Valient Viewers of Braver Homes and Gardens

Monday, December 27, 2010

Off the Rack

It's been a while since I blogged.  And I'm afraid my return post will be in the form of a rant.  I just returned from a three hour trip to the mall.

I HATE the mall.  Moreso, I absolutely ABHOR buying clothing off the rack.  It just makes me puke.  But I'm getting a head of myself...Let me back up.

The Conductor and I have plans to go to a dinner and theater show for New Year's Eve.  I believe one is supposed to dress for dinner and the theater.  Neither one of us has cable but we've been catching up on the popular Mad Men cable series on DVD.  I thought it would be fun to make a vintage inspired dress for the occassion so I picked this one:

It's Voge 1043, a reprint of a 1953 pattern.  (Yes, I know Mad Men takes place in the 60's but that's not the point.  Vintage is the point).

Considering that my final fabric selection was a very nice oriental blue satin, I decided to make a muslin before sewing the final dress.  And of course, I got stuck.

This gusset piece is supposed to fit into

this underside of the arm.  But for the life of me I could not figure out how it went.  Onto the pile of Valient Attempts it went.  With New Year's less than a week away, I needed a Plan B.  Off to the mall I went. 

So here's why I hate the mall and why I abhor off the rack clothing.  I tried on 9 dresses all which claimed to be the same size.  They all fit differently.  I almost drowned in some.  And trying to pull others off almost resulted in my arm being pulled from its socket, they were so tight.  But inconsistent sizing is only aggravation number one.

Here's the dress I settled on (and I do mean settled):

Many (who don't sew) might be thinking, "Why Jill that's a perfectly fine dress for a nice night out".  But let's take a closer look, shall we?  We'll start with the sleeves. 

But wait!  There are none.  In fact, NONE of the nine dresses I tried on had sleeves.  Why is this an aggravation? 

Because it's wintertime!  In Wisconsin!! 

We have freezing temperatures, subzero windchills, and SNOW.  Yet this is what the fashion industry deems an appropriate winter evening gown.  (And do you think the stores featured matching shawls or wraps.  Of course not!!).

Aggravation three is up next.  The stipes are actually strips of fabric sewn around the dress.   I couldn't really get the fine details right with my camera, but if I could have, you'd see that the fabric is a knit.  And the stripes...are NOT...hemmed. 

As a seamstress that just aggravates the tar out of me.  I"m sure non-sewists ae thinking, well Jill, what's the prob?  It's a knit that doesn't unravel so who cares about the lack of a hem?   Well, I do. You should .  Every American consumer should!  Why?

Because the price of this dress is $100!!!  ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS for a dress that, without proper hemming, is not finished being made.    It's like driving a car that has wheels that haven't been bolted on.  It looks good.  You might be pursuaded to pay full price for it.  And you could drive it, sure.  But you won't get far without it coming undone and ticking you off.  Still not getting it? 

Aggravtion #4 - the ethics:  The manufacturer buys a cheapy knit fabric like the one on my dress because it doesn't require hemming.  This means less manual labor.  Which means each factory worker in Mexico..Singapore...Bangladesh, etc. can churn out even more dresses per hour.  And at the $1 or so an hour the laborer gets paid, in raw terms, they get more bang for their buck...but the savings are not passed on to us, nor do I suspect they pay the laborer more for churning out more product. 

Aggravation #5 - the consumerism:  We as the consumer have little choice but to buy crap quality like this but we are lead to believe that $100 for a poorly made dress is a reasonable price.  We're too apathetic about quality in this country with our "cheaper is better" mindset that we don't even realize we should be complaining. 

Aggravtion #6 - the math:    Say you make $12 an hour (what the Government considers a wage you can support a family on).  This means, to buy this crap quality dress, you need to work about nine and half hours (factoring taxes in).  That means more than one full day of your life toiling away, for an inferior product. Now imagine if you only make minimum wage.  You'd be giving up a good 15 hours - two whole work days - for a dress that probably won't last more than a year or two, assuming you only wear it on fancy occassions.  INSANITY!

"But Jill," you're no doubt thinking, "You certainly aren't nuts!"

No.  I'm not.  That's why I only paid $35 for this dress which is about all I'm willing to pay for off the rack clothing.  But don't congratulate me.  The bargain I got came with a price:

There it is!  A broken zipper.  That's right.  They marked this $100 dress down because - before anyone even took it home - the zipper broke.  This is what passes for quality products?  Come on! 

Boy am I glad I sew! 

Anyways, as I mentioned, the dresses are sleeveless and the strore didn have any matching wraps.  So I"m going to need to make one.  (Thank goodness that *some* part of my ensemble will be of quality workmanship). 

But what to make it out of?  After dealing with the garbage at the mall, the fabric store was like an oasis in the dessert.  But I was too tired and aggravated to make a decision there so I bought three pieces and figured I'd decide which one later.  The shoes will be silver to match the lovely bracelet that the Concuctor gave me for Christmas, making its debut on New Year's. (Ahh - more quality!)  So these are my choices:

The first is this maroon fabric.  The upside is that it's a nice metallic whcih I think will look fun on New Year's.  The downside is that it's too thin to keep my shoulders warm

This one is also maroon, but a nice medium weight knit which will keep my arms warm.  But the dress is also knit and I worry that, although warm, knit on top of knit will take my dress from fancy to dowdy.

Finally, a navy blue organza. The shade isn't an exact match to the navy of the dress and it won't keep my arms warm.  I'm leaning toward this one though.  I'm worried that the maroons will stand out for not being the same color and, while I like to dress up for the theater, I prefer to be more conservative about it. 

The organza will stand out but for a good reason.  
It's got teeny sequiny things on it, which will pair nicely with the sequiny things on my shoes and the diamonds on my bracelet.  I'm willing to have cold arms in exchange for a little New Year's bling on my shoulders.

So...thank you for making it through to the end of my Shopping off the Rack Rant.  As a thank you, please feel free to give me your opinion on which wrap fabric I should go with. 


Caroline said...

Well unfortuantely I am late to the blog. Now that I can relax my eyebrows from the tight position your blog put them in, I would like to leave my thoughts. First, I commend you on all the effort you put into making your own clothes. As far as buying off the rack, I knew you had a disliking, but I never knew how strong it was! I'm with you - in part - about how much people spend for crap. That's why I am not too proud to buy clothes from Goodwill. And when I finally have time, I will learn to sew!!
Not knowing what shawl you chose, I love both the first and third. The first had a great color combination, while the third looked very nicely paired. I couldn't tell the colors were off. And the sparkle was perfect for the occasion. Now, my one peeve: were those open-toed shoes??? Please tell me you did not rant about a sleeveless dress and then go out in open-toed shoes.
I'm sure you looked lovely and I hope you had an awesome time with the Conductor!!

Anonymous said...

I would have chosen the maroon knit. The color scheme was festive. The fabric was a cozy type and I like being warm. Plus, the opportunity to wow the man by removing the knit at just the right moment in the night makes for a sensual feeling.
Regarding the venting...good job! I wish I could express my thoughts the way you do. You're absolutely right about the quality of clothing! It's a joke! I don't want to learn how to sew, but I know you're proud. And, knowing you're happy that makes me happy.

Rustown Mom said...

I'm sure it looked beautiful when you were all said and done. I absolutely HATE clothes shopping for all of those reasons. I don't sew often enough to do my own. And I hate knowing exactly what I want and not being able to find it...