Consumption Junction: Spending Less Money While Buying More Clothes

According to Dr. Mark J. Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan, Americans spent just 2.98% of their disposable income on clothing last year — the lowest ever in U.S. history. Is that good or bad?

In 1950, Americans spent 11% of their discretionary income on wardrobe. Back in the day, clothes cost more, but you'd have one good pair of shoes, one good coat, etc. Now we have closets overflowing with super cheap clothes — lots of them. We're paying less and getting more. (Dr. Perry notes, "Since 1992, prices in general have risen by 57%, while prices for clothing have fallen by 8.5%.")

But have we traded quantity for quality? Fast-fashion retailers — keeping up with trends and magazines — offer almost disposable garments, and we're nearly spoiled by low prices. People used to save up for good stuff. It's easy to say "I'd never spend $300 on shoes," but what if those $300 shoes were sturdy, classic, well-made and would last your whole life? Wouldn't that be a better purchase than 10 pairs of mediocre-quality $30 shoes? Oh, but we know the answer: In a consumer culture, more is more. Always.

The Average American Spends Less Than 3% of Her Disposable Income on Clothes [Fashionista]
Spending on Clothing and Footwear Falls Below 3% of Disposable Income for First Time in U.S. History [Carpe Diem]

[Image via Nine West]