I was lunching with two female friends when one of them, a 35-year-old with her own PR agency, showed us her new Dolce & Gabbana shoes, bought on a recent trip to New York.
My other friend, who is in her late 50s said smartly: “Super, not shoes,” which was a bit of a bummer.
We were in the midst of discussing the cost of living, and the precarious job market, so it made sense to advise her to start taking care of her own financial future.
But given that we were two former fashion magazine editors who spent most our working lives telling readers that $1700 evening bags were a good investment, it must have seemed a little hypocritical.
As you get older, you start to realise that the money you spent on fashion really might have been better spent on something more useful.
Like a house. There seems to be a common belief that expensive clothes have great re-sale value. Sure, buy that coat that costs a month’s rent. You can always sell it on eBay, or Vestiere, or any other of the dozens of websites that sell unwanted luxury fashion if you hit a tight spot.
But the hard truth is that, like a car, very high-priced clothes and shoes lose their value the minute they leave the shop. The more likely scenario is that you will be at some windswept Saturday market, unloading all your designer pieces onto racks, while expertly trained thieves make off with the best pieces when your back is turned.
One of my friends recently moved into a smaller apartment and decided to sell half her wardrobe. She hired a market stall, and I went along to help her. It was a disaster.
I’d serve someone, turn back and notice that half the merchandise had vanished. We actually fell for the “do you mind if I just go and try these on in the toilets and see what it looks like in the mirror?” routine.
Twice. Once we realised that people were stealing more than we were selling, we packed up, dropped what was left at a charity store and went to have pizza.
Consignment stores are an alternative – if having someone peer at your once-loved pieces with a look of pure disdain and say: “Yeeesh. I won’t take that!” is an experience you’d like to have.
Whatever they deign to accept will then sit in the store for a few months, and your cut always seems to come out somewhere around $15, whatever price they put on it.
If you are fortunate enough to have more clothes and accessories than you need, a far better idea is to donate to charities such as Dressed For Success, which helps women who are doing it tough to get back on their feet.
If there is a smarter financial path, one that means we can have both superannuation and nice shoes, then the answer may be to buy less, wear everything more.
It’s better for your finances and it’s better for the planet.