It’s time to touch base with you again on wardrobe planning, in the main because my book researches led me to the most adorable book which I had no choice but to buy . It’s a high school home economics textbook, which as the title suggests is about making, remaking and buying clothes but also includes a little on skin and hair care.
I have already talked a little about why wardrobe plans are valuable, and the benefit of wardrobe budgeting, but inspired by the book, today I’m going to share the Author’s thoughts about clothing shopper responsibilities the responsibilities of wardrobe shopping. Some are still surprisingly relevant today and looking back some are strangely prescient.
The most important responsibility, as you might expect, is to follow your wardrobe plan and stick to your budget. But it doesn’t stop there.
- You must figure out what you need and how much of your budget you can afford to use for it. You must not be distracted by advertising or pressed by sales people, but must stay firm in your intention to spend according to plan.
- You must buy beautiful, good quality garments and refuse to accept ugly and badly made ones. If you do, you may find that beautiful, good quality garments will no longer be produced.
- Curiously, Baxter and Latzke argue that as shoppers we have an indirect responsibility for the conditions under which garments are produced. Including sanitation, safety, fair pay, reasonable hours. That children are not employed and that workers are recognised to be humans, not cogs in some industrial wheel. You must be willing to pay a fair price and require assurances that the garments have been made under appropriate conditions and thus participate in building a better country. Shame on you if you profit from the misery of others.
The impacts of demand for low-priced garments
- Too much variety will reduce quality because you will buy more garments for the same price. Instead of a really good silk dress that will last for years, you will buy several cheaper rayon dresses that may not last more than a year.
- Demand for variety also leads to a demand for change and a great deal of waste from unsold stock. Buying sale stock because it’s cheap leads to the expectation that a low price is reasonable, and then, that a short-lived garment is reasonable (when was the last time you heard someone exclaim “I only paid $x.xx!”).
- Cheap clothes will result in lower wages and working conditions. Not just for manufacturers, but for all the associated industries in between.
- Not just the business owners, but right back down the business chain to those who can least afford it: workers and growers.
- Some garments, like underpants, will always be preferred at a lower cost than in a greater variety. Stable demand permits standardisation of design and production, and therefore price. In modern terms, productivity gains.
Services you can expect from retailers
This bit is not really relevant anymore, but I thought it was quaint. I feel quite nostalgic.
- Department stores are convenient, neat and clean with working lifts and air-conditioning. They offer toilets and waiting rooms, and previously personal shoppers, parcel checks, short term child care and free delivery. You could expect well groomed, knowledgeable and polite staff, credit arrangements or charge accounts and easy access to returns.
- Small retailers generally worked on a cash-and-carry basis. They offered no discounts and were usually cheaper because of their no-frills approach.
Good buying habits
Shopping is not just for leisure, shops are set up to allow you to meet your needs efficiently, but also politely and comfortably. In return, you should know what you want, pay attention to what you are doing, and treat the sales assistant civilly. Manage your own time and energy, and treat the services offered to you (e.g. toilets) considerately as well.
- Wait your turn patiently.
- Make and use a detailed shopping list that includes your need and style, e.g. “1 blue tweed coat without fur, leather buttons, not over” $350. This detail enables you to head directly to the right colour and price point skipping past the others, and make an informed choice about whether or not you will accept a different kind of button.
- Keeping to colour, kind and cost matters more to you than anyone else. Your sales assistant will be just as happy to sell you the $500 green boucle coat with wood buttons that she can’t offload on anyone else. Keeping to budget matters – the additional $150 you just paid for the coat you didn’t want might have paid for your new jeans. But if you can’t wait for the sales, you can knowingly adjust your plan to deal with the difference, e.g. sacrificing your new handbag.
- Learn about fabric quality: durability, colour fastness, shrinkage, and thread count. Learn what a well-constructed garment looks and feels like, and buy the best quality you can afford.
- Plan to shop when the stores are quieter so that you can take your time and try clothes on.
- Pay attention to when and where sales are being held, and what is on sale so that you don’t waste your time.
- Develop the habit of efficient shopping.
- Shop within your means – remember you have to pay the bill at the end of the month.
The results of bad buying habits
- You make real world financial losses. Obviously. You might also lose confidence in your ability to make sound choices and become indecisive.
- You and all the other bad shoppers might ruin the economy. And be unhappy.
- You will inconvenience the shop when you return the goods, and the cost of this service may be added to future goods
Desirable ethics for retailer and shopper
- The way that you behave gives and indication of your character.
- Any interaction with another should be to the benefit of both.
- Both should tell the truth and act responsibility
- The retailer should respect the customers, transact fairly and honestly accepting a reasonable profit and maintaining good faith with the customer, acknowledging that errors do get made and not exploiting customers.
- You should respect the sales staff, act fairly with prompt payment and due care of garments, pledge to return them only with fair reason and not attempt to defraud the retailers.
I hope you found that as interesting as I did. I think it’s fascinating that even 65 years later this book has something besides doodling in class to offer us. Have you ever considered that your shopping came with responsibilities? Did you ever consider where the never-ending search for a bargain might take us?
 Baxter, Laura and Alpha Latzke. 1949. Today’s Clothing. Chicago: J.B. Lippincott Company.