Christine's pants: Teaching a style lesson

When visiting Christine, my teacher friend, last late winter, she said, "I decided I wanted velvet pants", and proceeded to show me two pair she had just bought.

The first were a lush, unusual peacock green by Cambio; the velvet glowed with alluring depth and luminosity. She bought them at a high-end boutique, where the myopic beauty misread the price tag, got to the cash, and found that, with tax, she was paying $320.

I, her prudent friend, flapped my hands in dismay: "You didn't!" But she knew they were special. She accessorizes them with everything from gold metallic jazz oxfords to these 4-inch fuchsia suede heels. 

Used to me, Christine stayed serene. She pulled out the second pair, a deep sapphire in a similar cut, from Talbot's. She got them at 70% off last marked price for less than $20 all in.

She bought them because her girlfriend Jocelyn (also a teacher) thought that the peacock pants were considerably more cocktail lounge than teachers' lounge. (Mme. Christine teaches French, what else?) 

Closing my eyes, I found both felt soft and supple. But the $300 Cambios had a zipper detail at the ankle, and there is that rich Italian colour. They deliver an emotional zing, a charisma, though the Talbot's were pleasing too. The price differential (a factor of 15) presents a value consideration: prudence or pizazz?

This is how she and I presently shop, mixing the splurge with the bargain. But we'd like to improve our habits so that we accumulate less.

Christine describes Jocelyn as one of those astute women who buy "three perfect pieces each season", to achieve a small but striking wardrobe. She doesn't pop into Winners (our TJ Maxx) like Christine and I might, hoping to find a treasure squished in somewhere; she finds such efforts dispiriting. Jocelyn, who recently returned from working for some years in Europe, exemplifies the "chic simple" principle of a small, nothing-extra wardrobe.

Would you have bought both? If only one, which?
Are you a "chic simple" advocate, more of a magpie–or some other mix?


Susan said…
If the expensive pair of pants fit me perfectly and were absolutely something that I would wear often, I would buy them. Same for the bargain pair. So--I guess I would buy both.

I have a friend who regularly shops at Steinmart (another TJ Maxx kind of store) and finds wonderful things. Of course she is a size four and looks great in everything. I went into the store once, and, like your friend, found it dispiriting.
I would like to become one of those shoppers like your friend and only purchase a few high end items a year. Presently, I would not have bought the expensive pair because I would not have worn them often (warmer climate). But, I do not discount buying them either. I think the Talbots's pair was a super deal and Talbot's ususally has great fit and quality.
I'd likely buy the less expensive version...
there are very few splurges in my current wardrobe.

My wardrobe is getting smaller all the time and I can feel a shift in what I purchase...leaning towards the finer garments, owning fewer but those of better design and fit.

Carolyn from Oregon said…
I might buy the more expensive pair if they were perfect in every way and looked absolutely fabulous on me. And it was something I would really wear.

In reality, I would probably go for the bargain. I would love to be one of those "three fabulous items a season" folks but I'm not sure I'm all that educable.
Anonymous said…
No question--I would have grabbed those $20 pants and left the first pair behind without regret. But that may be partly because I prefer both the color and the cut of the Talbots pants anyway...

As for Jocelyn's admirable discipline, I don't possess it, and probably never will. If I'm honest, I may not even want to. I'm basically true to my workhorse wardrobe of navy and gray, jeans and jerseys, but how boring life would be if I couldn't flirt with more seductive colors and forms! These dalliances with pretty things (rarely costly, generally temporary) give me great pleasure. So I think Christine should enjoy her peacock velvet pants and wear them everywhere, even to school. Pourquoi pas?

Given the choice, I would stick with the expensive pair, and not bother with buying the second pair of pants. Then I would wear the expensive pants at every opportunity!!

I have tried shopping at Winners/Marshalls for clothing but I find it dispiriting, and I never find anything I actually like. I prefer looking at the cosmetics/beauty department because everything is out on the shelves (no hunting through racks of clothing), I have a better sense of what works and there's also the chance of finding well-known brands at a discount.
Duchesse said…
Susan: I have friends who dress solely from discounters and they look wonderful; I think it takes a really good eye and patience.

Pam: My experience is quite different; I used to shop at Talbot's but found over the past 3 yrs the fit is inconsistent and quality not what it once was. I still buy their jeans, which are cut for women instead of twiggy girls.

hostess: I'd say I agree but then- the $17 Lands' End cords (on sale) have given terrific service. So I am still a high/low shopper.

Carolyn: Maybe I'll interview Jocelyn for her tips.

C." I don't want to give the impression that Jocelyn buys only workhorse clothes- I recently saw a swimsuit of hers she'd left at Christine's and it was beautiful. I just think she is a masterful editor.

I too would not wear the peacock velvet to school. To me, they feel like party pants or at least after 5 pm. pants.

Louise: The discounters often have cult cosmetics on super markdown. I buy gym clothes there- always lots of sports bras on offer.

frugalscholar said…
I know that if I bought the $$ pair, I would spill ketchup on them. OR someone would spill something on me. I have learned not to tempt fate.
materfamilias said…
Perhaps because I've just done a fairly severe culling to expedite a bedroom re-furnishing/closet reno (minor, but we're shifting out dressers to sleeker pieces after years of hand-me-downs), I'd probably avoid the less expensive almost-duplication. I'm dismayed, right now, to see how many dollars I'm bagging up and shifting out. . . I do think I'm getting better, but there is so much retail stimulus hitting us, daily, hourly. . .
Gretchen said…
I think this is a great question. I likely would buy the expensive pair, and wear them at every opportunity (even if the "opportunity" was to read the Sunday paper in my living room). If the bargain pair fit me well, had fabric with beautiful hand and felt like pure deliciousness on, well, I might get them. However, that doesn't happen often. I would rather have one item that thrilled me to no end that set me back financially, but was truly unique and fabulous (to me), than wear something that was okay, but a great deal. I like the idea of getting one or two special items a season to replace items that are looking tired, but the trick is to get rid of something when an item comes in. Like Mater, I'm weeding out more than buying these days.
I also find good exercise wear at Winners; especially leggings and lycra shorts to wear under skirts while cycling. If only I could find ddd sportbras there! I've also found some good tops and skirts there, but one has to be patient or lucky.

I'd never spend a lot of money on jeans or serious trousers,simply because I don't look very good in them, and they are simply a utilitarian garment for when it is either too cold to wear a skirt and tights or leggings, or for certain chores when it is best to be covered. Only have a couple of pairs of work-worthy trousers, both black.

Sadly, the grey Austrian loden coat I spent a lot more on wound up moth-eaten...

Agree that it is important for adults to weed out at least as much as one acquires (whether buying, from gifts etc).
LPC said…
For whatever reason bargains give me very few endorphins per se. I am much happier with fewer, better things. So I'd have bought whichever pair of trousers I liked best. Unlikely to have purchased both, unless they were both online and I needed to compare in person.
LPC said…
BTW, if that's your friend, she's very beautiful.
Duchesse said…
frugal: Each pair is machine washable- cotton velvet, not the superfragile silk velvet.

materfamilias: Yes, bombardment! I still find over $300 for pants that are seasonal pretty steep for me. If in a mood to permit the splurge might buy them, but in my usual frame of mind I'd choose the bargain as they are pretty too, seen in person.

lagatta: Janice of The Vivienne Files posted recently on clothes we 'save' for special occasions and I found that so resonant. The same thing happened to my loden coat- stowed in the back of the coat closet for "good". Must be caviar for moths.

LPC: I'd say the peacock pants could be worn to some workplaces but would be a little 'much' for her public high school- though probably admired! This way she can indulge her velvet cravings no matter the setting.

I have one of those high-low closets; shirt from Hermes next to tee from Lands' End.

Yes, that's my beautiful friend!

Anonymous said…
Never in my life would I pay $300 for any piece of clothing! My idea of expensive is about $100 (of course this is all relative from New Zealand dollars to British pounds to I assume, Canadian dollars...)

I am trying to make sure that I don't buy something unless it's absolutely right and I love it. This has reduced the amount of clothes I have. I do have clear-outs regularly to get rid of any mistakes.
Birdy, one item here that would be almost impossible to find of decent quality for that price is a good winter coat. Not to mention winter boots.

And I say that at someone who is very, very far from extravagant.
Duchesse said…
birdy: $100 NZD is about $82 Canadian. As lagatta says, that would mean one's winter coat or boots would be secondhand. You can do it, many people do- but it rules out new clothing for those most costly essentials.

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