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Monday, April 10, 2006

Fashion confession: my splurges

Designer Ella is hosting this week's Carnivale of Couture. Since she's once of The Bargain Queen's favourite bloggers and the topic is great (fashion confessions), it seemed like time to start participating.

So today, The Bargain Queen's going to confess her fashion splurges.

As a quick aside, 'splurge' doesn't have to mean 'things you pay off your credit card just before they wear out' as fashion magazines sometimes imply. To The Bargain Queen, splurges are things that are worth spending more on, so she economises on everything else to afford them. She buys things like t-shirts at op (thrift) shops, cheap chain stores and sales so she can afford a few insane expenses like:
  • Designer jeans. In Sydney, denim is the prefered apparel for going to the opera, hitting the town for a big night out, meeting friends for coffee, going shopping, even working if your boss will permit it. Jeans have become such an important wardrobe staple that finding a pair which make your bum / saddlebags / love handles look great can turn into some sort of unholy quest. The Bargain Queen has tried to love chainstore jeans but ended up looking like a dumpy dwarf, and in the last five years she's found only two great pairs in her size in thrift stores. So about once a year she splurges on a pair of designer jeans in the sales. She'd rather have two great pairs than a dozen that make her butt look bad. The things we do for vanity.

  • Well-cut work pants. Staying on the theme of The Bargain Queen not liking her butt much, her next splurge category is well-cut work pants. Again, a long exploration of every cheap option available convinced her that she'd have to spend more to look better. It's still a search to find flattering, attractive, professional-looking trousers that don't need constant ironing, but with a budget of a couple of hundred dollars it becomes much more possible. (Tip 1: MaxMara's Max & Co. stores have pants that emerge from a suitcase looking perfectly ironed - LOVE them! Tip 2: buying a cheaper coordinating jacket saves money and is less stuffy than a 'proper' suit if your workplace allows it.)

  • One nice watch. The Bargain Queen is currently saving up for one really nice watch. No Chanel chronographs will make it into the budget this time around, but if her winter fashion expenses are sensible, a gorgeous Michael Kors one looks realistic...

  • Nice dressy shoes. The Bargain Queen owns a total of three pairs of heels, none of which would meet Carrie Bradshaw's Manolos-all-the-way standards. Still, one pair of Marc Jacobs at 75% off is a big enough splurge to keep The Bargain Queen swooning every time she dons formal wear.

  • Longchamp! The Bargain Queen's only true fashion obsession is Longchamp bags. Over a few years she's accumulated three (one on sale, one a gift, one a present-to-self for winning an award), which she LOVES. They're as classic and (mostly) really cute, and since they're not big on branding, they're cheaper than others of similar quality. OK, spending $200 on a handbag is still excessive but it's never going to become a regular expense, but one expensive obsession in a wardrobe of bargain purchases feels alright.
The important points about all these things is they're occasional purchases: no weekly shoe-shopping for The Bargain Queen. They're not trendy so they don't date quickly; they're good quality so they last for years; and they're versatile enough that they're used all the time. The Bargain Queen only commits to the initial outlay if she's sure the cost-per-wear is going to end up in the single-figure range!

Still, as The Bargain Queen's mentioned previously, she does have a pretty generous wardrobe budget, which is the result of a whole bunch of trade-offs. Looking nice makes her far happier than a car would, but it's not a trade-off everyone could make. If you put your money into a mortgage, kids, investments or anything else that's important to you instead of fashion, you're doing great! Don't let the ravings of a confessed fashion tragic like myself make you feel bad - it's possible there are more important things in the world than handbags ;)

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  • At 1:38 am, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Great post! There's nothing like a great-fitting pair of pants, is there?

    No apologies needed for a $200 handbag. I was thinking of you the other day when I was at TJMaxx and every bag I picked up, that I liked, was regular $300+ and on sale at $200+. I'm sure yours are much nicer. (Although I am currently contenting myself with my $5 Goodwill bag and getting ready to move into a $3 Value Village one for the summer.)

    Will you name the jeans?

  • At 1:59 am, Blogger Henri-V said…

    I should have joined this Carnivale; maybe by the end of the day ...

    TRADE-OFFS! Who literally wants to lose their shirt for a shirt? I skimp on other things to give myself more room for the occasional splurges, too. I agree that the expense for many higher-quality items is worth it in the long run.

    Nice post ... I wondered if you had any shopping "vices" -- ;-> that's not the right word, but you know what I mean!

  • At 7:46 am, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    Hi Rebecca,

    The only thing better than great-fitting pants is when they emerge from a suitcase unwrinkled ;)

    I think bargain bags are brilliant too. For a while I carried a $3 op shop number that started life as a cosmetics freebie, and I got so many compliments! Then it wore out...

    And since you asked, my latest jeans are Seven For All Mankind (bought half price :). They live up to their hype - they're extremely flattering. I'm also partial to an Australian label called Marcs, their jeans are great. They often turn up on ebay. Calvin Klein was great a few years ago too but they seem to have re-cut for an older body than mine. I guess baby boomers need jeans too!

  • At 7:58 am, Blogger The Bargain Queen said…

    Hi Henri-V,

    You should definitely join the Carnivale, it's a lot of fun :)

    And OF COURSE I have shopping vices! My powers of bargain hunting only extend so far, there are some things that are almost impossible to find cheaply. I'm not a snob about anything (OK, maybe bags ;) but I find that a few higher-quality things get so much wear they're worth every cent.

    I think that gets forgotten a bit in fashion magazines. I LOVE the pics, but they're always swooning over this season's 'It bag'. And those bags are strictly for people who'll be photographed with it 100 times that season, before it looks 'over'. I know my stuff is boring by fash mag standards - classic styles with a few funky details - but they last me for years which means I get value from them.

    See, I make it sound so rational and sensible! As long as you never see the way I dribble at the sight of a Longchamp bag display (there was a WHOLE WALL of them duty-free in Noumea... *swoon*) I sound like the perfect shopper still ;)


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