Why You Need to Stop Bragging About How Cheap Your Clothes Are

by Annching Wang

Fashion's Night Out, a now global event, was started in New York in 2009 to support the fashion industry through the promotion of full-priced merchandise. As the kick off to New York Fashion Week, the night of parties, shopping, celebrities, and events all had one caveat: retailers were discouraged to use this event to kick off sales or to drive sales of discounted merchandise. The goal is to generate buzz and excitement for fashion itself (the industry, the clothes, the brands, the designers, the events), to move away from, even for just one night, what fashion has become almost synonymous with: discounting. Every year, the event gets bigger and better, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that it is only a blip on the map, and the discounting mentality of the consuming public will not change anytime soon. After all, who doesn't want a good deal?

We brag more about scoring amazing deals on stuff than do about the amazing quality and workmanship of a garment. The number of websites and startups dedicated to bringing people designer merchandise at a lower price is growing every day.

Face it: we as a collective are addicted to discounts.

And Fashion's Night Out is an attempt by the industry to show another side, the side that has almost been lost and overshadowed by an industry now built on sales.

Most of us don't give much second thought to what needs to happen in the rest of the world to fuel our fast fashion habits. I can walk into an H&M and Zara, and if I don't see at least several discounted sale racks, I can expect that something is off or I'm in the wrong store (alternate dimension, anyone?).

But behind the scenes of what is seen by us the shoppers as a benefit ("If I can get that for $30, why would I buy it for $50?") is merely mass desperation by retailers to keep the stuff moving, driven by a disposable mentality that has come at a cost: environmentally, ethically, socially, and yes, economically. (I would also argue psychologically as well.)

In recent years, some light has been shed on the tragedies and misgivings of the fast fashion industry. When it comes to unsold clothes that aren't snapped up even with the help of heavy discounting, there are plenty of stories hanging out in the news arena. For example, bags of unsold clothing were found ripped up by employees outside H&M. The same happened at Walmart, where bags upon bags of clothes were found just thrown out, hole-punched to prevent recycling and donations to charity. These two cases reflect a disposable mentality that has created way more clothes than people buy (and we do buy a lot), fueling heavy discounting to move things out faster, and questionable disposal methods that are wasteful and unnecessary.

An event like Fashion's Night Out was created because they needed it. Aside from the fun, glitz and glamour, it's an attempt to reignite enthusiasm for fashion itself, separate from sales. Ironically enough, it was the industry that created this mentality, and now they are fighting it, as best as they can, without alienating their customers who have come to expect what they expect: More. Cheaper. Stuff.

We need to stop bragging about clothes based on how cheap they are because in doing so, we are undervaluing the efforts of millions of people who are employed by the garment industry, either by choice out of love or by default to keep food on the table. We are fueling retailers to pump out lots of stuff to feed our habits, and they are scrambling to keep up -- so much so that even the big guns had to come out with an event like Fashion's Night Out to re-convince people that fashion is inherently fun and worth celebrating.

But perhaps most importantly, we are devaluing our own worth. Why is it that we are often more proud of how good we are at deal-hunting than we are about the actual qualities of the clothes we buy? There is no shame in recognizing and appreciating the inherent qualities of the clothes we live our lives in, that make us feel good, that aid us in work and play to look and feel the way we choose. Since when did looking and feeling great become a crime that had to be covered up with a "Oh, it was only 10 bucks"?

By the way, I was that girl who bragged about scoring that amazing dress for 50 per cent off. But that was then. Before I realized that it was a cop-out, a socially acceptable way for me to accept a compliment by shifting it away from me and onto something that everyone can relate to: wanting to get a good deal.

I recently launched my second collection as a fashion designer, and have very purposefully chosen to separate myself from this disposable, discount-driven mentality by making my pieces made to order, which means there is no need for me to "move" merchandise the way a fast fashion retailer needs to. I now choose to design and buy based purely out of love (which by the way, can be done full-priced at all ends of the spectrum, but not when it seems too good to be true. Trust me, someone is paying for that $10 top, even if it isn't you).

To be honest, I don't think that Fashion's Night Out changed anyone's mind about wanting to score a good deal. That's why it's really up to us as individuals to shift our thinking from wanting a lot of cheap stuff to buying less and choosing more consciously.

Here's what you can do:

1. Consider where something is made and what it's made of. 
2. Don't get shiny object syndrome and buy something just because it's on sale. 
3. Be purposeful about how/when/why you shop. 
4. Buy less and buy what you love. We tend to believe that when we shop things on sale, we're saving money, but it reality, a good quality piece that is designed well and made well will do a lot more for your closet and conscience. 
4. Think about it this way: Why would you pay for groceries or to dine at your neighbourhood restaurant when you could eat for way less at a fast food chain? 
5. Get to know what goes on behind the scenes of the fashion industry. Awareness is power. My favourite? Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed
6. Next time a friend compliments you on your outfit, take it in.

Your clothes -- and you -- deserve it.

Annching Wang is the founder and designer of fashion label Avery By Wang, and a writer examining the cultivation of purpose, empowerment, and consciousness through the lens of the notorious fashion industry.

Avery By Wang is a fashion label founded on a bootstrap spirit and an unconventional vision by a young, fashion school graduate who became disillusioned with the state of the fashion world and her own closet, and decided to do something about it.

Visit www.averybywang.com for more.

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filed under: behind the scenes :: inspiration :: life tips :: trends ::


abbie :

For the $50 gift card :) abbie

September 17 2012 at 03:09 PM


never given it much thought but I totally get it my immediate reaction to a compliment is “oh this thing i snapped it up for only..” not realising I’m more comfortable undervaluing myself rather than appreciating the quality of clothes I deserve hehe also it’s not a surprise these cheap bargain clothes stores get a lot of speculation about who actually make them and damn right exploitation which the public could never witness or comprehend yet turn a blind eye to.

September 18 2012 at 07:09 PM


Good idea! I find it very worthwhile to resist the constant “buy all the pretty things you see” syndrome I get in some stores. However, I’m still a big bargain shopper at heart. Thrift is my store. :)

September 18 2012 at 08:09 PM

Ashley R:

Very good article! I have a problem with retail therapy.

September 20 2012 at 02:09 AM


“Overdressed” sounds like an intriguing read — might have to pick that one up!

September 20 2012 at 11:09 AM

Ina Kuehfuss:

I really like this article, especially because it was very objective and at the same time helped you change your mind about the whole “get it as cheap as you can”. The issue I have often with prices for clothes is that the quality does not often get reflected in the price. I have T-Shirts from Nike which really stretch out and lose their quality look over time and I paid good money for them and other times I have items from a rather low end quality store and they last forever! I walk into a store that is supposed to be high end and I see bad quality! Why should I then pay 3 times as much, if I don’t get anything better for it, I rather wait for the sale then. So to me, the idea behind paying for quality is great, but it’s not that easy to figure out which labels actually produce quality. I mean, you can always check the seams etc, but sometimes you just don’t know how long that piece will last you. So in the end it feels like one big mess and you revert back to “well, if I got it cheap(er) then I won’t feel so bad when it falls apart.” I think this is also why I have a bit of a passion for vintage, things were just made more durable in general back then and I feel more confident with them.
Great topic to bring up though! Love.

September 20 2012 at 03:09 PM


Brilliant article. I have never thought of it until now and now that I do it makes sense! People used to brag about how well-made and how expensive their clothes were but it seems to be going the other way now unfortunately… I personally love to have one item in my closet that cost quite a deal more but I know is a staple and it is original, it is well-made, it will last, and I will love it. Love the topic!

September 21 2012 at 04:09 AM

Suburban Style Challenge:

I like this, and I’ve read it a couple times now. I’m TOTALLY guilty of getting complemented and immediately saying “thanks! I got it for like $3 on sale at Express last year!”. And I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to STOP that and just say, “thanks” and maybe give an anecdote about the piece instead, like “it was hard to figure it out, I used to ONLY wear this with black jeans when I first got it”, to invite conversation (if the person complementing is the type who’d have a conversation about that kinda thing LOL).

It definitely gives me food for thought, and something to think about in terms of my own blog, and perhaps writing something on this as well (with credit and a link back, of course).

September 24 2012 at 12:09 PM


Thats going to be hard to give up. Everytime i get a complement im like oh well i got it for $10 at charolate russe. :) maybe i should stop telling about how cheap it was.

September 29 2012 at 03:09 PM

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