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Friday, January 13, 2012 I weird or what?

In response to my somewhat incoherent (because I haven't figured things out fully) post that was a response to a blog comment, here's another of the same. metscan--elegant blogger from Suomi--wrote this, to my post about all the luxe goodies I've found at thrift shops:

So, I gather that deep inside, you actually desire the " brands ", the luxuries, as you mention all the fine brands you have bought from thrift shops, only you are not willing pay the price asked for them in a luxury shop?

And she added: Sorry, I have some mixed feelings right now..

Me too. What motivates me? Is it really just that I don't want to "pay the price"? A complex issue, both personal and cultural. Cultural, because in the United States, unlike in Europe, pricing is wacko, to put it mildly. In Germany, say, where sales are regulated, the whole economy is supported by those prices. Here, that is not the case: I have to save up for expensive dental procedures (of which I've had many); higher education for one's children is extremely expensive; and there are few guarantees for retirement. So, in Germany I would pay the price. Here, I need to save where I can for scary uncertainties. It's easy for me to save on clothing, so I do.

And--on the personal side--well, who knows? I like my Lands End cashmere as much as the Dries Van Noten. They are of equal quality, though neither is of the quality of some of my vintage pieces.

Does it make me feel clever? Well, yeah.

Do I feel that good quality items are overpriced? That the name commands a ridiculous premium? Yes. That is why so many fakes abound, which are hard to distinguish from the original.

Am I aware that wearing status items can lead to better treatment out in the world? Yes.

OK. Back to planning my classes for next week. I wonder what I will wear on the first day of class....


Vivienne said...

You're not at all crazy, you just have the self-awareness to question your own mixed feelings and conflicting sensibilities. Most people just blithely go through life acting on impulse without considering their motivations, and then wonder why they don't achieve deeply satisfying goals. I love beautifully well-made items, made from exquisite materials, and I find it irksome that sometimes those things are accompanied by conspicuous and tasteless branding. Intelligent people think about these things, and work toward actions that mesh with their priorities and life goals.
So, to me, you are the epitome of sane and thoughtful!
big hug,

Anonymous said...

Living in an academic household I have been following this discussion with interest. It seems to me that most academics choose not to follow a potentially lucrative money trail in favor of following their passion, and perhaps that is the initial compromise. But of course a rich life spent following your passion is anything but a compromise. My husband and I have made lots of 'compromises' over the years in order to raise our children on an academic salary. It has been enormously satisfying. I suppose in some ways life is a series of compromises and 'making do', from one point of view. But it is an opportunity to actively choose what truly matters, and to set priorities just as you have. And so you have savored the luxuries you have come across (and who better to find those Chanel shoes, I say) while offering your children wonderful opportunities, having a place for your mother should she need it, and traveling. That is not 'making do', that is making the most of what you have and, through your teaching making the world a better place. You are most definitely not weird. Quite the contrary. We need more of your sanity!

SewingLibrarian said...

Your recent posts and those of Duchesse have been swirling around in my head, and I want to comment. I hope that my words are helpful to you, as that is the way they are intended to be.
I get the impression you would really, really like to have another Hermes scarf. I know that you practice frugality in some areas (like savvy food shopping and eating at home) in order to enjoy other pleasures (travel). Have you ever added up how much you spend at thrift stores in, say, 3 months or 6 months? Is it $200? Because if it is, why not stop going and spending in thrifts for a certain period of time, save the money, and then buy a scarf. There are lots of them for around that price on eBay all the time. Right now Jan Goode at It's-all-goode is having a sale and actually has some scarves at less than that. I'm fairly sure you would have enough to wear without buying any more clothes for 6 months. Don't we all?
Of course, if you spend only $10/month at thrifting, if you want a certain design, or if you want an new scarf, then I'm totally out of line here. In that case, just ignore me! And, BTW, you are not crazy!

Duchesse said...

Yeah, honeybunch, you're weird, and you're "good weird".

You do not march to the mainstream buy/display/discard tune. You can differentiate between junk, overpriced goods and well-made (and in some cases ethically-made) things.

OK, sometimes you do get obsessed, as you say yourself, and buy things that are not you b/c you found them at a thrift. So? We all have an Achilles Heel.

Also, Frugal, you have a sense of humour, which leavens your frugality, and you know how to have a good time.

SewingLibrarian, I agree!

Anonymous said...

I have pondered this. I know on an academic's salary that thrifting is simply a way to stretch one's dollar. No shame in that. I wonder if Mette's point-of-view is subtly shaped by services that ARE provided by her govt (health, etc.) so there is room to relax about more pricy purchases.

I've pondered how even poor people can recognize quality. The way we spend our dollars announces what is most valuable to us.

Shelley said...

From your first post about 'making do' and some of the comments you received, I've had a lot of emotional and mental turmoil that I've not completely sorted out either. I think you've hit a wellspring with this topic!

Yes, I've always thought you 'weird' in the same way that I think I am and anyone else who gives careful thought to their own priorities and the use of their money.

On one hand, it's not at all weird to want luxury items that truly carry value. On the other hand, a lot of brand names aren't worth their price and it can be an expensive education to learn to tell the difference.

Even people who grew up with luxury goods, or even the expectation that they would have them (which I did neither) make mistakes about big ticket purchases that I would prefer to avoid. As you say, the opportunity costs associated with purchasing luxury goods gives one pause.

I suppose I am a bit skeptical about chasing 'brand' names because I don't have the expertise to determine whether the price reflects their true value or just the manufacturer's hope that their advertising was successful.

Another thing I have mixed feelings about is what sort of luxury clothing would be appropriate for my retirement. I don't socialise with people I need to impress, so the luxury would only be for my own pleasure, which is in my mind the proper reason for having it. It's just difficult for me to assess how much I'm prepared to's an unfamiliar field for me, these high end goods.

I know if a regular piece of clothing is well made, but that's about the extent of my knowledge in this area. Perhaps you could do a series of posts explaining the various levels of luxury? Terri over at Rags Against the Machine is doing an interesting shopping programme this year...

Duchesse said...

Shelley: There are no formal levels or grading system; generally, luxury clothing uses both fine materials and shows more labour-intensive technique, but there is plenty of deviation.

While usually the price corresponds, when I was in university the instructors would cut out labels and we had to guess prices. Sometimes shocking!

Anonymous said...

"That is not 'making do', that is making the most of what you have..."

I loved this particular comment. So much implied, totally changes the notion of "making do."

Frugal Scholar said...

@Vivienne--Thanks for the hug. I am trying to loosen up a bit; we shall see if I can...

@Kate--Thanks for the compliments. But I do think I have been too controlled in my spending--and now that my kids are done with college--or about to be, I'd like to loosen up, as I mentioned above.

@Sewing--Thanks for the tip about itsallgoode--will keep an eye out. I do have a few patterns/colors I'd like. I rather like the idea of waiting a while, savoring the anticipation.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Thanks. As above, I'm going to consciously work on toning down the obsessiveness.

@Terri--Thanks for understanding some of the larger, social issues I was talking about (or trying to).

@BudgetGlamourous--I guess that's why I see making do as fun.

The Gold Digger said...

What's wrong with spending your money wisely? I, too, want high quality items, but I would rather go without than pay retail. My priorities are to get our house paid off, fund retirement, and travel. I love nice clothes, but they are not at the top of the list. If, however, I can have nice clothes at a bargain - while supporting local business and charities, why not? Let others pay retail. I'll live off the fat of the land.

Frugal Scholar said...

@GD--My husband says we are "bottom feeders." Somebody's gotta be the bottom feeder, I guess.