Fast Fashion vs Quality Investments


Fast fashion is a new-ish trend here in the US, enticing us to buy a bargain $10 top every time we step into a big box store. However, much of this "fashion" ends up in the landfill. Americans send four times more clothing to the landfill today than they did in 1980. In fact, it's about 70 lbs per US citizen each year!

I hear from so many women who wish they could afford nicer things, but the end up buying the same bargain pieces every season because they aren't sure what to do. And we can see why! It’s tempting to buy our wardrobes at discount clothing stores so we can have MORE. More feels secure. More feels abundant. More feels like choice. More feels like it should be easier in the morning.

I also hear from clients who tell me that they get frustrated with shopping all of the time and never feeling like they have anything to wear when they open their closets.

So, what do we do? How do we build wardrobes we love full of items that fit and flatter, WITHOUT feeling like we are spending too much?

Will you stop reading if I tell you that it can take years? That it took ME years?  

I used to be the Queen of Savings. I loved trying to see how much I could save on my clothing. If someone complimented me, I’d say, “Thanks! I got it for $7!” If I could find a decent pair of jeans for a bargain price, I’d excitedly buy them only to discover quickly that they didn’t work (the big issue for me used to be that they’d fit in the thighs but fall down at the waist when I bent over). Then I’d buy another pair of bargain jeans hoping they’d work better. And another. I just felt like that was the way it was. I couldn’t justify the high price tag of the designer jeans that actually fit. And I thought that they’d just “get ruined” around the kids anyway. The bargains also made me feel justified in purchasing new things for myself when I didn’t feel worthy of more expensive items. And I felt like my husband wouldn’t say anything about a few $25 purchases the way he might about a $150 purchase!

(Note: He will be so mad to read that sentence! He never once told me NOT to get the nicer things. It was all in my own mind.)  

Add that bargain mindset on top of the transitional wardrobe that I had in the new mom years. I had clothing in smaller pre-kids sizing, larger-sized items when it was too early for maternity clothes, maternity clothes, post-baby clothing…on repeat three times! It felt like “throwing money away” to buy nicer items when they would only fit for a little while.

I can speak from personal experience here that the cost of buying and donating OVER AND OVER again things that were inexpensive is tedious and frustrating.

So, what did I do? I started slowly. I imagined the best version of myself and pictured what she’d wear every day. Then, I created a capsule wardrobe that worked for my lifestyle. I broke my wardrobe into the three categories based on the places I most often went. I called the Athleisure-style capsule “Pick Up Lane." My casual jeans outfits were “Around the Burbs,” and when I got dressed up I would say I'm going “To The City.”

Since I spent most of my time in the athleisure, I already had plenty of things that I’d categorize as “Pickup Lane” Pieces. And, I had a couple of cute things I liked to wear “To The City.” So, I needed to concentrate on upping my everyday outfits. Can you relate? Lots of moms feel this way!

I started by creating a uniform for myself. I wore pieces that I was comfortable in already: jeans, graphic tees and jackets with cute booties or sneakers.

I added nicer quality denim and comfortable shoes to the less expensive tee shirts I already owned. I invested in jackets. I stayed away from trends and opted for more neutral pieces I thought I’d be able to wear across seasons and for a few years. It was a trial and error process. There were some expensive mistakes in footwear. There were some bargain pieces that worked really well.

You can do this too! Here are my tips to really make this capsule wardrobe lifestyle plan work for you:

  • Keep a list on your phone of the items you’re looking for and shop around. You may find some amazing designer jeans at Nordstrom Rack or TJ Maxx!

  • Don't buy something pricey if you can't imagine how to dress it up and dress it down. Aim to wear it three different ways.

  • Start where you are! And work with what you already own. Build on what you have that you like wearing. Piece by piece, continue to move in the right direction. It may take a few months or even years to build the full wardrobe you love, but you will get there!

  • Create a capsule wardrobe where everything mixes and works together so that you need fewer new pieces.

  • Focus on neutrals. You'll always look pulled together in them!

Stay the course because it’s SO WORTH IT to have quality pieces in your closet that you love. Mix them in with bargains so you get the best of both worlds.  

As always, I want to remind you that you need less than you think!

If you need more ideas for your casual wardrobe, check out my Free Wardrobe Essential Style Guide!


Meghann VanderBaan

Meghann teaches women how to get out of their yoga pants and create a stylish wardrobe that works for their life through her guides and her online clothing boutique!

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Jaime McLaughlin