Shopping & Guilt

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I realised at the weekend that I'm turning into my mother. This is not a bad thing - she's ace. However it does mean some strange outbursts in shops. I picked up a poor defenceless item of clothing in Topshop and shrieked "how much??!!” at it. Am I a skinflint? Very probably. I think I’m quite set in my ways now though; I’m not going to pay £35 for a badly made tshirt, no matter how nice it is. I’ve had a good think about it and I can’t remember anything I’ve ever bought (with the exception of my glasses which are vital and worn every day) on the clothing and accessories side of things that has cost more than £100. I don't even own many things that cost over £50.

I’m currently majorly in lust with this Monsoon beauty:

It’s £95 though. Very much a case of “HOW MUCH??!!” And it’s only polyester. For that price I'd expect something a little bit nicer. I’m sure that someone will explain to me that I'm being a moron and polyester doesn’t automatically equal cheap and nasty but really, £95?? My sensible head is winning out at the moment; it’s massively impractical, I would never have an opportunity to wear it and I’d probably ruin it within about 5 minutes. Isn’t it beautiful though?

I think I’m missing that shopping gene that allows people to spend an awful lot of money on clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t look down on people who choose to spend their money on stuff like that – it’s yours, you've earned it, do what you want with it! I can’t personally develop the mindset that it’s ok to spend a lot, plus I just don’t have much spare cash flying around after rent, bills and savings are accounted for. Money is always tight, especially when I’ve had to shell out for virtually a whole new wardrobe over the past year or so.

Or perhaps I’m just not a natural shopper. I suffer real shopper’s guilt when I spend a lot, especially on impulse purchases. They often go straight back, although the odd item has stayed in my wardrobe (ie the £75 green velvet coat I bought last year). Curiously enough, I felt no guilt whatsoever when spending the same amount on these shoes. Further proof that life really is all about the shoes? Or maybe I just like them more. I wish I knew how to avoid the guilt though. Shopping should make you feel happy, not full of remorse for spending on things that you're perfectly entitled to buy yourself.

So if I baulk at paying High St prices a lot of the time, you can quite rightly assume that anything designer is automatically out of my price range, unless I’m jamtastic enough to track something down in a charity shop or be sent it by a lovely friend (thanks again to Christina for my Ghost frocks!)

I find Kate’s blog particularly interesting on the topic of affording designer clothes. She’s all about living within your means and investing in pieces that will last a long time and get worn often. I just can’t work out how I can get to the stage where I make my brain think it’s ok to spend more on fewer things, even if they will be super versatile and long lasting. In principle I’m fully supportive of it – I don’t really shop much on impulse and like to track down the perfect thing – but it’s the price issue that stops me in my tracks every time.

I’m interested to know your thoughts on this. I know a lot of you are as bargain hunty as I am but blogland is full of haul posts and expensive looking outfits. Do any of you often spend a lot on things, or I am just influenced by living in a city where people treat shopping as a competitive sport? Anyone want to fess up to the highest price they’ve paid for clothes/shoes/accessories? And most importantly, can anyone who does buy designer explain to me how to banish the guilt?


  1. I think this way a lot about Monsoon. I've only ever bought one skirt from there and I was particularly aggrieved because it fell apart.

    I do however have a very lovely winter padded coat which I bought last summer (from Monsoon) with some birthday money. It's really lovely quality and I'm pleased I have it.

    But actually it follows a trend of expensive things in my wardrobe; mostly they are bought for me.

    I do have a very generous boyfriend and I always get spoiled by family for my birthday.

    It's funny though, I feel exactly the same way as you about shoes! Especially IC numbers - although I have had my beloved polka dot ones for at least 6 years now and they're still going strong!

  2. Oh those SHOES.

    I like the idea of buying expensive select items, but then I don't really do a lot of clothes shopping as it is, and when I do, I want to get as much as possible. I think its easier to justify spending more on shoes because they seem more longer lasting than clothing.

    The most I've spent on a dress was $120 + delivery from USA about 8 years ago, a ball gown for Uni which I can't stand now!

  3. Alex, I have spent many, many years working on the guilt thing. We had very little money when I was growing up so things like new clothes were seen as totally frivolous and unnecessary. Mum made loads of our clothes and lots of others were hand me downs from neighbours or from charity shops. New clothes were only occasional luxuries.

    So, I have to work on it these days. I have to remind myself it is my money, I can spend it how I like. But if it is a big purchase (like when I bought an ipod), I need to think about it for a REALLY long time. And I can't bring myself to spend more than £100 on clothing. Dumb, because a lot of the time I do believe you get what you pay for. This is why I buy so much on ebay, I can get expensive stuff in my price range... but the pay off is that you have to invest a lot of time in searching, and also reselling when things don't fit right. For some people it makes so much more sense just to spend the money and buy something perfect immediately - it might cost more but in the end I guess it is a time saving and that has a value too. xx

  4. I can't bring myself to spend a lot on one particular item... I shop on ebay and charity shops and like getting new bits quite often as opposed to buying one expensive and facing the possibility of not wearing it :s

  5. Dearest Alex, I've worked in fashion for years and the price of things astounds me. I will never pay full price for clothes. I can't even believe how expensive Top Shop has got of late, it's not just you.

    I've bagged some great bargains this month, taking advantage of everyone being skint. Even though technically I am too. I have my eye on a little something for you at the moment. Hope I win it. Love C xx

  6. For me, the shopping bug often blurs the price; the feeling a new item gives you, and the memories they can hold are addictive, it's a poisonous industry.

    But shoes, oh shoes! (the pair photographed are delightful!)

    Take care :) <3

  7. Oh Alex, a subject I hold close to my heart!

    I never spend more than £30 on one item usually. The last time I really splurged was on a bag that was £50 but clothes wise I refuse to pay more than what I think it's worth. But usually everything of mine is a charity shop or cheap high street (not proud to admit the high st stuff)

    Also rolling pins: Can't believe I didn't think of department stores! Although that would have meant going central- I hate the crowds! :) x

  8. So true! I don't quite shriek, but I'm in danger of dislocating an eyebrow in some shops. So few chains actually have proportionate price and quality, alas.

    K xx

  9. I think how much you spend really depends on how often you spend. For example, I shop little and often, and most of what I own isn't very expensive (H&M, Dorothy Perkins etc).
    I'd rather spend it like that than in huge lumps, I'd feel much more guilty for spending big amounts at a time!

  10. Every single time I walk into Topshop I have that reaction. For cheaply made knock offs of designer clothes I stick to the really cheap prices. Its insane that people will actually pay it though!

  11. I've spent $600 on Gucci sunglasses 2 years ago. I still wear them now. And technically only forked over $300 because we got a second pair from the store free so David and I just went halves. That's my biggest clothing/accessory purchase and I've never felt guilty about it.

    I used to have to load up on clothes when in the city because I couldn't just come back and get it later, so it would often go hand in hand with 'overspending' guilt.

    I think it's different from everyone so I can't provide any answers that may work for you Alex, but I find trying things on in store, waiting for sales online and asking myself "What would be the cost per wear?" really helps a) limit my spending and b) stops me feeling bad afterwards. I know I'm gonna be rocking it, so it doesn't matter if it cost me a bit more than something I saw on the sales wall that would be a one off wear, ya know?

    Keep us updated on your thoughts about it. I personally wouldn't buy that dress for that much, my limit for dresses is $120 au dollars. And that's only on wowee finds :) Maybe you could find a cheaper similar?

  12. I try not to splurge on one item unless it's really worth it. So not a bad thing to be turning into your mum alittle.


  13. What a great post. I think you're a discerning shopper not someone who can't shop. Spending cash on glasses which you wear everyday makes perfect sense, spending £30 on something you wear once doesn't.
    I rarely spend more than a tenner on anything, as well you know and I'd rather buy something from a charity shop than a mainstream shop then a worthwhile cause is benefitting from my cash rather than a huge fatcat corporation.
    I hate the mentality of many woman who feel justified to spend a fortune on clothes and the like because "I've worked for it and deserve a treat". We're not children, we work to live, it's called being an adult. xxx

  14. Excellent post,dahl! I'm a total cheapskate when it comes to clothes,and I love leaving an opshop with an armful for sweet F.A.
    And I don't look like anyone else out there!
    I'd rather spend money on my kitchen!
    Love! XXX

  15. hmm, i'm trying ot think but not totally sure about the highest price paid for anything..i'm a cheap fashion junkie though, as you know, being more excited by a bagful of primark purchases than spending that same amount on one thing in topshop or wherever..i don't know if that's a good thing or most expensive item of clothing is a jigsaw skirt which cost £180 (and was a gift), but i have spent over a hundred on a pair of rare ICs on ebay in the past..and i think i have expensive lingerie sets which cost more, also gifted (TMI?! sorry!)
    i have the guilt at the moment though, about spending close to £90 in the sewing shop on fabric and patterns :S

  16. I love that Monsoon dress but at that price I'd be thinking of the practicalities - how long would those pleats actually LAST? Would I even get more than a handful of wears out of it?

    I too balk at the price of most clothes and very rarely buy anything for full price, and it's partly the thrill of the chase for me as well. If I see something I like, I have to find some way of getting a discount, be it a voucher, online code, NUS or just chancing it and waiting for it to go in the sale!

    You've get me thinking about my most expensive items of clothing though and apart from a coat and one pair of boots (which are now falling apart), the only things I can think of that I've spent more than about £50 on are fancy dresses for weddings and fancy heels I wear maybe once every three months. I'd never dream of spending more than about £40 on a pair of jeans for example, but I practically live in jeans so really I should be making sure I buy good quality and a good fit. I think I need to prioritise a bit more.

    (Sorry for the long ramble, I guess this struck a chord with me!!) :)

  17. Well firstly, I think you definitely have the right attitude to shopping in terms of the money-guilt. Topshop prices can be outrageous, I would only spend £35 on a tshirt if I could vouch for its quality and also that wonderful idea that I wouldn't be caught out wearing the same thing as someone else (a big possibility with Topshop clothes) As much as I'd like to 'invest,' right now I just can't afford it. So I will stay with my measley Primark, H&M and charity shop budget until I have a 'Proper Job'. Expense can sometimes be a thrill, and that's the crux - it's a sometimes. Like those shoes. They're beauts, they make your legs look amazing no doubt, and they're worth the price tag if they make you feel great! jazzy ♥

  18. I've given up on Topshop, I only pop in when the sales on. £45 for a jumper that looks like moths have eaten the shit outta it?? (I am quite aware I sound like my nan!) no thanks!
    I love Monsoon, and there dresses do have great wear quality - I still wear a top and skirt I bought for my leavers day in 2003! It cost £100 for the set, but is gorgeous and always gets comments.


  19. Great post...I change my opinion on this all the time (what becomes of being a Gemini). I've tried in the past to halt those massive hauls of cheap items and buy expensive items, less often (mainly because of lack of space). It's difficult though to keep it up when I see rails of things I want in Primark! I think I'm getting better though-maybe! I do get a thrill from shopping though-for anything, doesn't even have to be clothes/accessories etc.

    As for designer items, I can't say I've ever paid full price, I'll always want to hunt for 'a bargain'! The most I ever paid was £250 for Charlotte Olympia striped platforms (which should've been double the price)-I felt incredibly guilty at the time (as I tend to when it comes to a big expense), but I love them so much and will treasure them forever, so got over the guilt quickly! I'm not sure if I would ever pay that for clothes are most definitely my weakness but in most instances they'll last you a really long time and fluctuating weight doesn't affect them as much as clothing.

  20. I'm totally guilty of the buying cheap and piles and pils of it philosophy.
    I had a mini breakthrough yesterday though- a jumper I ordered in the sales from Next arrived SIX WEEKS after I place dthe order and I had totally forgotten about it. For the fiorst time in my life I thought "I REALLY don't need any more clothes- I haven't got enough time to wear the ones I already have"
    I lvoe the Monsoon dress- reminds me of the Toile post you did a couple of weeks ago!
    I think blogging does bring out the shopaholic in me, as there are so many examples of lovely clothes/outfits to be inspired by and covet, but I've reached my limit- for now.
    I truly wish I could save and buy one decent classic item rather than twenty cheap ones, but I'm not patient enough and I see so many pretty things I get the wants for too often.
    Have to say- slight disclaimer- this new found fruglity of mine will no doubt last approximately three days, so don't be dissapointed in me if I'm like "Ta da! new dress!" next week!

    xxx Maddie

  21. I'm so totally with you on this. My mum is also to blame (or thank) as I feel so guilty (and imagine my mum's voice in my head, scolding me) too! I don't think I've ever spent more than £50 on a single item, apart from if I've had a gift card. I can't justify it either, even if the item is incredible and will last forever etc. I just can't, even if I saved up for a long time! And Topshop prices have also gone through the roof recently... in particular their jumpers and skirts.
    I do like that Monsoon dress but viscose sort of turns me off a bit too. Maybe hang out until/if it's in the sales? xx

  22. I know all about the guilt. I can go "cheaper" on some items but not others.

    Shoes, swimsuits and bras ... I don't feel guilty about paying more for these more important items. I need the feeling of quality in them.

  23. That dress is lovely, but too expensive. Your coat and shoes, however, were worth every penny. I rarely spend more than £30 on an item, unless it is a coat when the £80ish mark is OK. I will spend £300 - £400 on my glasses though, as I have dreadful eyesight and have to wear them everywhere except in bed, so think I more than get my money's worth.

  24. I think you summed it up in poorly made for me. I often baulk at paying the higher prices at places like Topshop because the items are often as poorly made as their cheaper counter parts in Primark. Whilst I find Primark ethically challenging, for now I stick with the cheaper stuff because it works with my bedget and lifestyle, but I'm hoping one day I'll be able to buy fewer but more expensive clothes which are better made and lasting.

    Most I've ever spent on an item of clothing is quite a recent purchase- I bought a Tux Jacket which cost £55 in the summer. It's reserved for interviews and proper functions like the black tie one I was hunting for an outfit for when I bought it.

    I'm also with you on glasses. I don't have to wear mine everyday anymore as I wear contacts most of the time, but my mum always let me pick nice frames as a kid, and even now, I spend a lot on a new pair of glasses as and when I need new ones because I have to want to wear them on the days I need them.

    Phew, essay done. Great post as ever, and I do rather like the Monsoon dress, but I don't necessarily think it's worth £95.

  25. I didn't realize how much I don't like High Street clothing until recently.. I was walking in Dorothy perkins, and though the designs of few dresses were pretty, the quality was just horrible! It made me feel miserable, I was so uninspired, and I didnt even find one thing I would even want to try on, just in case it fits nicely.. And I went in with a mind to shop! I can't afford designer, but I think when I will be able to, I will most definitely trying that option, even if it means that I have less clothes.. I think it is worth for the quality you get.. Plus there's way to go around the designer prices.. say just buy their diffusion line, and even then wait for the sale :)

  26. I think the dress is awesome and the shoes are EXCELLENT. I'd rather buy fewer items, but nicer more expensive ones. But often things don't fit me - I found a fabulous impractical dress in Biba that was theoretically in my size, but not cut to fit my body!

    I may have to learn how to sew.

    But shoes? Buy great shoes whenever you see them and can afford them!

    Ali x

  27. That dress is gorgeous! but Monsoon can be a bit rediculous with there prices, considering that dress is only Polyester.



  28. Alex, just read your comment on my Spanx post - really, really hope I didn't offend you. The 'better version of you' comment was completely tongue in cheek and the whole thing is supposed to be lighthearted and jokey... I can see how it would come across differently though!

    I've added a little disclaimer to try make it clear. Really sorry if you were offended by anything I said (although I'm sure I'm just being dramatic!)

    Jen xx

  29. I can't afford to buy expensive, if I see something and it's more than say...£15, I save up for a few weeks whilst thinking about if I really want/need it. Everything else..sales + discount codes. I think, even if I had the money I wouldn't pay expensive prices, especially on the highstreet where quality seems to be going down hill.

  30. I know what you mean, I'm not much into the 'buying classic styles = less clothes' mantra, I like some variety in my wardrobe! I also have very few things I've paid a lot of money for, only thing I can think of is a Long Tall Sally coat I paid £90 for because a normal high street one just wouldn't fit me. But yeah, shoes are different! :)

  31. Oh, I could have written that post! I must admit that I miss the days of having spare money to spend on clothes, especially when I read fashion blogs full of shiny new purchases, but I also balk at the amount of money they cost these days. My current favourite seems to be "but I could do a week's worth of food shopping for that price!!". I put it down to getting old and sensible *sigh* but I've also been spoiled by the odd amazing car boot bargain which just makes prices seem even worse!

  32. I just can't justify spending so much on clothes when I have such a love/hate relationship with them. One day I can love something, but it only takes a single doubt in mind or seeing a bad photograph of me wearing it, that would make me instantly banish it from my wardrobe.
    So for this reason I just don't spend much money at all on clothes. I think a one off purchase is a good way to live, those shoes are fabulous x

  33. I'm with you, I find it very difficult to spend a lot, especially on the high street as a lot of us seem to agree, the quality isn't good enough.

    I've never spent more than £100 on anything and only a very few items were over £50. I get more of a kick from feeling like I got a bargain. Good shoes are worth their weight in gold and I'll pay for those. I'm also a bit of a handbag junkie, but I'll scour for good second hand ones.

  34. I feel guilt too because money was tight while I was growing up and spending on clothes you want, rather than need, seems very frivolous. Also, because I've worked in fashion wholesale I know the markup on things and I resent paying full price! Something we'd pay £20 for is bought in from abroad for £2 or less! I try to avoid paying full price whenever I can. xx

  35. the prices in topshop are ridiculous but I still love it!! The red dress is gorgeous!!

    Bow Dream Nation xx

  36. As well as the price/quality of clothes in some shops, what I really hate is seeing rails of the same items. I don't want to be spending a lot of money on something everyone else is wearing. I'd rather shop in charity shops where at least there's some variety.

  37. Very good post Alex. Firstly that dress is beautiful but I just wouldn't pay that price. I too struggle with the principle of 'investing' in clothes. I just can't bring myself to spend hundreds on something even if I will be wearing it for years. I'd feel immensly guilty spending a large amount on clothes. The most I have spent on one item would be on a quality winter jacket or KG shoes but that is few and far between and usually ends up as a gift. When I was a teenager my mam bought me Gucci glasses and I actually feel kinda guilty about that now, they were a LOT and I didn't even wear my glasses all the time. x

  38. Great post, I laughed at how you yelled 'how much' at a piece of clothing in topshop. I do that more and more these days, I never used to. Perhaps I'm just more aware of my student budget these days :( Great blog, I'm def following xx

  39. Great post! I go back and forth, I try to shop less often (unless there is a huge sale) and buy more expensive, well made items, rather than shopping frequently as big chain stores. It's definitely tough, but I really feel like it's an investment, those are the pieces I end up keeping longer and love more.

  40. It is the hardest issue in the world I veer between thinking quality is worth every penny and also then thinking better to buy cheap! Argh it is a mine field!! I will post on this soon as I evaluate my style challenge crash!

  41. I think we follow the same blogs, so I came to say hello: And to tell you how much I love what I am seeing.

  42. I generally don't buy anything more than about £20 per item, but I could easily spend £200 on lots of things each month. Do I feel guilty? Incredibly so, especially when I know there are other things I should be spending it on.

    I rarely go in Topshop or anywhere more expensive than that....but I don't think I could ever go out and spend that £200 on just one or two things even though they'd probably last me longer and I'd wear them more often...Strange isn't it xxx


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