Dress Like a Woman, Shop Like a Man

by Liz Colville

What’s really interesting about shopping is not what you buy or where you buy it so much as why and, to a lesser extent, how. It’s the “how” that Christina Binkley tackles in an article called “To Dress Well, a Woman Should Should Shop Like a Man” in today’s — and this isn’t very surprising — Wall Street Journal.

First of all, do men even shop? Second of all, Binkley acts like there are a lot of men around who are basically closet fashion designers — men with inner tailors who can tell what a fabric is made of by looking at it, along with how the item is made and how it fits. Her quintessential man, for the purposes of this article, is one Jay Kos, who, when buying a pair of pants recently:

…felt the wool with his hand to ascertain its weight and softness. He checked the seams for clean stitching — no loose threads. In the dressing room, he squatted to be sure they fit comfortably. Only then did he step out to take a careful look in the store’s biggest mirror and ask the salesman if the pants fit well.

How many of us, man or woman, actually do this before buying clothing? It’s easiest to do when the item is expensive: you want to make sure it’s going to make you happy (wait — it’s definitely not going to make you happy, sorry, but it could make you satisfied). As Binkley notes, Mr. Kos is also lucky enough to be in a world where “men are offered better-quality clothes for lower prices.” Not only will he walk out of the store being well-prepared for what he bought, but he probably won’t have spent that much. Chance of buyer’s remorse: slim to zero.

The first step toward better purchases is to stop focusing on labels, Binkley says, which is obvious. You might find quality sewing at Zara, not just at Ralph Lauren. Watch out for “loose threads and ragged seams” — also obvious. She also advises to check the hems: is there enough room to let the piece of clothing out, if necessary, down the road? And what is the item made of? Is it made in Italy? No? Then forget it. At least, look for clothing that’s trying to look like it was made in Italy, e.g. J. Crew.

This is all sounding a bit like buying a house. If we approached buying clothes with the same rational, level-headed, emotionally distant approach people take to buying real estate, it wouldn’t be very interesting. But perhaps we wouldn’t also continually have a heap of clothes from H&M; and Forever 21 sitting in a trash bag, waiting to be taken to Goodwill.