Save. Spend. Splurge.

Is $200 now my minimum price point for any given piece of clothing?

Everything costs way more money now, for what I consider to be pretty basic items.

It’s not just me either.

This article sums it up — a plain white T for $7 or $70?

“A lot of retailers, they say they’re investing in price.

What they’re basically doing is they’re taking quality out of the product and then offering the product at a cheaper price.” 

There is no MIDDLE ground for NORMAL quality at a decent price. I am not paying $70 for a damn t-shirt but I also don’t want to pay $1 or $5 for a cheap t-shirt either.

There’s another article talking about fashion inflation (excellent read):

“Indeed, in recent years, prices of luxury fashion products have grown at more than twice the rate of general inflation.

In 2003, Carrie Bradshaw’s famous Manolo Blahniks cost $485.

Exactly ten years later, the same style is $755, a 56 percent increase.


Gross margins for luxury companies typically hover around 65 percent.”

Then throw in the mix that fast fashion retailers like H&M are now considering a price increase on their clothing to pay a reasonable working wage to workers, and things are just getting more and more expensive while quality is being driven down.

Take for instance a pair of pants. I have been (casually) looking for high-rise skinny leggings (they are SO. COMFORTABLE.) in black to complete my wardrobe.

I already have a dark grey, khaki green and medium-rinse jean pair of skinny pants, and black would be perfect as the final neutral staple.

My go-to brand for skinny leggings has been Rag and Bone. They do some kind of magic with their fabric because it feels so good, but cost SO much ($200 a pair before taxes).

See below:


Getting frustrated with the slim pickings in consignment shops and on eBay (particularly if you live in Canada like I do and have to pay about 30% extra for duties and taxes), I  went to Dynamite on a whim with absolutely NO INTENTION of buying anything.

Dynamite is a store like many of the other cheap mainstream retailers such as — Joe Fresh, Ann Taylor, H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Le Chateau, Smart Set, RW & Co that I avoid on a regular basis as it’s 90% all made in China, but of pretty bad quality to boot for the most part.

See, J. Crew, Club Monaco, Wilfred, Aritzia, and Banana Republic ALSO have items made in China (less so these days), but their quality is higher… relatively speaking.

Nevertheless, I tried on these high-rise skinny leggings at Dynamite which felt very comfortable and stretchy.


At first try, I really liked them.

They felt AS comfortable as the Rag & Bone leggings, and frankly, for about $45, they are 3X less expensive than Rag and Bone leggings.

What’s not to love?

Then on closer inspection I noticed 3 things:

  1. They stink. I mean they REALLY, fricking’ REEK of chemicals and made me nauseous (due to the dye?)
  2. They already show signs of wear (the threads are coming off, seams are pulling slightly apart)
  3. There’s an unflattering cut into the back of my flat butt because they’re so stretchy (polyester, spandex, etc) & it flattens my butt even more, while giving it a weird dimple rather than a nice round shape

I put them back on the shelf, and wondered:

Where the heck in the world can I find quality items for less than $200 these days?

Is that my minimum now?

$200 for a pair of pants?

$200 for a blazer?

I mean what I am asking for, is not a custom-made, designer item made out of silk spun by spider fairies during the witching hour.

I don’t even care who the brand is or what they call themselves. I have absolutely NO brand loyalty and couldn’t care less.

I just want something that:

  • Does not stink of chemicals even after washing it because of the dyes used
  • Fits reasonably well (even if I have to get them tailored)
  • Uses natural or breathable man-made fibers (modal, wool, cotton, cashmere, tencel, seacell, lyocell, rayon, etc)
  • Does not have: acrylic or polyester (both of which make me sweat like a pig)
  • Is sewn well (no threads sticking out, nothing gaping at the seams)
  • Not made in China (yes, specifically China)

Is that too much to ask for?

So is $200 the minimum price point of what I have to pay for more natural and/or breathable fabrics, a better fit and cut, and to NOT have my clothes stink of chemicals?

Even BF who is hunting down a scarf for winter, is balking at the prices of what we consider a “normal” piece of well-made clothing.

$115 seems to be the MINIMUM for a 100% wool or cashmere scarf not made in China.

Not even a super thick, cushy one, but a plain, THIN SCARF.

It just seems ridiculous to me. I can understand maybe $60 – $75, but not $115 or $180 for a bloody scarf!

The only way to find better made, quality items for a “reasonable” price

I suppose I have no other choice.

I have to resort to shopping secondhand, consignment, thrift and vintage.

There’s just no other way to find these items at a reasonable price point unless they’re used.

That, or learn how to sew.


  • Leigh

    Chiming in to say Lucky Jeans are and have been my sweet spot for years. Occasional sales to get new pairs under $80 with tax in the US and the quality is good. I have three or four pairs in different styles/washes.

  • Jess

    I’ve been going back to school shopping and I’ve noticed that prices have increased significantly since the last time I was at the mall. It’s difficult when you have a max budget of $200 to spend on a clothing item, but I scout out for sales and I shop end of season for better deals. It sucks that I’m spending $100 on items on sale that used to cost $50 or less! I shop way less than I used to, but pay more attention to quality and only buy what needs to be replaced or something vitally necessary. I guess having a smaller closet is better for the wallet too.

    Lucky Brand Jeans and Levi’s are good brands because they are in the middle, with the quality way better than the fast fashion stores and I don’t have to shell out $200+ for jeans.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Yes, I hope Lucky doesn’t change.. they really do make a great jean that’s reasonably priced.

      I’m just annoyed in general for having to shell out $200 for something that as you said, used to cost less.

  • dunny

    That smell — I get pain in the joints for 24 hours just walking into the doorway of Walmart or Sears.

    I have been buying Ralph Lauren for years and years for many reasons (all sizes, natural fibres, everything goes together, suits my west coast casual lifestyle, they have great colours other than black, really good sales, quality is not what it used to be but still very good and I have many clothes in the closet that are over 10 years old and still stylish and not worn out). The jeans especially look good forever.

    I am changing my style now, which is difficult because I am unsure what will work, look good, give me confidence, not make me feel silly, etc. Also, I am assembling an all black, white and grey wardrobe (first time ever) just to make big changes and feel more European. I still have lots of navy, brown, orange, olive green, and cream. I travel a lot, so everything has to go into a carry-on and be multi-seasonal, multi-purpose, washable, etc.

    As for jeans and pants, I bought two pairs of Not Your Daughters Jeans ($200 each) a few years ago and they looked good for about 2 years, but now look like old worn out jeans, especially the black ones. Last time. My J Brands still look fabulous. All my old RLs look great no matter how worn out.

    Finally bought my first pashmina at Black Goat. Not black (?). I chose taupe as it will go with all my browns, creams, navy, and black. Still thinking about that. My favourite colour is their burnt orange, but my new black wardrobe demands black. Maybe I just buy all three colours (eventually).

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Dollarama is the worst for that stench. Bed, Bath and Beyond as well. DISGUSTING. IT’s like you’re eating the smell.

      Ralph Lauren is surprisingly making a comeback. BF found a suit jacket from them, made in Canada.

      Spending more money on jeans is worth it too, especially if it can expand and contract based on your size. I still stand by Lucky jeans being pretty good though.

      PASHMINA! Do you love it?

      • dunny

        It is gorgeous and feels gorgeous but I am still dithering on the colour so I have not used it, besides it is too hot. The taupe will be fabulous with my tweed winter coat and all the browns in my closet, also cream, navy, black, grey and olive.

        I also recently bought a Hudson’s Bay cashmere winter scarf in white with brown and beige stripes for that coat but it is not a travel item — too heavy. The pashmina is thin and light for travel and evening wear. I know you travel with a light coloured pashmina but I thought I’d be practical. The burnt orange would be great with all my colours too, and it is my best colour. So will get that next.

        I am warming up to black on me and the black collection is growing. Bought a black Calvin Klein cotton knit jacket today — details are great, cowl, cross bodice zipper, ribbed sleeves, wrap style when open. So maybe that black pashmina would work better. Oh well, my BD is coming up, so I will keep that in mind for an excuse to splurge.

        I leave for Italy end of the month, and want to look great as we are going a little more upscale than usual for the first two weeks.

        • save. spend. splurge.

          The colour sounds beautiful. I practically collect scarves and huge travel wraps so I can understand wanting to buy more than one.

          Have a great time in Italy!!! 🙂 eat lots of pasta for me.

  • Emily @ Urban Departures

    I’m okay with shelling out $200 for quality pieces, but what frustrates is that there is so much garbage for that price point. So many brand names that people associate with “high end” produce poorly made items with poor material which can be purchased at a lesser costs from more low-end retailers. $70 for a t-shirt, no matter the quality, is ridiculous though.

    I go to Everlane for basics. I have my eye on Emerson Fry items, but I’m not willing to pay for the shipping yet. There’s a disadvantage with living in Canada, and that is there aren’t too many independent online retailers and shipping from American ones are so costly!

  • Jessica @ Beautify My Life

    I do think there’s starting to be a movement towards more locally-manufactured, lower margin clothing, like Everlane. But those options are still few and far between in a world saturated with cheap crap. Another random suggestion is to check out Kickstarter. I’ve seen some interesting campaigns on therefor indie clothing and accessory lines.

  • Cassie

    My jeans are Seven for All Mankind as opposed to Rag and Bone, but the price point is about the same. I’ve been able to get jeans at about half off BETWEEN Black Friday and Boxing Day (not on the actual madness inducing days). Some of their nice dark wash denim goes on sale along with all the funky washes that I just avoid. It may be worth a shot to hold off on buy staples until there’s a proper sale going on, because you’re right, the quality of the cheaper stuff is horrendous.

  • Michelle

    Most of my clothes I’m purchasing from Magical Goodwill-with the noticeable exception of most of my shoes. Now my clothing price point has gone WAY down, but the quality is still pretty high because I’m getting: Gap/Banana Republic/ Nanette Lapore-yep, from Magical Goodwill. Shoes I now try to get from when I find myself needing to replace a pair.

  • Cat@BudgetBlonde

    Blah I have to buy new jeans soon. Not looking forward to it because of everything you just mentioned!

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Try Lucky Brand jeans. Around $100, super soft and comfy.

      • dunny

        Just what I was going to suggest. They have all lengths too, so you save on alterations and they have a sale on now 40% off if you buy a regular priced top. So I did, plus bought a leather jacket in charcoal/olive. My first “ripped” jeans and my 3rd pair of skinny pants since deciding I could do skinny pants (a month ago) thanks to exercise and watching diet.

  • Gia T.

    I wish there was a way we could tell what percentage of the price equates to actual quality over just the brand name. 🙁

    I have no problem paying $200 for a pair of jeans because it makes my butt look awesome and lasts forever (the jeans, not the butt). But I have trust issues with some designer labels and prices. My mom once bought Versace jeans for $100 (back in the 90’s, so probably $200 anyway today) and I swear, $80 of that $100 was probably just for the designer label because the actual quality of the garment was very poor.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Which is exactly what frustrates me. I want actual quality not the name which is why I tend to steer clear of brands. Burberry does good coats and Hermes is always good for everything but otherwise, it can be a hot mess.

  • Helen

    It takes a lot more time to shop consciously, but this is how I shop for all my purchases. For clothing, I seek out local designers, and sign up to get notified for sample sales. It helps that I live in Toronto, which is a fashion city.

    Otherwise, it’s worth seeking out independent designers online that fit your criteria. Emerson Fry is a good example, but there’s also Dobbin Clothing for easy care work clothes, and Everlane for cotton basics.

  • Kassandra

    This is the pet peeve for me when it comes to shopping; the poor quality of most clothes being sold! I like to discover independent stores that offer well made clothing but as you said the price tag is often steep. I have never really thrift or consignment shopped because of my lack of patience remember…but it may just have to come to that.

  • AdinaJ

    You know where I stand on this, but I do agree with NZ Muse – shopping secondhand is typically more time-consuming. Not so much in a direct manner – I’ve become really good at scanning a store very quickly – but indirectly. If you’re looking for something very specific, finding it “in stock” can take a long time. The pay-off is worth it to me, usually. I rarely have to pay more than 30% of the retail value, and the majority of things are barely worn, or even new with tags. It’s been fantastic while I’ve been on mat leave. I’ll probably shop less/buy retail more when I go back to work.

  • Michelle

    I don’t go anywhere near Gap, Club Monaco, Banana Republic anymore and I’m even starting to move away from J.Crew. I’ve noticed as well that the quality is diminishing and prices are going up. Min for shoes is $150-175 and they usually only last 3-6 months (I do a lot of walking), pants/shirts/skirts are $150-200. It’s getting crazy what we have to pay for quality and even then it’s not there sometimes. I purchased a pair of Pink Tartan legging pants that were made in Canada and I had to return them the first time because they were not sewn correctly and the second pair started coming apart too, which I had to repair myself. They were $195.00 on sale or $295 regular. It’s getting ridiculous.
    I’m trying to find up and coming fashion houses like Emerson Fry, Outdoor Voices before they get celeb endorsement or too much popularity so I don’t pay out the arse.

  • Alicia

    I gave in and bought a pair of Gap black skinny jeans on sale for $35 because I knew I wouldn’t get what I truly wanted for less than $100. Plus, since I knew they might be getting chemical stains on them… well, I need semi-disposable clothing (things I won’t cry over) if I have to toss them. But I knew what I was getting in to with Gap… they stretch out, don’t know how long they’ll last, etc.

    I HATE the chemical smell you’re talking about. I remember buying a pair of super cute wedges a few years ago from the Shoe Company. Probably around $75. I had to return them before I even wore them because all I could smell was the nasty chemicals if I was in a 5 foot radius of them.

  • Charlotte

    I can relate to this 100%. I’ve been on the lookout for a good pair of dark wash skinny leg jeans for ages now and can’t find anything at a decent price point. The only options seem to be cheap and crappy OR expensive and decent quality. I know eventually I’ll cave and pick up a good pair but it’s hard to spend that much on one single item of clothing (even if I know I’ll wear it to death).

  • SarahN

    Totally agree that it’s so hard to know if $7 is ripping someone off (most likely) but is the $70 making sure everyone is wellpaid, or just the ‘brand’ of the item? Second hand is the only solution, but then it’s not – cause you can’t always find your size, or the colour, or the style you covert (in my opinion). And occasionally, you find the stain or something after buying the (cheap) second hand item. I balance ‘new’ with ‘old’ and try to purchase more mindfully when buying new. Buying used, I’ll buy more to ‘try’ knowing it has a lesser impact all round. But new, I do struggle with myself and all the associated issues.

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    I’m not a fan of branded clothes too. I prefer to check the clothes fabric, color and style. I only have Forever 21 and Zara and that was a gift from my aunt to me.

  • NZ Muse

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I would say a decent proportion of the quality stuff in my wardrobe has been bought secondhand – you get so much more for your money that way. The flipside is that this is about the HARDEST single way to approach shopping.

    For T, it’s hopeless. T shirts and singlets we buy cheap and cycle through. Pants we shell out for Dickies. Shoes we also go expensive because he won’t wear cheap footwear. Can’t go secondhand for him because nothing fits him.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      It takes forever to find what you want if you are buying secondhand with an eye for quality.

      BF would be the same but he hates secondhand anything unless it is a family/friend hand me down.

    • Daisy

      @NZ Muse: J has a physical job, too, and we shell out for Dickies for him. They last for a bit longer than the cheap pair and they keep him relatively safe since they are so rugged and thick and don’t get snagged on things.

      We have the same approach to tshirts as you guys do for J, and shoes. He’s 6’3 and a size 13 foot so we struggle with saving for him on clothes.

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