also clothes that are priced highly due to being a more innovative design, but that is unlikely to be what is going on here because those price rises are usually once an item is already past the raised prices of a quality garment and into the much higher brackets (generally $1000 and above).What is most likely going on with your outfit is that it is made of stronger, better fitting and more durable fabrics than you could tell from just one wear. Believe it or not, you could actually spend a lot more on durable, quality jeans. A pair of that price or more can last for many many years and always fit perfectly. Yes in some cases there is a price rise just for the brand, but in the case of jeans you can get a lot higher than that just for quality. The shirt looks like the kind which is made of some stretch hybrid weave (like jersey etc), which means that the quality is in not only comfort, but that it holds it’s shape for much much longer. I don’t have time to explain the physics of it here, but there is a lot to weaves. I hope that I gave you a glimpse into the fashion world as you often give me a glimpse into biology :)

  28. CoatandTie says

    As the family of a fashion student, I’ll let you in on a secret. My partner spent weeks learning the quality and stretch differences in JUST JERSEY. Let alone denim, denim took ages. There is A LOT MORE going on in these clothes than it appears to nerds like you and me. What people said earlier about raising prices to make something a ‘luxury brand’ is true to some extent, but this is usually only after the garments are already high quality so that usually occurs in much higher price brackets. What is likely to be going on with your outfit is that there is simply a high price for quality fabric and fit. Believe it or not you could pay a LOT more for jeans just for better quality. A decently priced pair of jeans will not only last you for many years but they will ALWAYS fit great. This is a combination of careful designing and better fabric composition which yes, costs more to produce. Your top looks like it is made of some kind of small weave, possibly with a composition of more than one type of fabric, which means it is not just the durability and comfort factor but the stretch and fit of the garment that matter. You pay more for these garments so that you can wear them for years and not have them lose their shape. For you as a one-time wearer these things would not be evident, but I know from experience that although I pay more for my clothes since my partner taught me, they fit better, never fall out of shape and I replace them A LOT less often than I used to (or than my friends do, for that matter). Suffice it to say that while two fabrics may look and feel the same when new, they are not, especially with weaves like you were wearing. I don’t have the time to explain the physics of it here, but there is a lot more to the humble weave than meets the eye.I hope I gave you a small glimpse into fashion as you do for me with biology :)

  29. Stevarious says

    All I can say about this is that my cousin is a lawyer and the other week she was griping to me that she started a new job in a ‘classy’ law firm and had to drop a couple grand on a new wardrobe – and the other lawyers were STILL being snobby about the labels.I couldn’t really respond to that.

  30. professor alice says

    The implications of this photo spread, with the listed prices of the clothing, is that feminists spend a lot of money on status adornment. I find it grossly insulting, purposefully misleading. This is not real, but a ruse meant to educate young women that they need to purchase expensive clothing to be respected as equals to men.

  31. says

    Labels, meh. But I’ll admit… quality can be worth it. My mother has a few very nice pieces that she’s had for almost 20 years now, and they still look and feel amazing. Is there ANYTHING in my closet with that kind of life in it? Actually, yes… my suit that I wore for interviews–the pants, jacket, and blouse came out to almost $400. I let my mother buy it for me because it seemed like a good thing to be able to pull out anytime. But that’s an exception. Frankly, I’m impressed when my shirts last more than a year or two without getting noticeably less attractive and/or comfortable. And jeans. God, don’t get me started on jeans. I can’t afford a really high-quality wardrobe at the moment, and honestly I don’t think clothes will ever be high enough on my list of priorities to warrant spending that much more than I do now, but for pieces that I wear very frequently or that have a decent shot of sticking around awhile (like a coat), I try to go for quality when I can, even if I have to spend a little more. For instance, I just bought a windbreaker-type jacket–the perpetual warm-ish fall weather here kind of necessitates having a good light-weight coat (to protect me from wind and rain, even if it isn’t that cold). In the past, I kind of dealt with hoodies for this sort of weather, because even if it wasn’t perfect, before long it would be time for winter jackets. Anyhow, I shopped around and got a decent deal, but I still had to spend almost $50 to get something of a quality I felt comfortable paying for. I know that isn’t THAT much, but this isn’t a heavy winder coat… just a windbreaker. But it’ll last, so I figure it’s worth it.All that said, there ARE brands out there where you pay just for the name and/or up-to-date styles, without getting the quality. This is often true of the stuff popular for high-school-age kids. American Eagle, Aeropostle… the quality isn’t really any better than Old Navy, but the prices are higher because they’re trendier. There are stores higher up in price as well that also suffer from the same problem. Sadly, I did occasionally shop at some such stores when I was younger, but thankfully I grew out of it.The way I see it, I’ll pay for quality, but if something is so cheap it will fall apart within a few wearings… I better have gotten it for next-to-nothing.

  32. says

    The most expensive and valuable thing in this shoot is that squishy lump of tissue in your skull. How many dollars have gone into your education at this point? How many more will be added to it? The cost of a top is nothing compared to an education. And I have now turned into my parents. sigh

  33. says

    Reminds me of a colleague who was interviewed for a magazine. The interview ended up about 5 or 6 pages. There was one passport-size photo to accompany the interview. They spent more time on the photo shoot than on the interview.

  34. NotThatGreg says

    Yup. Thing is, you can get a DVD drive for a computer, $20. It has microelectronics, an optical system, at least two motors, and a frikkin’ laser in it. $20. So what did you pay for your piece of cloth? I guess that’s because the ‘non-name-brand’ DVD works as well as the name brand, so the market doesn’t support much ‘badge premium’. I’ve noticed that with hardware-store C clamps, there are a tremendous number of poorly made examples out there, which the purchaser probably shopped around to get a low price on, and they really don’t work. If the threads are wobbly, or the clamping surface not true, it won’t do a good job ( And no quality control — I saw one once where the threaded hole in the body had been made twice at two slightly different angles). I think, as a result, the good-quality ones are a lot more expensive than they would be otherwise. So it may be with clothing….

  35. says

    On the subject of fashion, you know what trend I still don’t understand? Pre-faded jeans. Why the fuck would anybody buy something that already looks old even though it’s brand new? Isn’t the point of jeans to give them that vintage and faded look by WEARING THEM? How about instead of spending $100+ on a pair of “pre-whatever” jeans, you buy a $20 pair at Sears, bury them in the dirt, run them over with your car a few dozen times, then wash them about a dozen times? Boom, instant (but time-consuming) wear.

  36. says

    Magazines do this all the time. I picked up an issue of Esquire the other day, and they had some really good looking wristwatches… until you look at the price. The cheapest watch was still about seven thousand dollars, and the most expensive one cost more than my *car*. They regularly show male models in suits that cost more than I earn in a month. It’s enough to give someone a complex.

  37. Kill_hannahmcr says

    Just have to say… Australians are ripped off buying clothes! I agree the $220 is beginning to get ridiculous for a plain top, but everyone is going on about refusing to spend more than $50 on jeans… I wouldn’t dare spend less than $70 or so if I wanted a pair that lasted more than two washes… I consider $220 the equivalent of a normal pair of boots or a winter jacket, so it’s a price that I definitely pay for clothes. What is the US equivalent?

  38. Kaleberg says

    Fashion is a cultural tool, not all that different from a screwdriver. When you want to do certain things and be perceived in certain ways within a culture, it makes sense to wear the right outfit. It immediately buys you a level of unearned credibility that you would be hard pressed to acquire on your own. Just about every culture uses this kind of marking. No Roman man would stand for office or attend a formal event without his white toga. That’s why we call politicians candidates, from their white togas. With Halloween coming, his should be obvious. Have you considered dressing a cop, a nurse, a nerd, or a delivery man?There is a lot of knock off fashion that is actually god awful, but if you look at the blouse you have on in that photo, you’ll notice that it has two layers and drapes softly. Someone had to design that, and someone had to figure out how to make it work in cloth. A simple tee shirt or sweat shirt will keep you warm, but there are still differences in how the cloth is cut. Does it have darts to follow your figure? How is the neck hole centered with respect to your shoulders? What is the cloth and how does it stretch and fold? Oh yeah, what color is it? If you play with any modern rendering software, you’ll quickly discover that there are dozens of parameters you can tweak, and that is using just one particular polygon mesh.Good clothing is often expensive because you want someone who has spent some time figuring out this sort of thing, as well as following the evolving societal “look” of the item. I don’t believe you need to spend a pile on everything, anymore than one builds a car with permanent brake pads, but as you move in different circles, think funding, think politics, think just growing up, you’ll find it useful to buy a nice jacket, a fitted pair of pants, something besides running shoes. It isn’t just about money. It can also be fun. You don’t have to wait for Halloween to play dress up. Sure, you can do an awful lot with just a screwdriver and a pair of vise grip pliers, but sometimes it pays to spring for an oscilloscope and a battery powered drill.

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