In the second part of my challenge to apply the principles of downshifting to clothes shopping, I have been busy trialing my purchases. If you remember, earlier this week I bought cheap briefs, socks and pyjamas from a discount store called TJ Hughes, along with more briefs, socks and a cardigan from Primark. These are all stock items which many of us might buy from a more expensive store – rightly or wrongly – to try to ensure they are good quality. So how did my purchases compare?
The Primark briefs were very comfortable, a good shape and survived my wash without the dye running. One of my friends said she found that they often shrink in her machine, so I washed them at 30 degrees instead of the advised 40 (I normally wash everything at 30 degrees anyway) and they came out fine. I’ll be interested to see how they fare after multiple washes, though. That said, I find that M&S briefs don’t always last as well as they used to.
The TJ Hughes pants were shapeless already before they went in the wash. I felt slightly itchy wearing them too – although my neighbour pointed out that this may have been psychological. I can’t get my head around the idea that a pair of underpants could only cost 20p. DJ joked that at that price you could buy new ones every week (like Princess Di was rumoured to) and compost them rather than throw them out. But, to be fair, originally the price was £2.50 for a packet of six.
The socks from both stores were good quality, comfortable and washed well. However, DJ pulled a face when he saw me in my £3.99 pyjamas. While the leggings were ok, the top didn’t sit well and was clingy in all the wrong places. They were really comfortable to sleep in, though, I’ll give them that.
I made the fatal error of falling in love with my Primark cardigan. I became anxious about sacrificing it to the challenge and the perils of my washing machine. I was afraid it might lose its shape or run in the wash. Fortunately, while it was a bit creased by the time it came out, the colour hadn’t run and I’m hoping that with some careful ironing it will reclaim its former glory.
Lesley posed a good question in her comment this week – while we may save money wearing cheaper clothes, what is the human cost in terms of the factory sweatshop workers who are making them? I have to say that this has been on my mind a lot this week. We’ve become used to cheap clothes and throwaway fashions, but how ethical are they? Checking the labels in my purchases this week, it struck me that not a single label stated where the items were made.
Kerri, who had seen the 2008 BBC programme Blood Sweat and T-shirts, said that the actual mark-up on products isn’t always a good guide because some more expensive companies save money by having their clothes made in sweatshops too. I was disappointed, if not surprised, to hear this. So just because the clothes cost more, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t sweatshop clothes. To be certain, you need to buy charity shop clothes, make your own or shop in a store committed to fair trade which aren’t always easy to find according to this blog.
But ethics aside, I was pleasantly surprised by most of my items. I think the test will really be to see how they fare over the longer term, though, and how long they last. It may still work out better value for money to buy better quality items elsewhere that will stand the test of time.
Do ethical concerns stop you from buying cheap clothes or is price always paramount? Leave a message and let me know.
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