While visiting family back home, a friend of mine found herself at Costco with her in-laws. As they wandered past the clothing section of the store, her “tween” niece announced that in her opinion, “Shopping for clothes where you shop for your groceries, is like fashion suicide.” Easy for her to say – this girl had yet to have a summer job!
As I was listening to my friend, I took a mental stock of what I was wearing at the moment, and sure enough, at least half of my wardrobe was from a variety of big-box grocery stores.
This caused me to ask myself whether or not that was a good thing. I have to admit, overall my wardrobe has become a lot more casual since leaving work and having kids. Generally I think that’s great. I love being able to ditch the nylons and uncomfortable shoes, especially now that there are a lot more cool, workout-style clothes that you can wear for comfort but still feel put together.
Looking casual is one thing, but did this girl have a point? I’ve seen those talk-show makeovers where they spiff up the stay-at-home mom. And while I like my more casual lifestyle, I have to admit there are times when I catch my reflection in a store window and wonder “What happened?” However, I don’t think that has anything to do with where I shop or how much I spend. I think it’s more what I do, such as trudging through the snow walking kids to school. Nevertheless, overall I am certain that her statement was baloney, and I’ll tell you why:
- As a busy mom on a budget, I pride myself on finding a good bargain, and love it when I get compliments on my clothes and can tell people “It only cost $10!!!”
- It’s convenient and saves you time. Everyone’s lives are way too busy these days. If you can pick up some socks and underwear while you buy dinner, I’d say you’re ahead of the game if it saves you one less stop before you have to pick up the kids. I’ve had last-minute funerals where I suddenly needed a conservative-looking cardigan, or one of the kids forgot to tell me she lost her gym clothes and had a tournament the next day. Believe me, I was very happy to be able to go to the Joe Fresh at my Loblaws right around the corner.
- Bargain brands don’t necessarily mean lower quality. We are accustomed to equating brand names with higher quality, but that isn’t always the case. When it comes to basic t-shirts and a pair of jean shorts, I really don’t see any difference, and in fact often prefer the bargain brand. Dressing from head-to-toe in your grocery store purchases may be a bit much, but if you mix a few items in with a great pair of shoes or jacket, and be careful of the fit, you’ll have them fooled. You wouldn’t believe the compliments I get on my fall jacket from Costco. I’ve had to correct many people who assumed it was from Lululemon (Canada’s current “queen of casual”), and it was a fraction of the cost. I say spend it where it counts so you have more in your wallet when those Manolo’s are calling!
- We should not teach our children to be brand-name snobs, but instead, to appreciate a bargain. I went to a high school that was plagued with an obsession over brand names, and would have served as great material for its own “Mean Girls” movie. There was a lot of unnecessary pressure at an age where it’s already tough enough to fit in. I’d like to think that as adults, we are mature and confident enough to walk tall even if our Uggs are knock-offs, and actually realize how silly it is to pay full price when you can find the exact same item without the fancy label. The best way to teach our kids is by example.
While the above points are all valid, there is one potential pitfall of which to be wary. You might be tempted to shop “just because it’s there”. Grocery bills can really add up if you add a clothing item each time, even if it’s a great deal. I always think to myself, “Would I be going out to buy this if I didn’t happen to need milk and bread?” Maybe, maybe not. But my theory is, when in doubt, buy it. You can always return it because you know you’ll be back soon!
Archived from April, 2012.