When is a bargain not a bargain?
As an eighteen year old fashion student, I once bought two pairs of silk cami-knickers in the Fenwick January sale. One pair were black satin, the other raspberry pink edged with cream lace. (Madonna was big at the time) Heavily discounted, I was chuffed at bagging a bargain but the lingerie would languish in tissue paper in my bottom drawer, unworn for over two decades. Eventually, I ‘grew’ into them – not physically – but in terms of confidence and maturity. Unknowingly, I’d made the classic faux pas of buying for an ‘ideal’ self rather than my actual self.
These days when confronted with a reduced tag screaming BUY ME! I coolly ask myself some questions. Can I wear this tomorrow? Does it fit? Does it work with my existing wardrobe? And crucially, Is this for the real me or an idealised me? Whatever the price tag, a bargain is only a bargain if you wear the damned thing. Any garment that remains on its hanger is not a bargain. It’s a fantasy, folly, mistake or waste of money.
After Christmas spending, the lure of big savings would traditionally tempt shoppers back out to splurge more in the Boxing Day or January sales. But this year, the global pandemic will put pay to the nauseating scrum scenes we’ve become accustomed to seeing on TV. Anyway, discounts are no longer a seasonal offer but a ubiquitous and perennial one – and this year we’re likely to see more online reductions with retailers trying to make up for Covid- related losses.
Discount stores, factory shops or bargain ‘villages’ such as Bicester or Cheshire Oakes mean reductions aplenty. According to Bethan Alexander, Course Leader of MA Global Fashion Retailing at the London College of Fashion, UAL, “of the 150 billion dollars of new clothing bought annually, one quarter of new clothing items are never worn. This perpetual 40% off culture, is like a discounting drug that really hooks people in. Black Friday has now extended into Cyber Monday and so it goes on.”
Alexander admits she tends to stay away from sales nowadays. “Many people become victims of the psychological pressure to buy things they don’t need. Maybe it’s an age thing but I would rather spend any disposable income on my kids and experiences. That’s where I get my emotional fix.” There is a form of liberation in stepping away from fashion’s consumer conveyor belt and there’s also the whole sustainability argument about buying less, which is better for the planet because it means less landfill.
If the sales are a regular treat, there are a few ground rules. Have a budget, have a plan and have a strategy. In the same way, you should eat before visiting the supermarket, before frittering your cash on yet more on more items for your closet, do a serious stock take and familiarise yourself with what you already possess. Maybe 2021 is the perfect time to go cold turkey when it comes to discount shopping.
Lingerie photo: Lonely