Planned obsolescence. According to Wikipedia: Planned obsolescence (or built-in obsolescence). is the process of a product becoming obsolete or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use in a way that is planned or designed by the manufacturer. Also known as Designed to Fail.
Designed to fail. We are buying products that are designed to fail. Lovely.
Most of us relate this to appliances. A refrigerator cops out after a few years and we’re told it would be cheaper to replace it than to fix it. Are repairmen paid to say that? This makes me untrustworthy of higher-end appliances. Should I fork over fifty percent more that ultimately earns a mere extra year of product life? One extra year? Wow, I’m turning cartwheels. Maybe an Easy-Bake Oven is a better deal.When the Golightly’s lose an appliance, I am instantly zapped back to my grandparent’s basement where a refrigerator from the ‘50’s sits, minding its own business, chugging along like WALL-E (see Pixar). My grandparents use it to hold overflow from the fridge upstairs, replaced many times. This little fridge holds a queue of hams that my grandmother bakes for families in need. She probably bakes over 400 annually. Although she bakes more cake, so the house smells more of cake. Really. There sits the fridge, nearing 60 years old, cranking out the cool air, working as designed. It’s has a likeness to John Henry, though it doesn’t die. I always hate that part in John Henry. If that fridge ever goes down in the line of duty, I believe it will deserve Taps.
We know that planned obsolescence is great for Wall Street but is hard on the planet and our pocket books. Actually, I don’t see how this benefits the consumer in any way. The retail machine probably says it “increases opportunities” for consumers. How many choices of clothing do we really need? Especially when it comes to a greater cost both in money, pollution and waste over time?
Here’s something to think about. The fashion industry has been producing items of planned obsolescence for decades. We just don’t make the connection when we throw out clothes, because they are a lot easier to toss than say - a washing machine. We all know when it comes to fashion what goes around comes around. So acquire a quality pair of pointed-toe and square-toe black dress shoes. Take them to the cobbler for repair. Please tell me you know what a cobbler is, I'm not talking pie.
Cheap clothing may seem wonderful at discount retailers because it’s, ugh, cheap. It hardly lasts. The same thing happens at the higher end, too. Years ago, I bought a darling empire waist t-shirt at a very posh department outlet store for $38. I loved the design and it was very flattering. The original price was over $140 and the t-shirt lasted one summer when it started to wear holes in the fabric. I saved it, in hopes that if I ever take up sewing, the garment is ready for a sturdy reproduction(s).
So what has this to do with thrift? The clothing racks at the thrift store provide a direct comparison of what was produced to fail (whether it be the garment or a supremely trendy style) and what is not. Whether it’s the fabric, the quality of construction or the overall look, the shopper at least has a chance at buying an item that will last.
Many people ask me what brands to buy. I really don’t know. I recommend that shoppers really dig into the bins and racks. If you do, I promise you will learn a lot about clothing – largely because quality is no longer recognized and vendors prefer shoppers keep a blind-eye, ignorant to fabric quality (blends, thread-counts) and construction (adding binding).
A fine example is my famous sturdy black dress, bought for five dollars last spring. It was hand made, nearly reversible to the point that, in my mad dashes to get dressed and downstairs to the morning elixir of coffee, I wore it inside out for months! No one noticed, but many complimented!
Why should we knowingly buy a product that’s designed to fail? Would you enter a marriage knowing it was designed to fail? Buy stock in a company set to fail?
As mentioned in the previous post, I swapped out the fall/winter wardrobe for spring/summer. My annual goal is to have fewer items to donate with each rotation. Fewer items translate to smart shopping. I was really happy to see a lot of my favorite dresses again. They’re timeless. After all was squared away, I realized that I don’t need anything this summer, well maybe a few solid t-shirts. Overall, I am content and love my wardrobe. Even the swimsuit!
I donated: Two dresses, three pants, two skirts, one sweater, two pairs of yoga pants, two long sleeve and three short sleeve blouses and a purse. Whoops, scratch the purse, Petite Poe snatched it. Little Pie’s contribution was more given that she had grown out of many items. Some of those items were hard to part with because of the memories they evoke. But, I’m giving away the garment, the memory will stay with me.
And yes, after I swapped wardrobes, it snowed. Not enough to stick but enough to make it too cold for a sturdy little black dress – for now.