For the imperfect Fashion lover.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

What's so Bad about Cheap Clothes Anyway?

Fake Fabulous | Green Trench coat, camouflage sheer tunic, coated black jeans and patent shoes.

Cheap clothes get a bad name, sometimes, don't they?
Mass produced items (sold at rock bottom prices) are bad for the environment, exploit low paid workers and are generally something to be ashamed of, right?
Well, not always.
Unless you are buying couture, vintage, (small-scale) handmade or recycled clothes, you are buying mass produced clothing.
There is no getting away from it.

At what point does a piece of mass produced clothing become acceptable?
Is it when the retailer adds an enormous mark up on the price tag?
When your mass produced jacket costs £10, it is distasteful, but price it at £200 and it is okay?
The truth is that most of us are wearing mass produced items, it is just a question of how much you are willing to pay to do so!

This whole train of thought came about when the people at everthing5pounds got in touch with me to ask if I would be interested in featuring their clothes on my blog.

I must admit that I initially dismissed the idea.
Retailer snobbery kicked in.

The website looked like it was designed for young girls, and if everything is a fiver, surely it must be a pile of rubbish, right?

Fake Fabulous | Green Trench coat, camouflage sheer tunic, coated black jeans and patent shoes.

Of course, when you are contacted by a brand, the first thing you do is go on to their site for a look around.
This is when I got a bit of a surprise.
I recognised an item that looked very similar to something I had spotted on the high street a couple of seasons ago.
Was it a copy?
Was it a factory second?
How do they do it, for £5?

Curiosity go the better of me, and I agreed to feature some of their products.
I really wanted to see this green coat in the flesh and find out what was going on.

I was not being paid to review the items, so if the clothes were awful I was free to say so!

The E5P people kindly sent me enough items to create a whole outfit (plus extras) and the first thing I took out of the box to have a good look at was this green trench coat.
I could hardly believe the quality for the princely sum of £5.

I easily assembled an entire outfit for £20.
Including a coat and shoes!

Fake Fabulous | Green Trench coat, camouflage sheer tunic, coated black jeans and patent shoes.

You probably have figured out by now that I like a bargain (who doesn't?).
I love rummaging through a sale, and trawling the charity shops.
But, I have to admit that £20 is my best price yet, for whole outfit!
The coat is great quality (I have paid £60-70 for worse).
The top is good enough, not the best finish, but no shabbier than the usual high street shops charging 6x the price.
The jeans are perfect, decent quality and a good fit.
The shoes are chic, well fitting and comfortable.
Okay, so they are not leather...but neither are a lot of the high street shoes.

Fake Fabulous | Green Trench coat, camouflage sheer tunic, coated black jeans and patent shoes.

I  added my favourite necklace, a cluster of brooches, metallic socks and a trusty old bag to finish my look off perfectly.

Have you tried any bargain-tastic websites?
Please share in the comments, or contact me.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.



  1. First off, still love that fish necklace of yours!
    It's so easy to fall into the trap of retail snobbery - been there done that! And now I try to avoid.
    I've not used E5P before but I know quite a few folk that do and most have good comments. I think across the board clothes are just not as well made as they used to be. In fact there was an online article recently about how there is a built in obsolescence to most clothes! And the mark up on some brands is just ridiculous especially when you zoom in on the sewing and the edges.
    It's a fun outfit and as you say for £20 you'll get more than enough wears from it. some of my cheapest clothes are still going strong 15-20 years later - they just need a little tlc!

    1. Thank you! I love this necklace too...I am on the lookout for something as "fun" but that fits with everything. I am always looking but this old one seems to win every time!
      You are right!
      Clothes are getting shabbier... I used to swear by Boden for basic Tee's and Cashmere cardigans but the last two I bought fell to bits....quite literally!!
      Over £100 for a rag to line the dog's basket? Not cool!
      I can believe the obsolescence story, I think it applies to everything. (household goods, cars, the works!)
      The fact that one retailer marks the price up to an eye-watering figure does not stop the item being churned out of the same factory. A sad fact of modern life.
      I have some cheap items too that have outlived more pricey pieces.
      Price tags seem to have little bearing on the quality you get...
      Thank you so much for this comment.

  2. I have thought about this fast fashion/slow fashion thing a lot. It looks like there is no winner in the game at all except for those who make money on the sales. Something seems to be broken in the currency exchanges.

    1. You are right Nicole! The winners are the retailers.
      If one retailer can run a successful business (i.e. making profit) selling an item at £10 and the next sells the same item for £50 it is certainly not the workers on the ground that are getting the extra cash in their pockets.
      We live in an unfair world for sure!
      Unfortunately the Eco-fashion brands need to up their ante in the style stakes. Most of the (affordable) ethical lines are pretty dowdy, frumpy and boring. I know there are some nice pieces...I have bought things from People Tree, Alche1st, Patagonia and Ascension (when it was trading) and I know brands like Seasalt and Fatface have decent Eco-credentials.
      BUT, most fashion forward eco brands are way out of my price-point. (like Edun and Minna)
      We need more "fashionable" choices at decent prices!
      Thank you so much for commenting.

  3. I have bought clothes from E5P and my opinion is that you can find some beautiful pieces (tops, coat, dress) that certainly are worth more than a fiver. Quality does not apply to all of their clothes, but even if you wear a cloth once, then it's ok that you have only paid 5pounds for it. I had a pair of sandals from E5P and I wore them for 2 or 3 years! I also had some bags that I still use them and I am very pleased with their quality. So, I think it is worth to try, you can always find really beautiful pieces that can be worn for long time.
    I like your top and coat in this post and I find it a really good purchase!

    1. Thank you for this comment.
      I agree!
      The quality is great for some items, not so great for others....the jewellery I chose was not blog-worthy, for example.
      I think that most shops are like this now, some items are good others not so good. We just need to take a chance! I recognised the green coat so I hoped it was going to be the same one, and it was! A lined coat for a fiver is pretty good in anyone's book :oD
      Your sandals that lasted years sound like the kind of bargain we are all looking for!
      Please let me know if you find any other great buys out there.

  4. That sounds like an amazing website! Honestly, I would wear every single thing you got from them in this post. My favourite piece is the coat - it looks super cool, super trendy, and for five pounds, saying "It's a steal" doesn't cut it! Maybe more like "It's a robbery", which is a saying that totally doesn't exist (unless it's literal, which is awful), but 'robbery' just sounds like a bigger deal than just 'a steal'!

    1. Thank you Liyana....You made me laugh with your Robbery comments! cute.
      I think this coat would look amazing on you...although it might be a bit hot and sticky in the humidity :oP XXX

  5. I have just received my first order from E5P and I'm well impressed with the quality. Thankfully I bought that lovely green trench coat and was amazed at the quality!! I have paid more for absolute junk from the high street.

    1. Me too Sharlene....expensive junk! The coat is fab isn't it!? I was thrilled with mine and I know I will wear it to death. Thank you for your comment. XXX

  6. I'm so glad you addressed this whole subject Samantha---because when you look at the facts---we all buy mass produced items. (And like my husband says, the workers making low pay are sometimes better off than no pay)
    And I've spent money on pieces from boutiques where the threads are hanging off just like from the cheaper stores.
    And lately I've been seeing shoes labeled vegan---so there's an audience for everyone, right?
    You look positively fallish and fabulous! And there's nothing wrong with saving money...I'll have to check out this site!

    1. Thank you Jodie! Sometimes I feel trapped in the Mass-produced market...and have guilt about my fueling of the cycle of production. (nots just clothes either, it's everything we buy). Wearing a lot of recycled and vintage items helps, but it is hard to escape.
      What I object to more is buying the same items at super-inflated prices. The same things from the same factories....grrrr...putting a "designer" label on something does not make the story behind its production (or the lack of quality) okay.
      I am so glad you like this look!
      It is very autumnal, but Scotland has been feeling autumnal recently, although yesterday hit the 20's and felt scorchio!!

  7. Oh.. difficult one Samantha. I know that when I pay more I am not sure whether I pay for the bigger mark-up of the brand or for better production circumstances.
    But there are a few shops like Primark I deliberately do not shop because I KNOW they exploit workers and have them work in dangerous and bad environment.
    If a price is so low that I can know it is not possible to produce it for that price, I avoid it. And yes I try to look for brands who are treating people fair. Which is why I like Hope Fashion for instance.
    But I will admit it is easy for me to talk as I have a very good salary.
    Having said all that: I do think you look smashing in this fall outfit. Love the shoes and the coat. And of course the necklace.

    1. It is difficult Greetje! I would LOVE to afford true designer items that I knew (for sure) were made by adults with good wages, great conditions and a working pension thrown in! I would be shopping from them all of the time. Unfortunately, even the more expensive high street brands get their stock from the same places as the cheaper brands and the companies are all about the profit. Brands that were once all about the ethics are now buying stock from China. I can't even rely on them anymore!
      Primark and H&M seem to boast ethically sourced items on their websites. Can we believe them? I am not sure. The whole issue is a really difficult one for sure! Thank you for leaving your comment....I really appreciate it. XXX

  8. This is a subject I've been waiting for someone to address on their blog. Paying exorbitant prices for clothing is just foolish for average consumers. I have many friends who really believe the hype of brand names and designer labels. Unfortunately environmental concerns and cheap/inhumane labor practices aren't a big part of the typical fashionista's conversation about "trending looks/must haves".
    When I first started reviewing bloggers and choosing those I wanted to follow I was surprised and delighted that many of the "over 40 bloggers" enjoyed thrifted and vintage clothing. I really didn't expect to find that "stylish and frugal" was fashionable thinking. The bloggers I follow are smart shoppers, stylish shoppers, and socially conscientious shoppers. I think it's a BIG deal when you can put together a fabulous look at a reasonable price. I'm cautiously falling for the latest trends. There's got to be a limit to the influence of retailers on what hangs in my closet.

    1. I am hugely influenced by the latest trends! I know it is foolish, but I would LOVE to be able to buy one or two pieces from the catwalk collections each season. Unfortunately my budget pulls the reins in a little!
      So this is when I try to create a unique look that is influenced by trends. It can be hard but also lots of fun!
      To me, giving up on fashion and looking nice, is like giving up on living and having fun!
      Being "older" is just an excuse to get away with more unique looks. The urge to follow the crowd and "fit in" has long gone.
      Thank you for this great comment Judy! XXX

  9. I think that is a great outfit! I love the coat a lot, fantastic color! When I worked in the Fashion industry, a lot of Brands tols us that they were visiting the area where the clothes were made to see if everything was going ,,okay,, with the people who made the clothing. I m talking about India, Vietnam etc. Please, Don t make me laugh, those were just luxureus trips by people who could not care less! As long as the brand earned enough, the rest isn t important. And what can we do? Just vote every four year(in the Netherlands)on people who want to do something about the bad conditions in those country s for the working people.

    1. I totally agree Nancy! Brand representatives staying in 5 star hotels and popping in to a (pre-warned) factory are hardly gaining an insight into the worker's daily lives or conditions.
      It's all just lip-service and paperwork signed off.
      "We visited, therefore we must care".
      I once worked in a place that move us out of our usual working area when the inspectors were visiting, because (at the time) I was underage, underpaid and essentially illegal!
      And that is in a first world country... imagine what gets hidden away during these inspections overseas? Depressing stuff. :o(
      Thank you for this insightful comment!

  10. It is really hard to know what to do, but I feel we have to try; so my personal benchmark is: how much time would it take me to make the item (notional - I can't/won't make all things) and how does that fit with the price? For instance, I couldn't sew all those buttons on the jacket in half an hour, so for me, buying that brand new for £5 would be a no-go. (There are flaws in this logic, such as, I'm applying our minimum wage, I'd be doing things by hand rather than using a machine etc etc). I do try to research companies before buying from them, but my first stop is to just buy less. As you say, this doesn't just relate to clothes.... Not easy, and I definitely haven't achieved sainthood (or anywhere close!) to that yet!
    As an aside, I cannot abide Primark & Co and feel horrible just walking in there. The "a wage is better than no wage at all" argument doesn't wash with me either - everyone deserves the right to a living wage, and those of us that can, have a responsibility to require it of the companies we purchase from.
    The real difficulty for me is knowing when I'm paying to support a proper wage and when I'm just paying to support inflated profits.
    I feel I might have stepped onto a soap box whilst sitting on the #22...apologies! It's such an interesting, multi-faceted question!

    1. Hahaha...don't apologise! Thank you for taking the time to leave such a great comment. I agree with your sentiment about a living wage, we all deserve that! Unfortunately, the price the workers are paid is not proportionate to the price we pay. I wish it were! It is an unfair world.
      I also try to research ethics of certain companies...some of the "bigger" brands are the worst offenders! |The idea of eco and ethical fashion is fabulous....BUT....the great designs are a fortune and the more affordable options tend to be at best boring, at worst frumpy and dowdy. I may have a conscience (this bargain basement shopping experience does sit uncomfortably with me) but I also don't want to look "eccentric" in a crazy hairy toed kind of way!! :OP
      As for Primark...I understand your feeling on that! It is not a pleasant retail experience... more like a mad jumble sale for teens. However, I do shop there! Especially if I have seen the same item in another shop for 3x the price.
      This issue is HUGE and I am sure we could listen to very convincing arguments from both sides.
      I would love to follow an item from a selection of shops (high end and low end) back to the source...right back to the fabric production. Then I could see the real truth. Not just the spin from big retailers.
      Thank you so much for your comment!!

  11. In my small town, all of the kids wear fast fashion, and I am always afraid I'm going to show up at an event wearing the same piece as someone's teenage daughter. So my strategy for cheap clothing is to shop the sales racks, and at off-price retailers, for designer brands. I've found that fashion doesn't change as quickly as the editors and retailers would like for us to believe. I remember reading a few years ago that over-the-knee-boots were so last year (get rid of them immediately, and suddenly they are a must-have. As for sustainable style, I agree, most are frumpy or very expensive, but somethings "regular" brands will have capsules that are made with ethical, environmental practices (Zara, GAP, Athleta come to mind) and I am always partial to their collections.

    I've just discovered your blog, and am thrilled to "meet" another 40+ blogger. Love your color fearlessness.

    1. Wow Nipa, what a fab comment!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave it.... and thank you for visiting my blog :o)
      I've got OTK boots from the 90's that I'm never getting rid of, you are spot on there!
      As for sale rails....YES!!!!
      I agree that fashion doesn't really change that much.
      I believe that as long as you know what you like then you will always be stylish.


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