How much is too much?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 by

Big queens that we are, we were watching Stacy London's special, Fashion Fanatic, on TLC the other night and, big MARRIED queens that we are, we got into a little argument over something.

The divine Stacy was reporting on high end shoes and bags, when she informed us that one of the bags retails for $10,000. Tom immediately said "That's ridiculous." Lorenzo pounced. "Why? If you have the money, why not buy a $10,000 bag? Should everything be bought at Payless and Walmart?"

He's cute when he argues absolutes.

Anyway, Tom struggled with his point. "It's about...context, I guess. It's a disproportionate amount of money to be paying for something like that. I can understand buying, say, a pair of shoes for $800 or even a handbag for- I don't know - let's say $5000. But after that, it's just a bullshit amount of money. Look at it this way: You'd pay $50,000 for a car, even $100,000. But would you pay a million bucks for a car?"


Honestly, it was like trying to describe frugality to Imelda Marcos.

The point was, everyone has their threshold. It can be persuasively argued that a $5000 Hermes bag is of much higher quality than a $50 bag bought in a department store. Same goes for a pair of Manolos vs. a pair of Payless. Money quite often does buy higher quality. It can also buy higher style. But seriously, what does a $10,000 bag have that a $5000 bag doesn't?

Lorenzo's default position is "If they have the money, who cares?" And he's right. But Tom thinks once you cross that (admittedly, highly subjective) threshold, you're just paying bullshit amounts of money because someone came up with an exorbitant price tag and you're gullible enough to meet their price.

What's your threshold? Do you even have one?


Anonymous said...

I have a very low personal threshold, but I don't begrudge anyone buying something frivolous and expensive if they can afford it. Personally, I have a very hard time looking at anything that's not on a clearance rack or in a thrift store. I'd break out in hives if I had to by a $500 purse, let alone a $5,000 one.

brilliant said...

My threshold depends on what it is (coat, suit, t-shirt, handbag, shoes, etc) and whether it's "trendy" or "classic." I wouldn't think of buying any of those items you posted because it's just not worth it to me to spend that much money on something that will be out of style in a couple of months. (not to mention the fact that except for the Hermes bag, most of those things look hideous)

My threshold for non-shoe accessories is really low (under $75). But I've been known to shell out a couple of hundred dollars for some beautifully made clothes if the stars are aligned. Although I'm ususally a cheapskate, if we're talking about a well made suit or pair of shoes that won't go out of style and can be worn year round with different items, then I can be talked into paying a lot more.

Sewing Siren said...

I don't think it is wrong to pay that much, but maybe it is a little foolish (even if you have the money).
If I were to spend that kind of money on a purse, I would want it to be the only one in existence. Like a unique piece of sculpture.

Mary said...

I still have residual Catholic guilt from my childhood, so all I can think of is all the more worthwhile things one can do with that kind of money.

Also, I have a dog with an oral fixation so I can't buy anything that I can't afford to replace.

Anonymous said...

If you're paying $10,000 for a handbag, your priorities are seriously out of whack and you probably need to go work with a charity or something. Jesus.

Yan said...

Personally? Low threshold, based on my small paycheck. When looking at the economics of fashion, I consider a few equations -- I KNOW, crazy for a liberal arts major.

One, how often am I going to use or wear the item in question, which generally relates to whether or not it is a classic piece. Cost/# of potential uses.

Two, how much time does it cost me? Is a purse worth 240 hours of work? ($5000 is about 6 weeks of work for me, before taxes.) I can't imagine one that would be.

Three, how absolutely f@#$$%g awesome does it make me feel or look? Based on this last one, I did splurge on an awesome dress for formal dances when I was in college. I looked amazing -- sexy and elegant and older, which was important then. Sometimes you have to splurge on something special because it makes you feel amazing. But I think my threshold for most things is still about $100 per piece without serious consideration.

mjude said...

its not like i wouldnt want to buy an expense purse but i have my limits & budget in the back of my mind always. as for $10,000 purse, i have to say that kind of shit really gets on my nerves.

Marius said...

I'm totally with you Tom. I don't mind paying a high price for something that's unique and in limited supply. Some things are timeless and, in some cases, priceless because of their artistic and cultural value. But I agree with brilliant that it makes no sense in spending a lot of money on an item that will be out of style in a couple of months.

BG said...

I guess if really you love it and can afford it, buy it. I've often uttered sentences that start with "No matter how much money I have, I'd probably never [fill in incredibly expensive purchase]", however. To each his own.

I can't afford a $6000 suit or a $3000 pair of shoes, but I am glad that some people can - they can afford to indirectly or directly support artists, designers, master crafters and associated industries of all kinds.

Kirin said...

I'm of the opinion that no piece of clothing is worth more than $300.00 (and in some instances, even THAT is pushing it!).

I try to live by the motto; "Live simply, that others may simply live..."

Gorgeous Things said...

Well, my threshold is currently at a low ebb thanks to both kids getting braces this week (ouch!). But I don't mind paying for quality. I would say anything over $2000 for a handbag has to be a Kelly or Birkin, and I wouldn't shell out for a Maybach Mercedes, but I'm not that into cars. Shoes? I'd top out at a grand, if I had it, but I have to wait til the orthodontist finishes making his boat payments!

Gorgeous Things said...

Oh, and BTW, I'm talking theory here. Not that I have spent that much money for any of the above. It's just where do I laugh at the pictures in the fashion mags.

If I win the lottery, that will be another question!

Corin said...

What you're paying for is not "higher quality" (if a 10,000 dollar bag is to a 100 dollar bag what a 10,000 dollar computer is to a hundred dollar computer, then it better hold make-up and tampons in a pretty extraordinary fashion).

What you're paying for is a symbol of your social status. You want to show people how well-endowed you are and make them fume with jealousy.

Is a 50,000 dollar ruby prettier than a 20 dollar piece of amethyst? It depends who you ask. But you're not paying for some simple measurable improvement, you're paying for what is "better" because society deems it so.

snaillady2 said...

What's your threshold? Do you even have one?

I can't believe no one commented on the implications of taking this sentence out of context, but maybe I'm just a dirty ol' hag. It gave me the giggles, though.

Now that I'm finally in a career where I am earning more money than goes out in bills each month, I am actually purchasing items that 1) aren't on sale/thrift/discount store and 2) cost more than $20. For me, spending more than $30 on top, pants or skirts is astounding and I really consider the purchase.

With arthritis in my feet, I have resolved that I need to spend more $$ on shoes, but I still have trouble breaking the $50 mark without feeling guilty.

I enjoy the hunt of the great bargain, so I really don't see myself spending much for basics. The most I spent on a single piece of clothing was $200 for a Burberry coat at the sample sale at Woodbury commons 3 seasons ago.

I have a penchant for accesorizing with Hermes scarves (at $300+ a pop), though, so I can appreciate the luxury items. For me, the luxury items also need to be near works of art. I have no problem dropping several hundred dollars on glass (which is my passion). I have just a problem spending it on something that wears out and/or I outgrow.

If you can afford it, spend what you want on something, but that doesn't mean I won't roll my eyes at your expenditures behind your back. I *love* looking at the fashion magazines, seeing something that looks similar to something I have, and going HAH! I only spent $50 for it and you spent $5000!

jenny said...

My personal threshold is probably about $100 for shoes and most items of clothing, $250 for coats and then I start to get a bit nervous, unless the item in question is to die for fabulous. But then, I'm a a bargain shopper at heart and nothing makes me happier than getting something fab for a song.

I do think there is a point when the price tag of something becomes obscene and functions as nothing more than a status symbol, like corin said. I understand the higher quality and craftsmanship of certain luxury goods, but seriously, 10 grand for a purse??? I don't think I could live with myself knowing that that money could serve such a better purpose than merely make me look important or rich or whatever.

tc said...

Even though I have a lot of money saved up and stashed away, I just couldn't bring myself to drop 10 grand on anything related to clothing or accessories.

If a person ran up a credit card balance buying a $10,000 purse, I would think that person was insane. If a different person, who had a few million stashed away and could pay cash for the item, was to buy a $10,000 bag, I'd just think that person had insane priorities.

Maybe one reason I have so much money now is that I don't blow it on stuff that shows how much money I have. But I do have 2 kids in college and a nearly paid-off house in a great neighborhood. I have what I want -- and I have some great clothes that fit me well too.

Anonymous said...

It's all about priorities, isn't it? If pampering yourself is your priority and you have the money to buy a $10,000 handbag, do it. Personally, I think of how many animals could be spayed/neutered with that amount of money.

Also gotta agree with Tom: is a $10K handbag really twice as fabulous as a $5K handbag? It's a PURSE, for God's sake!

BG said...

FWIW, $200 seems to be a mental hurdle for clothing and other similar purchases. Not sure why $200 sticks out in my head.

I don't really believe in "investment pieces" that cost a lot more. Jeans fade, shirts stain, leather blazers get gouged and men's shoes don't look new for very long no matter how well you take care of them.

Clothes, fashions and bodies are too mutable for large investments to maker sense.

Anonymous said...

Prior to reading the others comments I was on the "Thats an Insane Pricetag" boat. Really how much quality can you place into a handbag or shoe to make it worth $10,000. The quality of material and craftmanship can only rise so much.

But then someone pointed out that by paying this much for an accessory we the consumer are supporting an "artist" or "craftsman". Then I thought about it, if we apply the concept that this overpriced acessory is a great work of art is it not worth more then sum of its quality. I mean all a Van Gough, Manet, or any masterwork truly is some paint of flimsy piece of canvas, yet few would dispute the fact that they are priceless.

While I don't live in the world of the Fortune 500, and Celebrity. I for one am grateful some do, because without a benefactor no great artist could have devoted their lives to art.

Neverwhere said...

Those 'high end' shoes look like flea market hooker shoes. ;-)

If you're only paying extravagant amounts of money for something because you think it makes you 'cool' or better than everyone else, then you're obviously wasting your money (and should be forced to shop at Payless and Big Lots for a year ;-).
If the items give you confidence, by making you feel sexy, or attractive, or even just more comfortable (like with shoes or a really well made bra) then go for it. Be happy. Feel comfortable in your own skin and be proud of yourself for being fabulous.

And I absolutely agree that there are 'classic' items worth spending extra money on, that will never go out of style and be a truly worthwhile investment. My mother taught me that well. :)

Toni said...

If you saw some of this stuff at a garage sale for $5 instead of at a high end boutique for $5,000, would you still buy it?

Incidentally, I couldn't afford to walk by the high end boutique. But I like to tell myself it wouldn't make any difference if I did.

Anonymous said...

There's this men's Lamberton Truex crododile bag that sells for $16,000 that I have seen in the 'must have' or 'for that weekend getaway' section in several gay mags: Out, Instinct, even HX here in NYC. Each time it coyly says 'if you have a sugar daddy.' If I had a sugar daddy, $16000 could go to more than a tote bag. Read the article in NYTimes about luxury brands, vanity, and pride; lux brands make nothing on the top items, everything on people ameliorating their wounded pride by buying the scarves and keychains.

Bill said...

corin said - "You want to show people how well-endowed you are and make them fume with jealousy."

Oh, Corin, I've shown plenty of people how well-endowed I am without spending a cent!

..but seriously folks...

I'm with most of the gang here. I'll pay for 'classic' pieces that I'll have for years. As for 'disposable' fashion, I'll shop clearance racks and discounters. Like others, I love finding a great piece of clothing for a fraction of its original price.

Cars - I drive a Honda. It's paid for, and I'll drive it until it dies. I look at others' cars and think, "I could buy three of my car for that price," or "they spent more on one car than I'll spend on cars my whole life." It's all about what turns you on and where you pamper yourself. Cars don't do it for me.

I love live theatre and music. I'll save elsewhere so I can splurge on Broadway shows and concerts.

The $10K handbag. Eeeegads! I have an old house. If I had an extra $10K to spend, it would go toward central air, kitchen counters or a bathroom renovation.

Anonymous said...

I might buy a $10,000 bag if I was Oprah-rich but I'm not. $10,000 to me is almost half of a car or a quarter of sending my son to college for a year, not something to carry my cell phone and lipstick in. I do know someone who routinely spends $700-800 on a pair of shoes. That seems crazy to me. However, if you see me out and about at my kids' sporting events, I'm toting ~ $10,000 worth of cameras and lenses so I can't complain about anyone else's spending.

Simon said...

Okay, my $.02.

I make little to no money and yet LOOOOVE to shop. I somehow find a way, via the sales rack at H&M, thrift stores, Forever 21, Bloomingdales sales rack, the like.

As with everyone else, I'm more comfortable is the item in question is less than $100, at whatever point in the retail cycle it is.

For items that are well over this mark, I have to want it for a long time and think about wearing it with as many different things in my closet as possible.

Example: Red suede Gucci Loafers. The classic ones with the gold bit.

I wanted these for at LEAST 2 years. So many times I'd be getting dressed and think, "If I had those loafers, I'd wear them right now." To me, that said it was going to be worth it. 14 years later, I still love them and have gotten well over $375 worth of wear, in my opinion.

I had "fake" Guccis before these and they all looked like total crap after a few wearings. On the other hand, I have a "fake" Hermes Birkin (scored at a Goodwill in Los Angeles) that I get endless compliments on.

Also, with shoes and purses, it doesn't matter how much weight you gain or lose, they always fit. Simple designs in basic colors will always be stylish.

Lastly, as for those who choose to spend ridic amounts of cash on ridic items that LOUDLY proclaim who they are wearing and how much it cost are just sad and sorry folks who need the attention. That's their problem, not mine.

BG said...

ohmygodwhyisthismythirdpost! I need to say one more thing. it is half-complaint and half-snark:

Certain "investment pieces" that are classics or are likely to be future classics STILL date sometimes. Perfect example (and apologies for any offense caused): the Coach Bleeker bag (duffle, bucket, whatever they call it). It is classic, well-made, and not terribly expensive. But anytime I see one now, I think "Oh, 1999 called...something about giving back their must-have bag?"

Another reason to choose those true investment pieces carefully.

Katyola said...

I am a shoe girl, but I've never spent more than $300 on a pair of shoes — and I doubt I ever will. There's a pair of Michael Kors riding boots I'm eyeing, but they are $395, so I am waiting to see if they go on sale in the spring.

As for pocketbooks, I typically don't care for the ultra expensive ones because they're often tarted up with buckles and locks and tassles and shiny material. Not my taste.

I've had good luck buying $50 bags at Target, which get mistaken for expensive purses all the time (although I'm sure Stacey London, et al. could tell the difference).

Anonymous said...

Is that last handbag *really* $50,000? Fifty thousand, that's not a typo?

Once I was shopping in this little store in Princeton called Rouge, and there was this handbag in there that just knocked me to the floor with its awesomeness. I fell instantly and irrevocably in love with it.

It had no price tag, which should really have given me the clue, but I picked it up and asked a girl how much it was.

When she said $1500 I almost started crying. Now, for that bag, which I loved, I guess my limit would have been $1500 if I had ever had $1500 in disposable income to spend on a bag. I've never seen anything else *anywhere* that I would have spent that kind of money on, and I have to say that none of the pictures in your post there are doing it for me either.

I think $50,000 for a handbag, which would fund Doctors Without Borders to perform facial surgery for a child, is criminally excessive and irresponsible. With what's in Paris Hilton's closet you could probably cure AIDS. That never ceases to annoy me.

OTOH, I'm happy when I see Angelina Jolie sporting a $2500 pair of sunglasses, so go figure. I think, "You go girl, make sure you enjoy it a little!" because she does so much good with her money.

So I guess for me, it's not about "how much is a car worth?" it's more about the relative value of money and making sure that I'm justifying my existance on the planet and making sure that my spending is reflecting my values in a way that I feel will bear close inspection.


GothamTomato said...

"gorgeousthings said:
If I win the lottery, that will be another question!"

Have you ever seen lottery winners?

elcynic said...

To me, a $10,000 purse has one function:

"Hey, f*ck you poor people!"

Erica said...

I suppose we all have something we "over spend" on. I mean you can buy a crap digital camera or you can spend loads on a state of the art cannon, you can skip over a target coffee mate and go to macy's and buy the $500 espresso machine.
I do have about a $200 threshold, but more than that if I walk away and regret not buying something I go back and purchase it. I suppose it all depends on what you are passionate about.

Liz said...

I purchase the Harper's Bazaar and pretty much alternately laugh/act horrified at most of the prices. (I just LOOK at the clothes ;) )

I buy a lot of clothes and accessories, but my price threshold is pretty low. Some of the dresses I've gotten the most compliments on were the ones I got at a so called "out of season sale" for $5. And that impresses me more than any $5,000 or $10,000 "work of art" ever will.

Plus, not to get too holier-than-thou, but Christian missionary and all that jazz. I think of my missions kids in Ukraine, Africa, and the Middle East and I wince at the idea of ever possessing $10,000 and using it on a purse.

GothamTomato said...

It IS true that paying a certain amount more (how much more is a good quastion) than you'd pay at a discount store will get you better quality, and you are ALWAYS much better off buying fewer things, each of better quality, than buying lots of things at discount stores.

And that is what DOES happen: Those people who think they are saving money by shopping at Walmart are actually just buying lots of cheap crap. They are kidding themselves. It's about wanting a lot of things. Wanting more, more, more. They are wasting just as much money, (sometimes more) than those people buying high-ticket items.

In many ways, they are are the same.

Those people spending thousands of dollars on a Hermes bag or a Louis Viutton aren't buying 'quality', they are trying to buy something that is actually unattainable. They are trying to buy respect; self-worth; they are trying to make others think that they are 'good enough', when they don't actually believe it themselves.

That is my Lucy Van Pelt 29¢ analysis for this afternoon.

--Gotham Tomato

thombeau said...

Darlings, you are BOTH right!

There's a sucker born every minute, right? But some want you to know that they're wealthy suckers!

Now have a cocktail and settle down.

annabelle said...

My threshold is called "I go to College, and can't afford anything." I do a lot of thrift store and vintage store shopping (mostly Buffalo Exchange) and it seems really ridiculous to spend lots of money on a purse. If it's something I know I'll be able to wear for a long time, like a wool pencil skirt or some cute classic shoes, I'll spend the money. But that's about it.

GothamTomato said...

"Kate said...
Personally? Low threshold, based on my small paycheck. When looking at the economics of fashion, I consider a few equations -- I KNOW, crazy for a liberal arts major.

One, how often am I going to use or wear the item in question, which generally relates to whether or not it is a classic piece. Cost/# of potential uses.

Two, how much time does it cost me? Is a purse worth 240 hours of work? ($5000 is about 6 weeks of work for me, before taxes.) I can't imagine one that would be."

You see, that's where you differ from most of the women buying those Birkin bags. Most of them are simply calculating blow job vs. boob job. (Crazy for a former cocktail waitress/stewardess).

That calculation would be: How many blow jobs did they have to give their crinkly, old husbands to buy the damn bag vs. the return on their investment in the silicone industry (that helped them reel the old geezer in in the first place)

--Gotham Tomato

Anonymous said...

All I can say is I wouldn't pay 50k for that bag in the picture even if it -was- from an orange alligator.

But yeah, as a college student (ack!) I am lucky if I can afford to hit up a Banana Republic sale once a year, let alone consider buying anything remotely up there in price. There will come a time though, I hope.

Lady Prisspott said...

It's not wrong to pay outrageous prices, oh sure there's always someone screaming about how much good that amount of money could do for the poor, but face it; Paris Hilton ain't going to buy a purse at Walmart and give the difference to the poor, jailhouse conversion or not. Besides, people at Hermes have to make money too and they'll spend it on bags that coust less and so on. As long as foolish rich people spend their money and keep it in the economy rather than hording it I say spend, spend, spend.

Alexis said...

Here's a great take on the real cost of your designer duds, from my favorite new shopping/clothes blog:
To wit: "But the wholesale price is still not what the garment costs to produce. That is about 30-40% of the ticket price. And as Dana Thomas tells us in Deluxe, sometimes far less. For Vuitton bags, and most luxury handbags (with big names and big advertising budgets) the actual cost of the piece is about 10% of what you pay. That’s kind of mindblowing, no?"

I'll say.

thombeau said...

Oh, by the way, I'm glad you like Stacey. I think she's fabulous!

Ursa said...

I just bought an AWESOME pair of boots. Classic and practical (yet sexy & kick-ass) boots. I'll be able to wear them comfortably for the next 10+ years, they will "stay in style" (because boots like this never go out of style) and are well made enough to last well with regular leather conditioning.
They were worth the money; at the top of my current threshold for clothing accessory items ...
So, what's that current threshold? $10/year ... that means if I spend $30 on jeans I'm expecting them to last me 3 years of use. (Yeah, I buy classics, never trendy, and always shop discount stores and sales catalogs ... I think underwear is all I spend full retail value on, good underwear can't be skimped on.)
The boots were bought at TJ Maxx for 1/3 their retail value ... I think they were there because one boots had longer laces than the other and laces therefore need to be replaced - No biggie.

I have small kids to consider first before my sense of style, and a conscious, so I buy a lot of clothes for myself at discount stores like TJ Maxx. I must chose well, because I get compliments on a lot of those pieces, too.

But here I am, feeling guilty about the boots because I could have sent that $ to a dog rescue organization. Go figure - I just bought something practical and classic and am feeling guilty because the money could have gone elsewhere to do good.

$50,000 handbag? I could be Oprah-rich and never contemplate such an extravagance. (If I was Oprah rich I probably wouldn't hesitate to spend that amount on an amazing work of art though ... but would probably be thinking what museum collection to leave it to eventually).

I'm with Anne at being aghast at what's in Paris Hilton's closet (reminds me of the Dolly Parton quote "You'd be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap!") yet don't begrudge Angelina Jolie the few extravagant things she buys herself because she does put so much money into good works.

I suppose if you want to spend big money to impress people with how much money you want them to think you have, fine, dandy. Go, support a couture house.

Me? I'd rather support a shelter.

Hutchlover said...

Interesting that I read this just after hearing that five people were shot at nearby Cleveland high school (my son attends The Cleveland School of Arts).

RL really puts crap like spending obsene amounts of money on stupid stuff, in perspective.

That $10,000 could be donated to an organization that would make life better for someone or some animal. Or toward a charity that supports something you believe in.

Spend $100 on a handbag if you like, but I don't want to hear bragging or crap from anyone who spends more than that on UNNECESSARY items. I spent $50 purse from Dillard's five years ago and it still does me well.

Say What? said...

But did you notice, with the pictures you used the higher the price got the FUGLIER the shoes got??

And my personal threshold is about $20 - $50.

Anonymous said...

I would never spend that kind of money on clothing or accessories (like a hand bag or shoes) even if I had it. Those things, while they may be timeless in style are not timeless in physical longevity. My husband and I do spend money on expensive things but they are things like vacations, baseball tickets, a house. These memories will last a lifetime and help keep my most valuable thing in great marriage.

Our honeymoon was a two week trip to Australia. It cost $14,000, the same amount as our wedding but it was the most fanastic two weeks of my life. Now would you rather spend that money on an ugly handbag that will wear out or go out of style or bore you after a few years. Not me!


P.s. the only wearable item that I would spend that kind of money on (if I was Oprah) would be jewelry. I love jewelry!

macasism said...

There's a sucker born every minute guys. Luckily for the big name designers, some of them have cash to burn.

Anybody who pays that much for a handbag is just an idiot. Give it to the poor. Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Someone making Federal minimum wage ($5.85 per hour), working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, has a gross salary of $12,168.00. That $10,000.00 purse that will, in all probability, be used for less than a year is approximately 82% of that person's yearly gross income.

That's obscene.

Will B said...

Hold on a minute. I'm going to say that both Tom and Lorenzo are off the mark. The question isn't "What's your threshold?" -- as if we're trying to help each other decide how much to spend.

As several commenters said, spending that much money is something that other people, the insanely wealthy, do. So the real question is: "What should we say, think and do about those people?" I see that Lorenzo thinks we should not deign to judge them. I don't see what Tom thinks. (Even though he wrote the post!)

Several commenters made points that bear on the real question: that those people are insecure, that they are buying something other than quality, and they should be condemned for not using the money for better purposes.

But the context is all wrong -- you can't just say, *I* wouldn't spend a million dollars on a car rather than funding an artists' co-op. You need to say, the people who spend that money are idiots/immoral/first on the wall when the Revolution comes. And Stacy London is gutless/stupid/irresponsible to glamorize that immoral behavior.

Or not, if Lorenzo is right. But at least we can have a real discussion, rather than each of us speculating about our behavior in bizarre worlds where we actually have that much money.

bitchybitchybitchy said...

There are so many other things I would do with $10K than buy a grossly overpriced handbag: travel, for instance.

Personally I think it's ridiculous, and a bit obscene to spend so much money on luxury items. I was raised by parents who grew up during the Depression and their lessons about saving and spending money took root.

Anonymous said...

Are Doc Martens considered classic? I have no problem spending $200-300 on a pair because they last for years (my currents ones I got in 2004 and they still look great). But are they out of style? Not that it matters to me - they're ultra comfortable and I can wear them year-round.

As for other clothing, except for the most expensive item in my closet (a vintage leather blazer I found in a NYC thrift shop for $350), everything in my wardrobe comes from either Gap Outlet or Forman Mills.

Even if I could, I would NEVER blow a wad of cash on a status symbol. I don't get what people get out of driving a Porche (I'm pleased with the size of my penis, thank you) or wearing expensive jewelry, or toting around a $5000+ bag (like that enormous, butt-ugly red bag Samantha used Lucy Liu's name to get on SATC) or tacky botique shoes (like the ones Carrie was wearing when Miranda's water broke on them).

I just don't get fashion - most of it is ugly and impractical. What's the point of wearing something emblazed with the designer's logo? I see it as paying to be a walking billboard - if I'm gonna advertise a consumerist lifestyle, Tommy Hilfiger, A&F, Nike, or Gap had better be paying me. (Unless it's a sport team, since they provide entertainment.)

I'm happy with jeans and a polo shirt with my Docs. If I'm gonna drop $1000 on something, it would be for a nice vacation or luxury seats for a World Series game.


simon said...


Why are you on this site if your tastes seem to indicate that you wouldn't be...?

Anonymous said...

But, think of the poor wives and mistresses of oligarchs, mafioso and dictaters! They need handbags, too.

-- desertwind

Yomanda said...

I agree with Tom. At a certain point, the extra money you're paying is for "cache." Not for quality. Rich people spend money to impress other rich people, in my opinion.

My personal threshold for purses is around $100, but that's because I'm not rolling in dough. I prefer to spend WAY less than that so that I can have lots of purses to choose from.

My shoe threshold is a little higher, depending on what the shoes are for. Flip flops should cost about $4.00. Tall leather boots that I will wear for years and years can cost a lot more. It's all about context.

Good topic, you guys! Love you, mean it.

Ted said...

" Anonymous said...

All I can say is I wouldn't pay 50k for that bag in the picture even if it -was- from an orange alligator."

ROFL. That is hysterical!

Anonymous said...

*looks nervous*
I must be [s] cheap [/s] thrifty. My mind gasps at spending all that money on something when I could pay bills with it!


The Scarlett said...

Here's the thing ... I can afford stuff but I recognize in the end, that trendy zippered, grommeted bag/pair of shoes is going to look dated pronto. Then, I have spent a crazy amount of money on something that says 'last season' before this season is over. If I was going to spend an obscene amount of money, it would be for an orange Birkin (although not alligator). Then I would tell myself that I owned a non-boring classic. However, I don't go over $600 for shoes or $900 for boots.

That said, we just donated a room at my son's private school as part of the capital campaign. It will have a discrete plague that will bear our name - timeless.

GothamTomato said...

"Erica said...
I suppose we all have something we "over spend" on. I mean you can buy a crap digital camera or you can spend loads on a state of the art cannon, you can skip over a target coffee mate and go to macy's and buy the $500 espresso machine.
I do have about a $200 threshold, but more than that if I walk away and regret not buying something I go back and purchase it. I suppose it all depends on what you are passionate about."

That's true. You can't spend other people's money for them.

There is a point though, where items become fetishes & prices become insane. It's just at a different point for different people.

--Gotham Tomato

Pittypat said...

What an interesting range of opinions! All the way from practicality to morality! It IS a great topic, and my personal limit would be about $200 for something that made me look and feel fabulous. (However, I usually spend less than $100 on even big purchases!) But to be realistic, we tend to spend more on food when eating out at a nice restaurant than we might spend on a clothing or accessory, and it's completely gone within 24 hours! I've always had a hard time ordering without restraint when I see the prices on the menu.

The Scarlett said...

Oh, and that multi-colored purse is fug. It looks like something a color-blind clown would tote to the opening day at the circus.

Anonymous said...

You know I would put good money on something that was going to last and last. I think like people have said over and over already, for the classic, for the work of art, for something really special that you're going to keep forever and continue to adore until you're old and insane then, yes, spend the money if you have it.
But honestly if 10K fell in my lap, I would not instantly be thinking "Sweet! I can buy that purse now!"

I spent about £150 on a really fabulous pair of shoes before now (Get out your currency calculators) but that's about as far as I go.
And yet I spent 4 grand flying to Australia on a short-notice whim last year. I guess it's all about priorities.
If that 10K did magically fall into my lap it really would be more a case of "Where can I go?" rather than "What can I buy?"

Laura said...

In rebellion of this very thing, my best friend has decided to not spend over $20 on anything for the next year. Shoes, winter coats, etc. Her blog is pretty funny:

Anonymous said...

What you are really asking is what is your materialism threshold. Why are you buying a $5,000 purse--there is something (to my mind) fundementely obscence about it. But as I am thinking about it (if I had the money) I would gladly fork over gobs and gobs of money on art work and antique furniture. What is the difference between these two types of purchases--the purse verse artwork? There probably isn't any but somehow there feels as if there is.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that we have a range here from low tens (college students) to high three figure (the scarlett). One's threshold as to spending is of course commensurate with one's income. Different people have different hot buttons - you might choose to look glam, drive the flash car, take expensive trips, fancy dinners, whatever gets you going. But hopefully, each of us before spending unnecessary amounts of money (because let's face it, a lesser cost can still get the basic job done when it comes to a purse, car, whatever)has ensured that we are saving for our own future - retirement, are helping less fortunate members of the world, and then are playing a little. Balance is key, regardless of whether it's Goodwill and $1 beer night or the sadly defunct Concorde and blinis in St. Petersburg. Okay, I'll get off my little soapbox and go play with the dog now. Thanks for a provocative subject.

Anonymous said...

Rereading what I just wrote makes me realize that not only can I not formulate an articulate argument but I can't 'fundamentally' spell either.

Happy Mama to Three said...

I don't think it is the price tag that gets to me so much as the comparative waste. If you pay $10,000 for an item because you know it is versatile and you can use it for a fair amount of time then the value is probably better.

But if you need three or four large bags and three or four evening bags every season, then you are talking a huge price to use ratio.

Perhaps I am the only one thinking abut stuff like tha.


The Angry Gimp said...

Well, I'm poor. I don't begrudge anyone for spending money, but I think they're getting ripped off for spending $500 or more on shoes or a purse. I don't care how well-made they are, there's no way the materials are worth that much money, nor is the design. You're paying for a label that says, "I am a rich bitch". It's obvious with a handbag, but with shoes, I don't get it. Nobody will know you're a rich bitch (except maybe other rich bitches). Not only that, but I think the designer bags are often really ugly. Louis Vuitton - what's so special about that pattern? It's not attractive or interesting, and doesn't really go with anything that well. I guess I'd be more impressed with a cute $50 bag than an ugly $5,000 bag.

another laura said...

the scarlett said:

"That said, we just donated a room at my son's private school as part of the capital campaign. It will have a discrete plague that will bear our name - timeless."

"A discrete plague" - indeed timeless!!! LMAO. A very distinct, epidemic life-threatening disease??? Seriously, the scarlett, if you are doing this (as opposed to making it up for the blog), please be sure to check for typos when dictating the language on your *discreet plaque*!

But on to the question at hand. I don't have that much money and what I really pine for is fine jewelry. I'll never have it, so I pine for it. Other good things (of course, good IMHO) I can get and so I do.

Having considered it for a little bit while perusing the comments, I think it's $500 for a bag, $800 for a pair of shoes. I have spent a lot more on jewelry.

I also prefer to spend what money I have elsewhere, like travel - my vacations are memories that I hope to keep a long long time.

snf in va said...

I agree with those that have posted that they feel that, beyond a certain point, you no longer pay for quality, you pay for cachet/status.

As for my own threshold, well, I usually compare the price of something to my mortgage payment: I would not spend that amount on an article of clothing or accessory, but I have spent more than that amount on antiques.

I *might* consider exceeding that threshold for custom-made Italian shoes, however.

Anonymous said...

I love beautiful things. I think they're good for the spirit. My aesthetic dictates whether I purchase something. Any other considerations, price, status, other people's opinions, etc. are meaningless.

Emma P.

Anonymous said...

I have to side with Tom. Yes, people are entitled to spend money anyway they choose, and those with money can certainly afford higher-priced products. However, the revulsion excessive spending causes cannot be dismissed, and sometimes I can't help but wonder if the wealthy and charmed spend exorbitant amounts of money, because a) they are purchasing status--a sure sign of a nouveau riche, or b) they don't know what else to do with it, in which case, give it to me, nitwit! (-.^)

as far as the car is concerned, now that's a seductive little number.

Big Shamu said...

Hmmmmmm Stacy. What were we talking about?

Anonymous said...

I just think if you have enough money to treat yourself that generously, you should make sure you're aware of how many people are living without, and do at least something to treat the less fortunate as generously.
A family I met while volunteering in El Salcador needed $500 this summer to save their home-- that's less than a lot of people spend on a pair of sunglass!!

NahnCee said...

It's one thing if what you're buying is gorgeously fabulous. It's a totally nother thing if it looks like something Fred Flintstone cobbled together. The huge handbags designers are foisting off on us (or trying to) the last few years are a joke. I won't buy them and I certainly won't pay the prices they're asking for them.

On the other hand, a nice chic little Chanel purse costs, literally, tens of thousands of dollars and I have no idea why they're that expensive.

In the program you're talking about, Stacy took us through the process of building high-end shoes, so you can sort of understand where the price-tag is coming from. I would love to see her do the same thing with a Chanel bag. But you just know Chanel isn't going to let an American film crew within a country mile of their Frenchified factories.

As for the other zippered, studded, clapped together horsebags you see in the mags and the stores, fuggedaboutit. I don't care how cheap or how expensive they are -- I don't like 'em, won't buy 'em, wouldn't carry 'em if they were gifted to me. And I don't care WHAT the Olson twins say!nah

GothamTomato said...

"Anonymous said...
I love beautiful things. I think they're good for the spirit. My aesthetic dictates whether I purchase something.
Emma P"

In a way, I feel the same. I collect art & antiques. But I guess I feel differently about the shoes and bags, because I consider them to be consumables. And it is largely the over th top, conspicuous consumption that is wacky.

And the thing

--Gotham Tomato

GothamTomato said...

"The Scarlett said...
Oh, and that multi-colored purse is fug. It looks like something a color-blind clown would tote to the opening day at the circus."

I actually used to be in the circus, and I can tell you, unequivocally, that no clown I know would wear that tote be it opening day or any other day.

--Gotham Tomato

TLo said...

Some of you have asked, so here it is:

Shoe #1: Calfskin shoe, Jimmy Choo, $695, at Jimmy Choo Boutique

Shoe #2: Leather shoe, Lanvin, $1,005, at Barney's New York, NYC

Shoe #3: Ankle boot, Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière, $4,175, at Balenciaga Boutique, NYC

Bag #1: Multicolor napa leather bag, Fendi, $1,300, call 800-FENDI-NY

Bag #2: Python-and-mink bag, Marc Jacobs, $3,700, at select Marc Jacobs stores

Bag #3: Hermès Birkin Bag 35cm in Orange Crocodile with Palladium Hardware, $50,000 at Créateurs de Luxe

Hope that helps.


Anonymous said...

I'm all about getting value for the buck. If it's a well-made bag of genuine leather or something more exotic, if it's hand-sewn, if it's a classic style that I can use for years, I can see paying upwards of $500 for a bag. Although, most of the time, if I spend that kind of money, it's a present for someone else. But $10,000?

I think that's for people who get paid ridiculous sums for saying a few lines of dialogue or playing a sport or being born into a wealthy family. They didn't spnd a lot of time (if any in the case of heiresses) to make that money, so to them, it's no big deal. To someone like me, even if I got a sudden windfall or won the lottery, I wouldn't use it to buy a purse. I'd feel guilty and couldn't enjoy it.

The Scarlett said...

another Laura-
Thanks for the laugh. I've been designing a 126 page Program Book for a Gala (I volunteer my graphic skills for fundraisers) and you have pointed out exactly why no fewer than 3 people will proof the book. I'm the worst speller!

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out when men's shoes got so expensive! My husband was looking at some shoes and learned that they cost $695. Sure alligator or bespoke John Lobb have cost more but I'm talking a basic pair of cap-toed, lace-ups by an Italian company. I can remember paying $395 not that long ago and thinking it was a lot.

I guess I'm wondering what the TLo threshold is?

Amanda said...

Being a poor college student, the most I've ever spent on a bag has been about $200. The most pricey bag I have was a gift, and that was $300. I figure that for anything more than that, I can buy a plane ticket, and I'd much rather go on a trip than own a $1000 bag.

Amanda said...

Another thing I should add- the most I've spent on a pair of shoes is $90 for a gorgeous pair of Michael by Michael Kors pumps - and the damn things are so uncomfortable that I wore them once (to the Fall Off the Runway Event at EMc2). They've been sitting in my closet ever since. The most I've spent on boots was about $150. What can I say, I'm cheap.

The Cheap Chick said...

I guess for me, the whole POINT of shopping is to see just how: A. on sale or B. flat-out cheap you can find any item. I get excited when I save $0.30 at Target on my monthly Lucky magazine purchase.

That is, until I open up said magazine and they are discussing $350 face cream like it is the most normal purchase in the world. Then I feel the urge to punch someone.

Sammi said...

My threshold depends on my financial situation, obviously, but I honestly don't think I'd ever go beyond reason even if I could afford to not worry. Like, $5000 for a purse still strikes me as ridiculous - but I could see blowing $1000 on a purse I really loved, IF I could afford it. Then again, I'd much rather blow my disposable income on traveling and nice housing. =D

Pamela said...

A few years ago I was window shopping in Zurich(Switzerland). Yes, that was all I could afford. Here is what struck me: There were stores displaying the most perfectly tailored coats and suits in the most luxurious fibers, fibers we don't see much of here, like mohair suiting and alpaca coating. The sleeves were set perfectly, collars rolled properly and lapels hand-picked in silk thread. These garments did not come cheap; there was not one outfit much under $2,500 USD and many were much more costly. The styles were utterly classic, perhaps a little boring to some people. I thought, "if I bought this suit/coat, I could wear it until I was 90 years old and look elegant." ...not a thought I usually have when shopping. But $2500 over the next 40 odd years is not an unreasonable expense ($62 a year) and if I were younger, it would be even more reasonable (cost amortized over more years, that is). I still wear the Burberry coat I bought in the 70s. I could sell it on ebay "used" for several times what I paid for it then. My daughter wears a 70s Giorgio de Saint Angelo skirt of mine, and it still elicits compliments.

As I passed the Dior boutique, I thought to myself, "this stuff looks like the junior department, by comparison." It was all logo-ed out and tarty-trendy. Just the sort of thing for some nouveau old geezer with a young, kind of tacky bj expert girlfriend, who wants to flash her trash.

High fashion used to be about the former; that is, lasting elegance; now it is about the latter, trendy, take the money and run, sell them a new gimmick next year. There is a difference in spending a large sum of money on something one will have forever and an item which is dead a season later and looks like hooker stuff to begin with.

I would also like to note that the price of an Hermes bag has gone up exponentially. Remember how the news media went after Martha Stewart for her expensive Hermes bag during her trial? She made a point on her show that the bag was $1,*00 when she had bought it many years earlier. The point was, the bag cost much less than any of the journalists had surmised and that it had lasted her perhaps 12 years or more and was well-loved and used.

In many European countries, the department stores legally sell high quality, meaning leather or skin with leather linings, knock-offs of Hermes bags. They cost in the hundreds rather than the thousands. I would guess that the biggest difference is that they are not hand-stitched.

People buy logos and obvious status symbols, because, in part, they are unable to recognize quality of its own accord. When I worked in retailing it was a known fact that by setting a price higher, customers will place more value on the item. Sometimes a store will sell more of an item at a higher price point, than if it is priced too cheaply.

For me my threshold is still 1) What would my mother think? 2) What is the estimated cost per wearing?

thyrza said...

Every time I even think about spending a ridiculous (for me -- my personal threshold is pretty low) amount of money on something frivolous, I get this mental picture of my grandmother watching me pull, like, an inch of paper towel from the roll and saying "Do you really have to use THAT MUCH?!"

Because of my upbringing, the very concept of a $10,000 bag revolts me. That's my initial gut reaction -- there's nothing logical about it. If you have the money, I suppose, you can throw it away any damn-fool thing you like. And I've probably spent the equivalent of that, given my salary, on clothes and accessories (although never, I think, on one ITEM), so I'm one to talk.

This whole discussion is making me want to sell every non-essential thing I have on ebay and donate the money to charity. Even talking about this is making my tummy roil with guilt.

It's all my grandmother's fault.

Anonymous said...

I could never justify spending that kind of money on any clothing or accessory. Give me department and chain stores anyday. Nothing in my life is important enough to buy a 10,000 bag or 1,000 shoes.

Lay down the big bucks for the things that really matter.

Even if I won the lottery I would be too cheap to splurge on much (after paying off the credit card and house). I couldn't bring myself to buy a top of the line car, I would probably buy a really reliable new Ford sedan.

Renee said...

Most people who live in the real world never buy a single $5000 purse, let alone a $10000 purse.

These bags and shoes are made for people who want to proclaim their "status" to others like them and don't actually work for anything. How could you possibly wear any of those shoes to an actual job?. It's like men who drive Hummers or Bentleys (penis insecurity anyone?). I guess since the vagina hats are unfashionable women had to proclaim their virility somehow.

To which I say: good, you deserve to be soaked for that kind of $$$. Knock yourself out

For the me: upper limit of $250 on shoes and bags (and they better be damn fabulous and last me>1 yr cause otherwise I'd be pissed). And clothes are clothes, not pieces of art but upward of $1000 for a really good ensemble for a special occasion.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Pamela! My husband and I have lived on both sides of the income line (from struggling business people and now flying to Europe for meetings) and boy, what a difference there is! It is a definately a question of "old money" versus "new money". Most Europeans laugh at the high priced "trend" houses and continue to shop at the subtle, top quality small shops that carry exquisite items. Yes, they are pricey but well made of unique and long wearing quality materials, worth spending the money on. These "fashion-forward" high priced lines are specifically created for the new wealth who have little idea how to shop for or determine quality pieces and grasp frantically for what everyone else has, no matter what the price. They are so desperate for recognition of what they have and how important they are it is like a feeding frenzy at the boutiques when a new line is premiered. When we were recently in Zurich for a meeting, we were mistaken for Europeans due to our "low-key" couture look (and were quite honored by the confusion) due to the absolutely gauche display put on by our American partners (husband and wife both wearing the newest, high priced fashion forward pieces and accessories). Now I really know where the term "Ugly American" came from!

Little Wing said...

Anonymous says:
"I just think if you have enough money to treat yourself that generously, you should make sure you're aware of how many people are living without, and do at least something to treat the less fortunate as generously."

Well said, well said. I like the posts today, good topic T&L, as always.

I shop at Marshalls. Why? Well, I'm a poor librarian, but I have a need for fashion and for some reason the Marshall's around the corner from my house has the most fabulous clothes for reasonable prices. I'm the type that reads Vogue and In Style mags and sees what's hot and tries to piece together outfits from what I have in my closet and from discount/ thrift stores.

I love fashion, I love to look fabulous and I make no apoligies for that. However, I think that as consumers we need to be aware of what has value and what is being created for the public just to sell and make the designer soome quick cash.

My uncle is a wise man who once told me that everything in life in either a want or a need, and I still think about that advice when I shop. For me, it's finding that balance of wants and needs and going from there.

I begrudge no one a $50,000 bag. If you can afford it, great, if you can't, have fun working off that debt. I just hope that occasionally we are as generous to others as we are to ourselves.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely an interesting thread.

While I think it's true that 10000 and 50000 dollar handbags are pure status driven scam, I would interject quality handmade items will cost more. And we shouldn't sneer at the price tag just because one is constrained by a budget.

I know a number of people who make clothes or shoes for a living. It is true many of us could not afford shoes or boots that cost $1000. However if you had the means to get shoes that were custom fitted to your feet, provide excellent support and built to last for years, wouldn't you consider getting them? And btw getting good quality shoes for your feet is not a luxury but helpful in overall health.

As far as pricey clothes, I was told that for someone who makes clothes for a living the cost for labor, depending on skill level, starts at $15/hour and goes up to $100/hour. You then factor in that a well made dress will take at least 25 to 30 manhours (unless your Laura Bennet) and you need at least 6 yards of fabric and good fabric will cost you at least $20/yard. And the more complicated the outfit the more time and fabric will be needed to construct it.

It's easy for us to be shocked at some of the prices, but there is a rationale for at least part of it. These are not mass prodcued items Now whether the quality of the finished product lives up to the price is a different story and they should be scrutinized. It is worth investing the extra money in a quality item and quality items will cost more if they are not coming off a factory conveyor belt

And going back to that Hermes bag, personally I think unless that bag has some precious gems set into it, there is no way any handbag can be justified as valued at $50,000 even if it's 1 of a kind.


Anonymous said...

What makes a bag worth 10,000 dollars?
- Morals: non-sweatshop, non-child labor... guarenteed healthcare, insurance, minimum or more wages, and a daycare worker... no carbon emissions or toxic materials used anywhere.
- Quality: the finest leather and stiched so that it is guarenteed to last 7 generations while still maintaining the same quality as the day you bought it.
- Timeless design: the ability to fit everything though look like you're carrying nothing, seasonless, stunning presence although can wear with anything...

- And a lobotomy to never get tired of it.

Anonymous said...

Rereading what I just wrote makes me realize that not only can I not formulate an articulate argument but I can't 'fundamentally' spell either.

That's okay Anonymous, did you notice that the scarlett's room is going to have a plague on it?


Anonymous said...

I'm sad there aren't more frivolous rich people posting here. Tom and Lorenzo need to upscale their readership! I am currently wearing a pair of loafers that cost almost $400. But I bought them 14 years ago! And they are still looking good - not new, but nicely worn. I have had the heels replaced twice.
I also want to say that people who would spend $10k on a bag aren't debating whether to spend it on the bag vs. travel - they can afford to do everything they want. At the same time, I do believe that is well beyond my threshold even if I won the lottery.

Anonymous said...

whatever it is i'm buying, i like to think about just who is making the money.

i seriously appreciate fine materials and craftsmanship, but even when you factor in hand-stitching, etc., the difference between a $1,000 bag and a $50,000 bag is probably NOT $49,000 worth of materials and craftsmanship. (unless the $1,000 bag was hyped up from the $40 it took to produce it).

maybe a few thou for that, and the rest is pure hype. (or cachet, if that word makes you feel better).

who is pocketing the difference? do they deserve that money more than you do? if you're willing to pay $50,000 for a bag, then i guess they do deserve it.


cb said...

My threshold is like $10 these days. cheap cheap cheap. gots no money, gots no nice stuff.

honestly, though: what ARE you paying for with even a $500 handbag? it's a freaking purse. a sack. a satchel. a place to dump tissues and money and your technogadgets and makeup and tampons.

if i had that kind of money to spend, I'd travel, buy antiques and donate big bucks to worthy causes.


Anonymous said...

In my experience, pricier hasn't been better. I've bought designer clothes that fell apart within a few wears; meanwhile I have shirts that I bought at Forever 21 in high school and are hanging in there (I probably shouldn't admit that).

$150 tops. Shoes, purses, or clothes. And I usually have to think about it for a long time, and I have this period of regret and "should-I-take-it-back"?

Anonymous said...

One last note...

Ever notice the difference in the merchandise between the Chanel store in NYC and the one in Las Vegas? Two totally different stores.

One caters to their core customer. The lady who shops Chanel in Vegas? She's looking for something that will scream from the rooftops, "I just won a shitload in Vegas, baby!"

She's not their "core", but they'll take her money just the same AND give her exactly what she wants.

Food for thought.

delphine said...

Wait that purse is really $50,000?? That is ridiculous. I mean to a certain extent a higher price tag means a higher level of quality and a higher status level too but 50k??? for a purse??? Is it made of gold or something???

Anonymous said...

My husband (then fiance) and I had a great time in Neiman Marcus and I Magnin over Christmas playing "find the most expensive purse." Typically, the more hideously tacky, the higher the pricetag. We thanked Paris Hilton for making vulgar pricey and our game more fun.

The day $10K becomes expendable enough for me to buy something as idiotic as a purse, I'm starting a charitable foundation. Hell, give it to Dress for Success and buy 50 $200 decent leather briefcases for women looking for jobs instead.


Anonymous said...

In this world, once we cross the line of "need" into "want", it's our moral and ethical obligation to help those who haven't yet met "need". When there are no hungry children in our own cities, when health insurance for all isn't a priority, and when we can pay people a living wage for a full time job, then I'll agree that $50,000 for a handbag is okay.

Until then, I simply say: Conspicuous Consumption is what has killed every empire on the planet: Rome, Spain, Ottoman, British...we're next, kids. The only questions is when.

carmelita said...

I saw an ad on TV this morning that made me think of this discussion. Macy's is having a special sale this weekend called "Its good to shop" or something similar. The ideas is that they will donate a portion of your purchase to a charity. That way, you can blow all kinds of money on yourself and feel good about it! Obviously, they are tapped into the conflicted feelings people have about spending crazy amounts of money on stuff they don't need and have figured a way to manipulate people into thinking they are performing a public service by spoiling themselves.

People can spend whatever they can afford that makes them happy. I just think there is a point where it just becomes silly. Spending big bucks for a one-of-a-kind art piece — that I can see. But for trendy, mass-produced stuff?? Sucker.

SF_Gal said...

Anonymous said...
My husband (then fiance) and I had a great time in Neiman Marcus and I Magnin over Christmas playing "find the most expensive purse."

Wait a minute, WHERE is there an I. Magnin???????? They're all gone and I'm sad...that was my most favorite department store EVER!

Anonymous said...

COngrats on another post that garnered over 100 responses, boys. We do love you out here.

All I can add at this late date is that I have come to see that my threshold is waaaaay to low. I buy too cheap out of a frugality that no longer matches my income. And it has dawned on me (slow learner that I am) that it LOOKS really cheap! I don't think I have ever spent $100 on shoes, a purse, or an item of clothing I wasn't forced to wear in a wedding. My undergrad AND grad school days are way over, so my poor-student excuses are nonexistent. A $50,000 purse makes me want to cry for the poor and the fool who bought it, but I need to upgrade to $50 :)

Anonymous said...

While I totally agree that higher price tag usually does buy higher quality, the price range you guys are quoting has nothing to do with quality as it does with the name attached.

If you can afford to spend $10,000 on a purse then feel free to spend it, but i would ask myself why would I want to spend $10,000 on purse.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, If I was gonna spend more than $500 for any article of clothing...said article of clothing needs to blow me and balance my checkbook while I'm wearing it.

Anonymous said...

"Why are you on this site if your tastes seem to indicate that you wouldn't be...?"

Because I love Runway! Not the fashions themselves but the act of creating them.

Then came Musical Mondays and the advice columns and general fabulous bitchery! Vagina hats are comedy gold!

And I'm in Philly like T&L.

Why not?


Anonymous said...

I thouhgt we were in I Magnin in Chicago Christmas '05. I know we were in Neiman's both years.

I may be hallucinating and confusing it with something lame like Nordstroms, though. I just remember it being the most upscale Dept. store on the Magnificant Mile before Neiman's showed up.


Suzanne said...

I will admit I have bought some pricey bags and shoes in my day but that was back before kids and mortgages and $3 a gallon gas.

I am SO with Kip though- if I am sporting the LV's - I want a kick back. My Parisian M-I-L sends me one every once in a while for a Big Occasion- like my 40th or my 20th wedding anniversary. They are sitting in their felt bags in the closet.....just waiting till I get off my ass and sell them on Ebay.

Is it only me or does anyone else picture the Louis Viutton or Gucci execs sitting up in an office somewhere laughing their asses off at how they can get people to spend assloads of money to do their advertising for them?

And I am sure they pissed themselves after they swept up the scraps from the factory floor, sewed them together to make this for $45K:

GothamTomato said...

"carmelita said...
I saw an ad on TV this morning that made me think of this discussion. Macy's is having a special sale this weekend called "Its good to shop" or something similar. The ideas is that they will donate a portion of your purchase to a charity. That way, you can blow all kinds of money on yourself and feel good about it! Obviously, they are tapped into the conflicted feelings people have about spending crazy amounts of money on stuff they don't need and have figured a way to manipulate people into thinking they are performing a public service by spoiling themselves."

Actually, they don't donate a potion of your purchase, they ask you, at the register, if you'd like to add $5 to your bill, to go to the designated charity (every register has a different charity).

I think it's a good idea. I bought me some Martha Stewart dishtowels the other day & made a donation to NYC puublic schools.

--Gotham Tomato

GothamTomato said...

"cb says:

Well, Dorothy doesn't live in Kansas anymore & a girl's gotta make a living somehow.

--Gotham Tomato

Anonymous said...

suzanne, are you FUCKING with me?!?! I write that long post about curing AIDS and Angelina Jolie and you send me over to BagSnob so I can fall in love with a bag that costs $4000?

That is so wrong, girl.



Anonymous said...

I forgot to say it also depends on what is important to you. My jaw dropped when my friend told me he has a $5,000 bicycle, but then again he races bikes, and he can afford it, so why not?


carmelita said...

"Gotham Tomato said:
Actually, they don't donate a potion of your purchase, they ask you, at the register, if you'd like to add $5 to your bill, to go to the designated charity (every register has a different charity)."

Thanks for the correct info, I saw that ad "pre-coffee" this morning, so I must have misunderstood.

Still, I'm a little suspicious of companies that encourage you to buy stuff from them to benefit charities.

Amanda said...

I think the most I have *ever* paid for a pair of shoes was about $70. That was too much. I don't see myself paying more than $150 for a single pair, even if I could afford them comfortably. This is a problem I've had while trying to watch makeover shows -- the things they describe as so incredibly affordable are out of my price range. When they talk about how this one shirt was such a steal at only $125, I know they aren't giving out advice that I can (or would) use.

I don't carry a purse, but I think anything in four figures (much less higher) is ludicrous. You're right that there is a degree to which money correlates with quality. But if you're paying $10,000 for a handbag, you're being taken for a sucker unless that handbag helpfully hands you exact change for every purchase, reminds you when to take each medication, puts on your makeup for you, and files your taxes while it's at it.

Pamela said...

Well, believe it or not, George Will has weighed in on this subject. My local newspaper titled the editorial,"In U.S., being rich costs more and more" You can link to the article here:

Will is astute, as always, in his assessment. He explains why there are so many outrageously priced luxury items today. That there is a class just chomping away at the super-rich and its' symbols of wealth. A well-off person may not be able to buy a yacht, but a handbag is within reach. There is growth in this sector of the retail market. Here he describes the "bling indexes":

"At the end of 2006, there were 9.5 million millionaires worldwide, which helps explain the boom in the "bling indexes" — stocks such as Christian Dior and Richemont (Cartier and Chloe, among other brands), which are up 247 percent and 337 percent respectively since 2002, according to Fortune magazine. Citicorp's "plutonomy basket" of stocks (Sotheby's, Bulgari, Hermes, etc.) has generated an annualized return of 17.8 percent since 1985."

This is another paragraph which resonated with me:

"Too many, in the sense that the value of acquiring a "positional good" is linked to the fact that all but a few people cannot acquire it. That used to be guaranteed because supplies of many positional goods were inelastic — they were made by a small class of European craftsmen. But when they are mass-produced in developing nations, they cannot long remain such goods. When 40 percent of all Japanese — and, Fortune reports, 94.3 percent of Japanese women in their 20s — own a Louis Vuitton item, its positional value vanishes."

Two things drove home this point to me recently. A friend came to visit me when I lived in Madrid. One of the things she wanted to shop for was a Burberry's scarf. When she saw that nearly every other person in Madrid had that preppy plaid wrapped around his or her neck, her desire to own one was quelched. Never mind that a good portion of the scarves were fakes. There is a reason these companies go after knock-offs more in some parts of the world,like the U.S. and the U.K. where the legal system helps them out. Fakes abound in many countries.

The second moment was when I was waiting in line at the bus station to send my daughter back to college after a weekend. Yes, the bus station is not a very nice place. In line in front of us were 3 women, none of whom was of student age, and each was carrying a luxury bag; a Gucci and 2 Louis Vuittons....the bags with initials all over them. If they were fakes, they were good ones... Let's just say the clothes and shoes did not equal the perceived quality of the bags....So why carry an $800 bag and take the bus? I take buses when I'm being a tourist in other countries where bus travel isn't so wretched, but then I try to keep a low profile. Sporting obvious status symbols, unless you are staying at the Ritz and hiring a driver, is a good way to get robbed in unsavoury places. Who are they trying to impress while they are riding Greyhound?

No matter what economic theories and facts Mr. Will has, I still think all those shoes look like tranny/fetish shoes. Is this really the best design luxury purveyors can come up with?

Anonymous said...

I don't begrudge anyone who wants to spend that much on a bag but I couldn't go there myself.
I have a 3 year old and the only must haves in our lives are books, art supplies and costumes. That and a little imagination will take us anywhere...

wannabe said...

It's a simple case of premiums. At some point you do get what you pay for, while at other price points, both higher and lower, you emphatically do not.

For example, a $30 pair of shoes from payless is made with a cheap plastic. That's usually uncomfortable and won't last long. But if you need just a pair of shoes for a little while, it's good value.

A pair of Manolos will set you back $500. Made with leather by little Italian craftsmen with weathered fingers. Will last a long time. Will look marvelous. Will often be uncomfortable and be out of season the following year. Maybe justifiable if you need to dress well.

A pair of Pucci boots will set you back $1000 at least. Good quality as above, and artwork to boot (pun intended). You can justify that if you have the money.

More than that for plain leather anything? Absolutely not. Though I don't begrudge myself (or the rich) luxury items, at some point the buying throws the economic system out of whack and diverts dollars that could be better utilized in the economy. If the same quality and look of leather is available in a pair of Pliner shoes for $300, spending $1000 because they say Jimmy Choo is a poor use of that $700. Instead of enriching just one manufacturer, you could spread that $700 to any number of items -- wine, cheese, scarves, cab fares, mani-pedis etc. You could, sacre bleu! even give that money to genuinely good causes, like homeless folk, arts institutions, etc.

That's what bothers me about $10,000 handbags and shoes. It's not about luxury at the price, because similar luxury could be obtained at lower price points. It's that the whole point of that exercise is brand consciousness. The difference between a $500 purse and a $1000 purse would feed a lot of African children. It's that kind of disgusting spending that's made America the land of the superficial, and contributed to the hatred of us abroad. We're addicted to spending money for the simple purpose of doing so.

Again, I'm not against luxury. I'm against excess. Sorry for the rant.

Anonymous said...

You know, for me -- I just think that even advertising that $10,000 purse on her show is nonsense. How many women with that kind of cash to drop on a purse are watching Stacy on TV? Folks with that kind of money to drop on a purse already have a stylist.

Sorry -- I just cannot relate to that kind of $$ for a bag.

My motto has always been, "I will not carry a purse that's more valuable than it's contents." (Don't talk about car keys in the purse either -- I can get another key for $5.)

Brandenburg3rd said...

I'm all for anyone supporting the economy. That having been said, I am the cheap bitch of the decade--I drive a 16 year old car which cost about $10,000 new, I rarely buy new clothing (and when I absoolutely HAVE to buy something new, Target suits me just fine--beyond that, thrift stores rock), and the most I ever paid for a pair of shoes was $30 or 40 for a pair of Capezios, about 25 years ago. (Still got 'em.) I was all for buying La Laura's little black dress, but not even for sweet charity will I plunk down a C-note for A DRESS. For ONE dress. One simple, plain dress. (Jeez, they have $99 sales on bridal gowns a couple of times a year.)

When my normally budget conscious daughter started talking senior prom several years ago, and started talking $$$ for it, she also quickly added that SHE was paying for it all. Her dress *was* lovely, I must admit, but ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS??? ON SALE???!!! That was the first time my neighbors ever heard me shriek. Literally.

And the goddamned beading started to fall off only a few months later, while hanging in my (why my?) closet.

I can see plunking down pots of money for something substantial, like a house. (As a Californian living in exile in Arizona, I'm still reeling over the real estate prices "back home.") But beyond that--no thanks.

But I'll gladly sell ya something at an absurdly inflated price, if ya gots the money to fling about! :-D

Laura said...

Given my tendency to absolutely destroy purses, I rarely spend more than $20 and would probably break into a sweat when purchasing something in the neck of $50. Which is why, when I dropped my purse into a rather disgusting puddle while in Vegas this weekend, I was able to toss my purse into the trash without even blinking. I like my accessories to be like my men: disposable.

Brandenburg3rd said...

Laura: I like my accessories to be like my men: disposable.

Oh, I *like* you. You sound more like my sister than the one my parents gave me.

Laura said...

This Laura (just how many of us are there, anyhoo?) isn't so much into disposable purses, if only because I worry about them ending up in landfills. Men, on the other hand, are biodegradable so I have no problem disposing of them assuming they can't be recycled.

I have a couple of purses that cost in the neighborhood of $500 that I received as gifts. I would never buy myself something so expensive because I would feel guilty about the extravagance, but at the same time I can't honestly say that the bags are not
"worth the money." They're beautifully made, never fail to get compliments, and one in particular will probably last me a lifetime.

Still, these are $500 dollar bags we're talking about. I have a hard time believing a $50,000 bag is so very much superior in terms of style, materials and craftmanship that it can command a 10-times-greater price, especially when it's orange for God's sake. Tell me you wouldn't get awfully sick of an orange bag after carrying it for a few months!

I have a few designer pieces I've gotten at consignment shops that are so beautifully constructed that I can understand why they originally cost upward of $1000. I'm just glad I didn't have to pay that much!

Brandenburg3rd said...

Carmelita: Still, I'm a little suspicious of companies that encourage you to buy stuff from them to benefit charities.
I guess I've run into it enough that I'm not suspicious. It's very common around here in Cowtown (Tucson), especially in the restaurant business. I've seen many "go out to eat and x% will be donated to: ________" ranging from Hurricane Katrina to the Brewster House (a domestic violence shelter). And it wasn't just one restaurant, it was a whole pile of them, coordinated by the local association.

And our local used bookstore chain (I *told* you I buy cheap) routinely has donation buckets at their registers. You can donate money or your trade credit slip (and they will convert it to mony from their bank account) to anything from a local grade school to the Hermitage no-kill cat shelter (they rotate the donation boxes; they have so many, they could never put them all out at once). They are a big promoter of schools and literacy programs (what an odd thing for a bookstore, I know :-p), and their names are on "thank you" marquees all over town. I know of at least one x% will be donated shopping day that they threw; I'm sure there were more.

After having worked for a company that encouraged charity to the point of letting employees do things ON THE CLOCK (up to 40 hours a year, as I recall), if I ever get to the point of being able to open a business again (some of us are stupid twice, lol), a certain amount of every sale will go to charity.

But given the slate of charities I'd choose, I can guarantee that few rightwingers or members of the (im)moral majority will darken my doorstep. Small loss.

Angelia Sparrow said...

The top end shoes look like torture devices. My first reaction would be "did you make themn yourself for the Edward Scissorhands party?"

The bags...I swear my grandmother had a patchwork purse that looked like the $1300 one, and I know she didn't pay more than $10.

I don't believe higher price=higher quality. I'm a truck driver. I know the name-brand and generic tomato sauce come out of the same vats, and the label jeans and the no-names come off the same machines and same bolt of fabric.

My top limit tends to be about $15 fot purses, $40 for shoes (I take a women's 12, they can be expensive) and $70 for any one piece of clothing, up to and including winter coats.

But I'm cheap.

Brandenburg3rd said...

Angelina: But I'm cheap.

So am I. But I bet neither of us is easy. ;-)


Anonymous said...

I'm in the buy fewer items of higher quality and classic styling camp. I'd prefer to have one really great handbag and one really great winter coat and use them until they wear out than have a closetful of cheaper things. I would never buy something that had a brand prominently displayed or that was easily recognizable as a certain brand or designer only for the purpose of advertising how much I had spent.

I read an article recently (I think in the NY Times, but I can't remember) that talked about the proliferation of "high-end" products to satisfy the growing number of rich-but-not-super-rich. You know, those people with the Bridezilla weddings and so forth. One of the things it mentioned was the contempt some designers have for "regular people" who buy their products. It actually makes them mad to see their shoes or bags or whatever worn by an average person in the street.

I am also reminded of the scene in The Devil Wears Prada in which the Anne Hathaway character snickers at some clothes and the Meryl Streep character proceeds to explain exactly how the choice of a designer led to the sad blue cardigan Anne Hathaway's character picked out of the discount bin. It made me think about my own snickering at high fashion.

I believe in high quality, hand-crafted goods, and I hope there is always a market to support them.

Amanda said...

"I am also reminded of the scene in The Devil Wears Prada in which the Anne Hathaway character snickers at some clothes and the Meryl Streep character proceeds to explain exactly how the choice of a designer led to the sad blue cardigan Anne Hathaway's character picked out of the discount bin. It made me think about my own snickering at high fashion."

See, that scene made me laugh at how incredibly pretentious it was. The starting point of Meryl's rant there was that Anne's sweater was actually *cerulean* and such and such famous designer went with cerulean and the magazine did a spread on it, so these other designers followed, and so on and so forth, until Anne was able to buy her cerulean sweater in a discount store, and it was all because Famous Designer A had that cerulean line. My immediate response to that was, if Meryl's character had ever shopped in that discount store, she would know perfectly well that the same sweater came in cerulean, raspberry, hunter, dandelion, violet, dark teal, dusky rose, and black. So what, exactly, did Famous Designer A have to do with it again? I'm not saying that there isn't a trickle-down effect, or that the world of high fashion has no influence on those of us who laugh at the idea of ever choosing to own such clothing, but that example was ridiculous, as is the idea that everything we lowly-types wear, we do so because the editors and Vogue and Elle decided three years ago that something distantly related was the in thing.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not saying that there isn't a trickle-down effect, or that the world of high fashion has no influence on those of us who laugh at the idea of ever choosing to own such clothing, but that example was ridiculous, as is the idea that everything we lowly-types wear, we do so because the editors and Vogue and Elle decided three years ago that something distantly related was the in thing."

Just to clarify, I didn't say that scence wasn't ridiculous, I just said it made me think.

Angelia Sparrow said...

Brandenburg3rd said...
"but neither of us is easy."

Actually, I am, but only in some ways. Dangle the possibility of being in a print anthology under my nose and I'm slaving over a keyboard.

Kent said...

Well darlings I know someone already answered this, and I know you really already know, but you're spending $50,000 to purchase something you know nobody else in the world (Or at least precious few) have. You're buying exclusivity. When you buy that $50,000 Hermes Kelly bag in cerulean blue crocodile, you are paying for roughly three yards of crocodile belly skin, exhaustingly processed, stitched, polished, and perfected. It simply cannot be done in the same way anywhere else.

Bear in mind, the people who spend this kind of money on handbags also spend infinitely more on artwork based on extremely similar principles: It's completely unique, and it appeals to you on some very strong level.

GothamTomato said...

"Kent said: Bear in mind, the people who spend this kind of money on handbags also spend infinitely more on artwork based on extremely similar principles: It's completely unique, and it appeals to you on some very strong level."

But a lot of the people who you THINK are buying these things, aren't actually buying them at all. They demand and get freebies.

The most assinine example of that, that I read, was Paris Hilton's mummy, getting free Birkin bags to carry in and out of her prison visits (because of course she'd be photographed & of course she couldn't carry the same bag everyday & who wouldn't want a 50k handbag after you've seen that trash hauling it around.) You can see in many of the photographs that she has an assistant following close behind, carrying her bag.

--Gotham Tomato