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According to this recent article from the Associated Press, your clothing bill is about to go up by 10 percent, with some of the increase happening this spring and the rest by the end of the year.
On an inflation-adjusted basis, overall clothing prices have declined over the last 10 years as lower-cost raw materials and goods from low-labor-cost countries like China flooded the market. But in more recent months, both material and labor costs have been escalating.
In this article from last September, we warned that escalating cotton prices would probably start translating into higher prices for T-shirts and jeans. Cotton has continued to climb since then, recently hitting $1.90/pound, the highest price since the Civil War. Synthetic materials are also increasing in price.
Materials make up to 20 to 50 percent of the cost of clothes, with labor accounting for much of the remainder. And with the worldwide recession abating and inflation climbing in countries like China and Vietnam, wage rates are also heading north.
According to the AP article referenced above, Brooks Brothers’ dress shirts are now selling for $88, up from $79.50. And Levi Strauss, Wrangler, JCPenney, Nike, and Steve Madden also have price hikes in the pipeline.
What’s a shopper to do? The most obvious solution is to buy less, or shop soon before prices climb. But if that doesn’t work for you, here are some tips that might.
- Single best way to save on clothes: Sell what you’re not wearing at a consignment shop. Before you buy your next article of clothing, go into your closet and remove everything in there that you haven’t touched for a year. Take it to a consignment shop. Take the stuff they don’t want to a thrift store so someone else can benefit. When you get cash for your old clothes, use it to buy some new or pre-worn ones. Hint: When you’re selling or buying used clothing, go to the fancy part of town. You know how rich people are; they’ll pay more for your stuff and give away theirs when they get bored. This is also true with thrift shopping and garage sales.
- Buy out of season: shorts and bikinis in January, coats and sweaters in July.
- Don’t ever buy anything without checking a coupon search engine first. Think of it as an instant savings dispenser attached to your computer.
- If you’re a woman shopping in a department store for something unisex, like a T-shirt or sweatshirt, you might find it cheaper in the boys’ or men’s department. Apparently, the sexist pigs who price clothing believe women will pay more for comparable clothes than men. Call ’em on it.
- Don’t over-wash your clothes. It wears them out faster. Avoid dry-cleaning if possible, and when you do wash your clothes, avoid dryers. That lint in your dryer screen is made of little pieces of your clothes that get rubbed off. Hanging them on a rack or clothesline is better for them and your electric bill.
- Develop a hangup: How many times have you had to wash otherwise unsoiled clothing just because you threw it in a wad on the floor?
- Learn to sew: My mother wouldn’t let me leave for college until I’d mastered simple stitchery, like button-sewing. Next time you’re in a fancy hotel, take the sewing kit.
- Trends are not friends: I realize this is easy advice for a man to give. After all, with the exception of fedoras, we’re basically still dressing like they did in the ’40s. Nonetheless, even I can tell when a silly trend isn’t going to last. Avoid them.
- Shop outlet malls, but carefully. Did you know that some labels actually make less expensive, lower-quality goods specifically to sell in their outlet stores? Check out this story I did on outlet shopping.
- Use a budget: This is a tip that works for everything. If you plan what you’re going to spend, you’ll spend what you plan. Going over-budget? See tip one: It’s time to sell some clothes.
I took those tips from a story we did last year: 18 Tips to Dress for Less. Check it out for more ideas, and don’t forget to look under the post for more ideas from readers.