Cost and worth are two very different things

The case for investing in quality clothes that you love

By Katrina Van De Ven

Trigger warning: This article mentions body image and diet culture.

To quote the cult noughties movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, “Cost and worth are two very different things.” We’re hardly holding Rebecca Bloomwood’s story as an example of what to do - the movie is a cautionary tale about overspending – but this central theme has worth (pun intended) in terms of how we approach our own wardrobes.

GIF clip from Confessions of a Shopaholic

What do we mean? Since starting LükBook, we have observed and received a lot of comments from plus size women, commenting on how plus size clothing is too expensive. This isn’t specific to us at LükBook, but seems to be a constant across most plus brands and stores. And we absolutely get it. Inflation is sky high, as are interest rates. The cost of living is front and centre for us all - and the last thing we want to do is get into a debate on what individuals feel is affordable for them personally.

BUT. What we have observed is that the bar for what is considered ‘affordable’ is set significantly lower for plus size fashion than for its straight sized counterpart. And it has us asking - why? We have a theory that the focus on cost is less about the affordability of the garments themselves, and more about worth…or in this case, self-worth. Here are three of the most common reasons we hear for plus customers not wanting to invest in their wardrobes, and why this thinking isn’t necessarily helpful:

Reason #1 - “But I don’t want to spend money on clothes, I’m going to lose weight/ tone up”

If we see our bodies as a temporary state, it makes sense that we don’t want to invest in beautiful clothes, as we think they won’t fit in the near future. If we buy a gorgeous, investment piece, are we ‘conceding defeat’ in some way? We hate to burst the toxic new year’s diet and fitness bubble, but for the vast majority of us, our bodies are pretty much going to stay the same. Research consistently tells us that 95% of all diet programs “fail” – in reality, our bodies, which are biologically wired to maintain weight, will eventually rebel against any deprivation and return to where they want to sit (if you’re interested, Google ‘set point theory’ for more on this). 

But even if you do change the size or shape of your body for the long term, is not buying the dress now going to help? Here’s a reality that we’ve had to learn the hard way: you can’t hate yourself into a body that you love. Ooft. Sorry, but it’s the tough love that we sometimes need to hear.

So, buy the damn dress.

Reason #2 - “But it’s more expensive than what I’m used to”

One of our favourite curve influencers, Jo (@icurvy) - pictured, has made some great points in relation to this on her Instagram.

In short, until very recently, plus customers had VERY limited shopping options. Think: Kmart, Target, Big W, Myer, plus one or two dedicated plus brands. Thankfully, the landscape is changing! Australia is now home to nearly 400 brands that are catering to plus customers. What a time to be alive! This means that, for the first time, we have choice. While still not on the scale of our straight-size counterparts, we can now access high-end designer pieces, quality basics, and ethically and sustainably made pieces.

The change has been rapid and it’s a lot to take in. When a rapid change like this occurs, our brains often do something called ‘anchoring’ –  a form of biased thinking where we judge all of our current options in the context of what we have had access to in the past. This helps to prevent feelings of overwhelm. Jo explains “A bias is a shortcut your brain uses to make decisions quickly, but this often comes at the expense of accuracy. These are often unconscious and lightning fast brain reflexes - but if we want to grow, change, and adapt to new circumstances, we have to be deliberate and purposeful in changing those automatic shortcuts, to make better choices.”

“When we look at the price of something, our brain quickly references (or anchors) that cost in relation to everything else we've seen before - and the issue is that not comparing like-for-like as the vast majority of garments we reference mass-produced and manufactured offshore, usually from low-cost synthetic materials.” We now also have access to designer, slow fashion and sustainably made pieces – of course these are going to be more expensive, but are higher quality and will likely last much longer. 

“It’s important to note that was is affordable is a deeply personal and individual decision, but our gut-feeling about where the cost of something is fair - or unfairly expensive - is subject to anchoring bias” says Jo. 

Therefore, next time you consider a piece to be ‘too expensive’ take a second to think about where that reasoning is coming from. 

Reason #3 - “But I don’t want to spend that much money on myself”

If this is your thought process, you’re doing well in terms of self-awareness. This is often a completely rational decision based on your financial position and goals. But, it’s worth checking yourself and asking: is everyone in my household living by the same rules? If you’re limiting what you spend on yourself, while investing in outfits for your partner, children, or fur babies, you might want to take a closer look and ask yourself: why are you comfortable spending the money on others but not yourself?

Let’s come back to the cost vs worth analysis. We all know you get what you pay for. Do you want a cheaply made, synthetic dress that might last six months, or a quality cotton piece that will see you through several seasons?

The takeaway

Ultimately, it’s entirely up to you how you choose to build your wardrobe. But we think it’s important to stop and consider how our approach to fashion intersects with our self-worth.

We know that there’s a reliable link between clothing and self-confidence, which you can read more about here or here. This is why you deserve a wardrobe that makes you feel great. Is it really about the cost of clothes, or is there something else going on that you might want to work through?

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