My Outlook on Shopping in this Economy


It took me ten trips this year, but I finally finished re-reading “CHANEL, A Woman of Her Own“. This book always inspires me, but in unique and different ways each time. This year as I read through, I couldn’t escape the pure fact that Chanel’s main focus was always good design. Her understanding of women’s bodies and good design has held up over the last century through wars, The Depression, great historical decades and difficult ones through today where The “Chanel Look” still works.

The fashion and garment industry are upon even harder times. Trust me, things haven’t been great this whole decade, but now as I see my friends close their storefronts and witness mark downs up to 70 percent, before Christmas ~ it makes an impact. On the other side, I know my clients and my friends are feeling the need to cut back on the shopping; concerned about the economy, this seems the logical thing to do. However, I know after styling for over 20 years and observing through my moms eyes as she studied clothing design, that people will always want and need to get dressed.

For those of you who are my clients, you know that I’ve always taught that less is more ~ mix and match your wardrobe. Buy less but spend more to get something that is higher quality on key pieces and in the long run, you are making more economical sense. I have also encouraged you to spend less when you can and never believe anyone has to be in “designer” duds from head to toe. Mixing is the key to this approach in wardrobing and what is paramount to making this a success? Good Design.

In Seattle you are going to have less options for shopping as we go into the new year and yes, we all want to spend less; but at whose expense? Certainly the tragedy at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving showed us that perhaps our priorities are a bit off? A life was lost in order to get a good deal? My advice is to yes, buy local if you are going to buy, but also consider buying smart. Take the time to look at your local designers that can create a custom fit piece for the same price as 70% off a designer department store piece. Buy higher quality investment pieces such as jackets, coats and shoes. Stick to classic silhouettes for yourself. Refurbish, alter and repair good items from your closet. Purchase from smaller local boutiques who carry high quality and high design ~ Mario’s, Butch Blum, Lola Pop and Polite Society are my favorites right now ~ Does this all sound familiar? If you work with me, you know this is how I have approached wardrobing for over ten years and what I teach through Sustainable Style about how to dress sustainably as well as stylishly.

“I’m against fashion that doesn’t last” quoted Chanel. She was known to think that her staying power was due to her “integrity in fashion”, that “taste had to do with honesty, that the aesthetic of clothes should be nothing more than the outer reflection of an inner morality of sincere feelings. The real purpose of fashion was perhaps not to redefine the way we look so much as to tell us who we are.” These concepts not only work for you and your personal wardrobe, but for gift giving as well. Don’t just buy something “cheap” because you have to give something. Consider “designing” an experience, or buying something useful and higher in quality so it wont break within the first few minutes or take up room in the back of someone’s closet.

Heavy as this blog is, I felt it was important. I have been working on crafting this all month so I could articulate effectively how I feel about retail, clothing and the economy right now. I will have a more frivolous post tomorrow to help get you ready for New Years Eve…


Reference: Chanel, A Woman of Her Own by Axel Madsen, copyright 1990, Henry Holt Company, LLC


  1. Hi Kelsey. Yes, I can see this perspective, however in my experience, the cheapest garments are the “trendy” ones; color and style. By understanding good design and getting back to finding what looks good on you, you can create your own style that transcends being “trendy”.

  2. Fabulous post, Rebecca. I agree with all of it. Must admit I’ve been doing more “shopping out of my closet” this year than in the past, and it’s good. Altough I am still adding accessories and a few pieces, it actually brings out the creative side to shop less. I have Chanel, A Woman of Her Own on my list to read next!

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