3 Lessons I Learned From Cashmere and Goodwill

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About a month ago, as I was shopping at my local Goodwill, I came across an amazing find –a 100% cashmere scarf made by Saks 5th Avenue. It’s a beautiful brown ombre scarf, and I adore it. It’s soft, beautiful and incredibly warm. I can’t wait to wear it this winter, when I am in icy, blustery Rexburg. As I have enjoyed this scarf, I have come to realize 3 key lessons:

1. There really is a difference between luxury goods and cheap China goods.

Now, I have owned many scarves in my life time –some fashion, some functional, and some in between. But I have never had a scarf this high quality, this soft, and this beautiful. I know there is this conspiracy theory that the only difference between designer goods and cheap goods is advertising, and that companies try to trick you into believing the difference. While that might be true for some things, I really don’t think it is for fashion. If you invest in high quality clothing, you will receive high quality clothing.

Now, I have taken a few clothing classes, and through my personal experience, I have learned two of the main components of luxury goods are good clothing construction, and high quality fabric. That blue-light special K-Mart polyester blouse simply will not last as long or fit as well as the well-crafted silk blouse from Saks 5th Avenue. Period.

2. You don’t always have to spend a fortune to get what you want.

If you have an eye for quality and are willing to search for it, you can find what you want at lower prices. One important lesson I learned in 11th grade was from a kind woman in Virginia. I was staring at the clothes racks in Salvation Army, eyeing them with disgust and thinking, “I wish I could shop at the mall.” This woman saw my face and took pity on me. She walked over to me, and began teaching me to look at every tag, searching for the brands I wanted. Because of her, I was able to see gems that I otherwise would have skipped over. I showed up to school dressed in Old Navy shirts and American Eagle jeans, which for a teenager, was sheer bliss.

Since then, I have had several years of practice looking at tags whenever I shop. I found that as I continued to do so, I became familiar with more brands, and I was also able to recognize quality –both in the original quality of the garment, and its present condition. As my tastes matured, I began researching more brands. Because of this, I am able to wear brands and designers that I like. Imagine my excitement when I found a beautiful Ralph Lauren wrap dress that was perfect for me!

One suggestion I would make for those wanting to have the same experience thrift store shopping, is to write down a list of brands that you like. Visit their stores, and become acquainted with their clothing style. Then, as you shop in thrift stores, look for those brands. At first, it may feel annoying to sift through every single shirt and pair of pants, but I promise, it’s worth it. As you practice this, you will be able to spot high quality clothing much quicker.

3. It’s better to own 1 scarf you absolutely adore, than 20 you only kind of like.

I am definitely guilty of this. I own over 30 shades of lipstick, and out of all of them, there’s only 1 shade I absolutely adore (not so coincidentally, it’s a higher quality brand.) What typically happens is that sometime down the road, I end up giving the lipstick away, or even throwing it away, if it expires first. What a waste of time and money, and what a way to burden the environment! And of course, I’ve done my fair share of this with clothing.

When you own something you love, two things happen –you use it, and you take care of it. You can bet that I’m not going to leave my cashmere scarf on the kitchen counter, where it can get smeared with ketchup and grease. No, after every time I wear it, I carefully place it back in its special spot in my closet. And yes, I wear it inside, to feel glamorous, even though I currently live in Vegas, in the middle of August. If I’m willing to wear it now, I’m definitely going to wear it in winter!

It can be really tempting to buy lots of cheap stuff, instead of a few nice items. Having lots of stuff may help us feel good in the short term, but in the long term, it adds unnecessary guilt and clutter to our lives. Wouldn’t you rather have a smaller wardrobe filled with clothes you love and wear all of the time, than a wardrobe full of clothes you never wear? I sure would. I mean, if you don’t use them, it’s like you have a small wardrobe anyways.

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In short, I’m convinced that a life of minimalist luxury is far better than a life of maximalist cheapness.

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