Have you checked the price of clothes lately? Newsweek and Glamour report a 10- to 30-percent hike over just a year ago. As you flip through racks of clothing and turn up the price tag, you may feel light-headed, dizzy and weak in the knees. There's a name for this affliction: "sticker shock."
The increase in clothing price is due, in part, to the strong demand for natural fibers, combined with a weak dollar abroad. Prices for wool and silk have soared. Labor costs have skyrocketed.In the attempt to control this epidemic, many manufacturers are using more blends. According to Donna Scarlet, director of textile purchasing for J.G. Hook, "We're using rayon with wool or silk to keep the feel of the natural fiber but at a more reasonable cost."
Another cost-cutting strategy is to keep the clothing details simple. Classic styles tend to have simple lines, which reduce manufacturing costs. Some manufacturers are cutting corners on quality in order to cut costs. Response to these cuts is reflected in a recent Wall Street Journal report on consumer complaints about poor quality clothing construction and poor fit.
The cure for sticker shock requires you to be discriminating about what, where and when you buy clothing.
- Buy basic styles, clothes that are simple and somewhat plain in design. Basics can be dressed up or down, mixed and matched, for a variety of good looks for a variety of occasions. Basics don't mean boring. They actually allow you more freedom to experiment, to be creative and to develop personal style.
- Buy classic styles, clothes that fit and flatter most figures and are appropriate for many occasions, causing them to retain their appeal and ability to be worn for years and years without looking so obviously dated. Classic clothes include polo shirts, safari jackets, duffel coats, dirndl skirts and straight-leg jeans. Their styling changes very slowly and only slightly, if at all.
- Buy separates, individual parts of an outfit that can be mixed and matched with one another to provide flexibility and versatility in a wardrobe. Separates can be purchased, replaced or updated one at a time with less strain on a budget.
- Buy all-season fabrics, light- to medium-weight woven fabrics and knits that can be worn at least three seasons or nine months of the year. Fabrics such as broadcloth, oxford cloth, poplin, denim, twill, challis, gabardine, crepe, corduroy, sweatshirting and velour lend themselves to all-season wear.
-) Buy cotton, synthetics and blends. Cotton fiber is more affordable, practical and comfortable. The newer synthetic fiber fabrics are good looking, easy to care for and work well with natural fiber fabrics.
- Buy neutral colors, including black, white, gray and dulled or muted versions of light and dark hues - tones such as olive green, forest green, teal blue-green, navy blue, plum, burgundy, brown, rust, camel, tan, beige ivory and taupe. Dull colors are less intense and coordinate well with a large variety of other colors, including personal coloring.
- Buy solid colors and small- to medium-scale classic patterns such as subtle plaids, stripes, dots, checks, herringbone tweed, foulard and paisley prints. Patterns add interest to your wardrobe and "pull together" two or more solid-colored items into a beautifully harmonious color scheme.
- Buy fewer accessories in basic, classic styles and neutral colors that will coordinate with many clothing items in your wardrobe. Accessories are expensive, and you really don't need a lot if you choose carefully.
- Shop the sales in department and specialty stores, as well as discount stores and factory outlets. If you're willing to do a little digging you can discover some real treasures. The considerable savings will make up for any inconvenience and lack of customer service. Buy private label merchandise in major department stores to get better quality for a lower price.
- Sew the clothes you have the ability to sew well. Almost anyone can learn to make a simple, basic skirt so it doesn't look "home-made." The money saved can be put toward a high-quality blouse or jacket. Casual knit clothes are other simple sew-at-home items.
- Read labels and hang-tags for information about proper care and upkeep. Home-sewn or store-bought, give your clothes the proper care and repair they require and you will increase the wear-life of each item.