Quality Vs. Quantity

Wearing a simple back outfit and red lip

Growing up, my dad was a minimalist and always gave little lectures on having few material belongings that you need, treasure, and take care of. He preached this way of life so often that my sister and I jokingly called it “Sermon Number One.” 

Like many teenagers, I found myself drawn in the exact opposite direction from what my dad taught. I shopped in the sale section of Forever 21 and always liked to get as many things as possible for my money. Sometimes it backfired when I’d buy an item just because it was cheap and then slowly realized how little I actually liked it. (Even if a top is $9, it’s a wasted $9 if you never wear it!) Other times it was awesome because, well, I was getting a lot of cute fun stuff for a small sum of money.

I started to get less “sales rack only” when I graduated college. I had an office job and wanted to look adult in front of all my 30-something-year-old coworkers. I bought my first investment bag and a pair of quality tailored pants. I even got *super adulty* and had the pants altered to fit perfectly. I realized that timeless items can be worn over and over again and you don’t get sick of them as quickly as you do the Forever 21 outfit with the crazy print and the bright color and the tassels. I started to incorporate a little more of that Chris Schuller Mindset (that’s my dad for those of you who don’t know!) into my shopping mentality.

It’s funny how during early adulthood we return to so many of the lessons our parents taught us in our childhood, thinking we’re discovering them for ourselves, for the first time. 

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Modeling took the “quality over quantity” mindset to a whole new level. When you’re seeing completely different casting directors or clients every day, you can wear almost the same outfit seven days a week. No one will ever know. I had a nice pair of black suede heeled booties, a pair of Doc Martens Chelsea boots, and some neutral “street style” sneakers. I had a pair of black designer jeans and the black pants worn in the photo below. I had some black shirts and a black cashmere sweater. Those items were pretty much all I wore for a year and a half– even in my spare time.

Wearing all black actually gets a little bit addictive, and I think women who always wear all black like what they perceive it says about their personality:

  • chic
  • badass
  • elegant
  • no-nonsense
  • cool
  • mysterious
  • in a hurry
  • maybe even a littttlllleee unapproachable 

That’s why so many memes like “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color,” or “black like my soul” (although some say that in regard to coffee too) and articles like this one and this one exist– people subconsciously view it as not just a color, but a personality. A way of life. Anyway, like many people who work in the fashion industry, you could always find me in my chic, high-quality, head-to-toe black.

Wearing All Black in Milan
Photo taken at a Milan casting, found on my old Instagram: mayatrevathan. Make sure to follow my current one: mayaetrevathan!

When I moved back to the South, I immediately started craving prints and color again. My quirky side and my feminine side both wanted some sartorial attention. At the end of the day, I’m not the ultracool, in-a-hurry girl. I mean, I guess I am sometimes. But sometimes I’m the girl who did high school theater and tells awkward, unfunny jokes. (Stephen calls that my “German sense of humor” hah.) Sometimes I’m the girl who loves cooking and roses and Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the color pink.

Since I wasn’t on the fanciest of budgets post-move (and am still not really), I started purchasing these girlier, livelier or artsier pieces from the likes of Forever 21, Boohoo, Nordstrom Rack, H&M, and ASOS.

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Evacuating from hurricane Irma forced me to assess what I’d save if an eight-foot storm surge were to flood Stephen’s and my apartment, and it made me realize I need to re-inject some of that “quality over quantity” mindset a la Chris Schuller and my high fashion modeling days. No, I’ll never be as big of a minimalist as my dad, and no, I don’t want to go back to wearing all black every day for 18 months straight, but I do want to treat my material possessions with a little more intentionality.

For example, I still haven’t gotten my wedding dress preserved. It costs just shy of $300 at our dry cleaners, so it’s one of those “in between” purchases. Nothing to sneeze at, but also not something I’d have to wait and save up for. I got to thinking– why the heck haven’t I done that yet?! My wedding dress is one of my most prized possessions. It was one of the few things that came with us to Orlando when we evacuated. My wedding dress deserves to be preserved. 

I think a lot of times it can be easy to buy the things that provide instant gratification, to slip into the Forever 21 mindset. It’s fun to get yourself little treats that don’t break the bank. For example, I love this tee shirt. It’s $25, no big deal, right? I should just get it. But then I should also add this feminine yet unique blouse to get my total over $40 aka FREE SHIPPING. And heck, if I’m getting excited over a package anyway, I may as well throw in these heeled black sandals for only $23. My hypothetical ASOS haul is now $82.89.

Skipping 3 or 4 casual purchases = 1 wedding dress preservation.

Me in my wedding gown
Gown by Julie Ireland Dressmaking and Makeup by Olga Pirmatova

Sure, you can get a lot of fast fashion clothes for almost $300, but what will be more important when I’m 50? Heck, what’d be important to me even just next year? If there’s another evacuation-level hurricane, would I pack the hypothetical ASOS clothes? Probably not. Would I pack my wedding dress? You bet.

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I feel like it’s also important to know why you’re buying an item. For example, when I bought a bunch of cute fast-fashion clothes specifically for our anniversary getaway, I ended up wearing them all. But often over the past year I’ve bought stuff “for brunch” …and recently I realized we almost never do brunch. Theoretically I love brunch, but it just doesn’t seem to be our thing. When Stephen and I go out with friends, it’s usually dinner and/or nighttime drinks. And then the cutesy brunch dresses and florals sit in the closet while I re-wear my favorite black jumpsuit for the millionth time. Why do I keep buying the brunch outfits? I think I was still on my “So excited to be back in the South and wear some more colorful girly things” kick, but at this point I have enough prints, ruffles and florals.

It’s time to focus a little more on saving money for future homeownership, taking care of the things I already have, and maybe indulging in some self-care services like acupuncture or facials. And when I break my shopping “diet” and start buying clothes again, it’s going to be some more chic, quality staples. (At least for a little while–I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving a trendy Forever 21 gem, either!)

What do you all tend toward? Having a new H&M outfit every weekend or wearing higher quality stuff but outfit repeating more often? Does anyone fluctuate back and forth between the two mindsets like I do? Does anyone feel like they live by a perfect happy medium? Does anyone live by one of the two extremes, but not desire a “happy medium” because you love being a minimalist or bargain queen?

Have a wonderful day!! I hope you’re feeling smokin’ hot and confident and lovely in whatever you’re wearing!

xo,

Maya

My hypothetical ASOS haul in widget form:

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