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{perfect basics} Designer vs. Fast Fashion

  Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7:30 AM   |    Post a Comment     Tagged:,, 
I am taking a break from my usual style of posting today to talk to you all about a basic item every girl needs, the basic t-shirt!  The main questions most people ask are: where do you buy this shirt, and what is the right price?  This may come as a shock to you all, seeing as I am known for being cheap, but my new motto is buy designer pieces that will last years rather than settling for cheaper pieces at poorer quality.

Many will say "It's just a t-shirt, why should I spend a fortune on it when I can get 5 from Forever 21 for the price of 1 somewhere else?" My reply to them would simply be, "Because you get what you pay for." I used to be in the cheaper is better boat, but I have since changed my ways.  Before we get to where to buy your basics let's talk about why you shouldn't buy them at fast fashion stores for cheap.

One of the more obvious reasons is because of the conditions the clothes are made in so you can get them so cheap. I won't get into that, but check out this post at Style Porn who did a post about human costs last week. (that isn't to say that some high end designers don't also have poor working conditions, but we won't get into that.)

My reason for no longer shopping at fast fashion stores is because of quality. Quite some time ago I bought a tee at Forever 21 for $5, and after one wash it was ruined, now it sits in my closet unworn. I don't even want to wear it under a sweater or blazer because it is uncomfortable.  It shrunk and many of the seams are distorted. This has happened to numerous items I've purchased from Forever 21, such as tank tops. See photos below:
Last weekend I headed to Marshall's not intending on buying anything and I walked away with 2 new t-shirts and a tank top because I am in desperate need of quality basics. When you find deals like I did you need to pounce.  I spent a bit more than I would have liked but I know it will pay off when the shirts last for years.  They are made from better materials and won't distort as you wash them so they will last for many many washes as opposed to a couple if you buy from Forever 21.  The fit is also WAY better when you buy from a designer because they take great care in details like shoulder seams and necklines.

In a way you are spending money to save money.  As I've posted before we need to think about cost per wear.  You can wear these tops numerous times, meaning the cost per wear can go down to way under $1 per wear. If you buy from fast fashion stores you only get a couple wears out of the item before it is rendered useless. This is not to say that you should spend $100 on a t-shirt, but if you can and want to, be my guest!  There are ways to get designer pieces cheap. I bought the following at Marshall's:

Michael Kors Tee: $20 (retail price $50)
Tahari Tee: $16 (retail price $70)
Ellen Tracy Tank: $12 (retail $25)

See the difference between the Forever 21 and Michael Kors here:

So you see, you can get designer pieces for fast fashion prices if you know where to go. My suggestions are Marshall's, TJ Maxx and occasionally Burlington Coat Factory if you live in the United States.  Unfortunately I don't know of similar stores around the world, except for TK Maxx in the UK.  If you know of any feel free to post them in the comments and I'll add them to the bottom of this post!

If you don't mind paying full price I have heard great things about J.Crew's tees, though I haven't purchased them myself yet.  Where do you buy your shirts?

I also suggest buying tees in whatever colors you wear, not necessarily the "white t-shirt," which so many say is the ultimate basic. I am more apt to wear black, purple, and even pink over white.  I plan on buying them in colors that compliment the rest of my wardrobe. I now have pink and tangerine in better quality and I need to start replacing/buying other colors such as black, brown, blue and purple.  What colors do you need?

Where to shop:

  • TJ Maxx
  • Marshall's
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • TK Maxx
  • Winners
Others will be added as readers post suggestions

[this post was not sponsored by Marshall's or TJ Maxx, I just enjoy shopping there]

About Closet Fashionista

Loves to get bargains on clothes and is obsessed with Harry Potter and Disney. By day she is a freelance graphic and web designer. She also has a slight obsession with movies.

You can also find her on the web at her Harry Potter and Matthew Lewis fan sites.


  1. Hmm, I do like J. Crew's t-shirts, and Michael Stars (I found mine at Nordstrom) are also good. I haven't tried any basics from F21, but I know Old Navy's tees are HORRIBLE when it comes to the stretching out problem.

    Thanks for the link to the Style Porn article. I'm going to have to read it when I have more time.

  2. Such a good post...and you're so right. Winners in Canada is like Marshalls and TJ Maxx.

    Courtney ~

  3. I definitely agree about buying the colour you want... my most worn t-shirt for years was a burnt orange colour! In fact, I disagree about most... so long as you don't pay regular price! hehe. In Canada the TJMaxx equivalent is called Winners, just so you know. : )

  4. You always find the best stuff at Marshall's.

  5. very true. I have purchased a J Crew tee (it was on sale) and they are great although even they cant handle the nails of my pup (yeah Oliver tore a hole in it...)

  6. I just purchased a black Tahari t-shirt at Marshalls on Sunday! Not bad quality for $17. But my favorites are Vince, Splendid, and J. Crew. Definitely agree with you: you get what you pay for, and I don't mind paying for long-lasting basics!

  7. I think this is REALLY excellent advice! The quality almost always pays for itself in the long run!

  8. Higher end tees definitely hold up better! I had a black J. Crew tee that I wore for fading!

  9. I usually get my basics at the gap, just because they can generally be relied upon to always have them in stock, and usually there is a coupon.

    And not to defend F21, but how is it that I have never had something I bought from there fall to bits in a couple of wears? I've had a jersey dress, a black cardigan, a leopard skirt, all since 2008, and I still wear them regularly. They all look fine. (well, the dress is starting to get a little pilled.)

    Chic on the Cheap

  10. I have long sleeve v neck tees in all colors. such a staple.

  11. Yup..ya get what ya pay for. I usually get my staples at Marshalls/TJ Maxx and Banana Republic. I shop at F21, knowing that whatever I buy won't last that long. Also, when I do wash my clothes I pick and choose which ones go in the dryer and which ones will hang dry. So far my F21 stuff have lasted a while-some are getting pilly anad are on its way out.

  12. haha, this is such a true post! I used to always buy really cheap shoes but lately I have been buying leather ones and more expensive ones and the price has definitely helped with the wear/comfort value!

  13. Good places to shop for discount designer clothing (in the US) are...

    Century 21
    Nordstrom Rack
    Saks Off Fifth

  14. I'm not sure if you have gotten any of my other comments - I have tried a couple times but seemingly with no luck. I agree, that more often than not, it pays to spend a little more on basics. Although I must say that I have some tanks from F21 which have stood the test of time (except for the one that shrunk upwards when it was accidentally washed warm, mega fail). I've purchased T by A Wang tanks only to have them pill after one or two wears, so I guess it goes to say that spending more isn't always better, but generally it is. I tend to buy most of my basic undergarments from this store (which for all other purposes I loathe), called Supre. If you go on their online store you will understand, it's like a mecca for Jersey Shore type clothing. Anyway, they're relatively cheap (around $13-20 for singlets and t-shirts), and last ages.

    PS Looks like you got some good new buys :)

  15. Yep! So true! I love JCrew's tees (I hit up the outlets and stock up) I also love Target's tees, the nicer Merona ones hold up well. On a side note (as a person who has a major in apparel management) a lot of issues with knits is that when you cut corners (most of the fabric for these tees are made on circular knitting machines) and don't pre-shrink or set the machine up so that there is a major bias, and you use cheap short staple fiber yarns and even if when cutting patterns they try to fit the pieces to use the least amount of fabric possible creating skews and puckering after washing, etc. All of the factors contribute to something that won't hold up after washing. It does depend on the factory where they are made and how they manufacture. Obviously F21's goal is to produce cheap garments and they will take the lowest bid. It's how it works. Quality over quantity works for me every time. I have stuff from F21, but I know that it won't be in my closet for the long haul. Great post!!!


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