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Designer Vs. Fast Fashion

By Annie Levy

Photo by Pexels

Like many Gen-Z college students, I recently finished binge-watching Sex and the City. It was such a joy to watch, and the first time I’ve ever finished a show and almost immediately started it over from the beginning.

One of the best parts of the show, to myself and many others, is the incredible fashion and styling. The show beautifully highlights the 90s fashion scene—many trends of which have now returned over 20 years later. In particular, it shows the craze for designer brands, the clinging to which has definitely gone out of style: and for good reason.

Carrie Bradshaw may have liked to spend her paychecks on high-end items, but most in their right mind would not do such a thing today. On the other hand, Carrie may have been on to something; there is an incredibly sustainable quality to her designer spending and curating. Building a wardrobe of high-quality, timeless pieces that could be re-worn for years and perhaps even passed down is theoretically sustainable, especially in comparison to today’s fast-fashion standards.

There’s a large gray area between these two extremes, though, and I would classify a different category of pieces in that area: the luxury staple. A luxury staple is a piece that can be worn for years, restyled for different looks, and overall, slightly elevates a wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive piece -as price and quality are often not mutually exclusive - but a luxury staple is theoretically an investment of some kind.

For example, in eighth grade, my mom let me splurge and finally buy a Lululemon fitted workout shirt. I was thrilled. I didn’t know it at the time, but the piece I was buying was incredibly high quality, and is still a staple in my closet six years later. Lululemon is a quality brand, and this specific product has held up well due to anti-odor and high-quality elastic fabric. The black long sleeve fitted shirt is perfect for a workout or just as a layer under a sweatshirt in the Boston cold, and I don’t see myself getting rid of it any time soon.

This piece was expensive, for sure - it retails now for $78, which is more than what I paid six years ago - but I’ve gotten so much use out of it that I find it justifiable. Had I bought another, lower quality but similar shirt, I probably would’ve gone through at least two or three by this point due to the difference in material and versatility.

When choosing a luxury staple for your closet, it’s important to be honest about the items you reach for regularly and those that are more of a stand-out/occasional piece. For example, I think it’s ridiculous to spend an insane amount of money on a sorority formal dress when you’ll ultimately wear it once, maybe a second time.

Basics, though, which will always be in style, are worth the extra care in choosing. Additionally, swapping out a more quality staple impacts your own perception of your closet and therefore your perception of yourself.

Bombas socks are a great example of this, and anyone that’s tried them knows exactly what I’m talking about. Bombas are a seamless compression ankle or no-show sock, known for its incredible quality. Like my Lululemon shirt, these socks last after many washes and dries, and each time they’re put on they feel perfectly snug on the foot. I only have one pair, but the days I wear them to work out always seem to be the best days. It’s not that the quality is that good - socks can only be so earth-shattering -but the feeling and excitement I have to wear them puts me in a better mood.

It’s important to note that building a closet of quality staples is often only possible with special privileges, and I can’t argue with that. Some people have much bigger worries in life than their closet and purchases, and to not acknowledge that would be callous.

However, for what it’s worth, high-quality goods are available for lower costs much more than they’re advertised. Poshmark, a second-hand reselling app, for example, is littered with nice tops, athletic wear, shoes, swimsuits and more, that are often offered for less than half the price. I’ve found so many staples in my closet now on Poshmark that are just as high-quality as something straight out of a store. Also, discount outlets like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and, my personal new favorite, Nordstrom Rack are full of great gems waiting to be discovered; especially in a city like Boston with so much overstock from nearby stores coming in.

Our closets are an aspect of our identities, and, in a micro-trendy world, that identity can be hard to find. Integrating luxury staples into your wardrobe helps you recenter around your identity when given the choice to invest in fewer, more quality pieces.

Within the bounds of your ability -time, money, closet space -give yourself permission to refine your closet. Make a conscious effort to invest in one staple rather than three trendy pieces you won’t wear again in a year. It’s hard, but it’s a small step towards big boosts of confidence and sustainable lifestyle choices. We can’t all be Carrie with a closet full of Louboutin’s, but we can nourish our wardrobes to be thoughtfully curated like hers, and in turn, boost our own self-confidences.


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