Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Distressed, Destroyed, Deconstructed and Dumb

Because this was my lucky week, I took my 14-year old daughter shopping yesterday for spring and summer clothes. In my ranking of errands, I would put this one neck and neck with cleaning out the litter box. It’s not fun and, in fact, sometimes it stinks. However, she has a few events and trips coming up and summer is, hopefully, just around the corner. I know from experience that you buy summer clothes in March or your kid will end up wearing a down coat in July.

We headed right to Old Navy, primarily because it’s relatively inexpensive. If there’s one thing I know about teenagers, it’s that today’s style will be so yesterday tomorrow. In other words, I’m not taking out a mortgage to dress my child in crappy clothes. Why, you ask am I buying “crappy” clothes? Because that is the hot style. Yes, folks, the days of buying new clothes that actually look new are SO gone. I hope you’re sitting down, because this is going to confuse you, as it did me.

The hot new fashion trend du jour is clothing that is distressed, destroyed and deconstructed. Yes, you will be spending your hard-earned money on apparel that looks like it went through your garbage disposal. When it’s new, it resembles the undershirt rags in your laundry room. I kid you not.

The first item that caught my daughter’s eye was a polo shirt. From a distance, the shirts were cute. They offered bright colors and had a little “popped” collar. Then I got a closer look. “What’s wrong with this?” I asked my daughter. The edges of the sleeves were ripped and it had large stitches sewn haphazardly in strange places on the shirt. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve seen homeless people in better clothing. “It’s supposed to be that way,” she explained in a gosh-Mom-don’t-you-know-anything kind of way. Here’s how this item is described on Old Navy’s website: “Distressed edges and random stitching give this pique cotton classic vintage appeal.” Oh, silly me. It’s vintage!

Now, here’s the next thing you have to understand: In an effort to explain to sensible adults why they should buy crappy clothing for their children, retailers are throwing around the term “vintage.” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to stand on my soapbox and say that the only reason why anything is truly vintage is because at one time it was made well enough to actually last until now! Vintage does not have to mean crap! I know, I’m preaching to the choir here. If it’s fashionable, no matter how ridiculous it looks, they’ll wear it. I guess that’s why they’re called “fashion victims,” right?

Old Navy isn’t the only retailer in on this. Over at the Gap, a pair of “ high quality distressed” jeans (isn’t that an oxymoron?) will cost you $58.00. At Abercrombie & Fitch, “vintage destroyed” jeans with “unique grinding and abrasion” go for a whopping $79.50. At Aeropostale, their “Blown Out Deconstructed Flare Jeans” offer a “comfortable, broken-in look with extensive destruction” for only $49.50. At Hollister, they’re touting their destroyed polos with “nicking and grinding details and deconstructed hem” for only $24.50. What a deal!

People, I think this is insane! It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes, but instead of naked it’s “not new.” I so desperately want to ask my daughter: “If your friends jumped off a cliff in torn clothing, would you?” But I think the answer would depress me. The fashion industry is giving us the royal shaft in so many ways. Instead of Project Runway, we have Project Pull-The-Wool-Over-Our-Eyes so that we think that this makes sense.

Another reason that this drives me batty is that as parents, we can’t help but worry about how our kids’ appearance reflects back on us. It’s the reason why we nag our sons to get haircuts and steal their favorite pants while they sleep so that we can wash the grime out of them. This new sartorial splendor, or lack thereof, says: “My mom doesn’t care enough about me to buy clothes that aren’t fit for donations.” Yes I do, but you won’t let me!

Alas, like many other issues in parenting, I’m picking my battles and this isn’t one of them. Because as much as I hate the idea of sending my kid out on the street in jeans that are holier than the Vatican, I also understand that teens need to make their own fashion statement, even if it is dictated by their peers. In the meantime, I’m taking a deep breath, remaining calm, and hoping for the day when the winds of change blow through fashion circles and somebody says: “You know what would look so fabulous? Neatly pressed slacks and sweet little Peter Pan collars! Sort of a June Cleaver meets Kate Moss – brilliant!” The only problem is that I’ll have to spend an arm and a leg for it. Between you and me: I won’t mind a bit!


At 1:28 PM , Anonymous Maryanne said...

Been there, still doing it. The only difference between you and I is I'd rather stick a red hot poker in my eye. It's so difficult to shop with teenagers. The only saving grace is when they get old enough to buy their own clothes, you get to tell them "I told you so" when they realize not all stuff at Penney's and Sears are crap.

At 2:31 PM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

Some distressed clothing is okay. I don't mind wearing certain pieces as long as they aren't ripped in anyway that is indecent or the distressing doesn't mean that the garment isn't going to last. In some cases, jeans are so distressed that they won't survive more than a year. It really depends on how the material is aged.

At 10:31 PM , Blogger Jess Riley said...

I remember my dad getting so mad at me for spending $25 on a Guess sweatshirt...hehe. Recently my parents and I were imagining the clothing fads that will be popular when I have a teenager someday. (IF I do...hubs and I are talking about skipping all that child-raisin' business and just adoping a 50 year-old accountant when we're in our eighties.) ;)

At 8:45 AM , Blogger Zephra said...

That is why I shop at the consignment shop. Besides, my daughter does no know torn up clothes are cool yet.

At 12:11 PM , Blogger ƒåυνέ said...

No way, no how...If it's my money, I'm not buying crap. When he starts buying his own clothes THEN he can get whatever he wants. True, my teenage son thinks I'm a big meanie and a dork. But I'm the mom - that's my job.

At 1:02 PM , Blogger used*to*be*me* said...

You are so right on the clothes! It scares me sometimes. I have three daughters, the fun will not end anytime soon for me!

Michele sends me today.

At 8:55 PM , Blogger Jade said...

If anyone is looking for distressed clothing I have a box of it that even purple heart wouldn't take (little do they know). My hubby and son wear these jeans to work until they are covered in paint, grease and/or holes. Call them vintage if you like. If anyone's willing to pay 50 - 70 dollars for them, well, I'm not stupid, they are yours ;o).

At 6:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww... the joys of parenthood... been there done fom Michele's.


At 6:31 AM , Blogger Viamarie said...

This is definitely true. Kids nowadays have a different taste for fashion.

Here via Michele's.

At 1:09 PM , Blogger Kimmy said...

You're absolutely right!

I have plenty of "vintage" clothes I can sell... and make a good bit of money. Hmmm... I need to look into ebay ;)

Here from Michele's!

(my word verification is xyzfly. that's funny!)

At 2:38 PM , Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

LOL, LOL. I know it's not a funny situation but you write about it in a funny way...And in reality, it's all so crazy that it is kind of funny. Thing about kids dressing like they want is that all their friends will be dressed the same way and they will be 'cool'! You know? It's the parents who have the problem....BUT, it was ever thus...Truly, think about it. Did your Momlike what you wanted to wear as a teenager???
Mine didn't either! (lol)

Here from Michele today, my dear.

At 3:29 PM , Blogger Chatty said...

I went outlet shopping last month and ended up getting a pair of Tommy Hilfiger pants for $10. Originally $98. They are faded and of course the hem is worn. I'll pay ten dollars, but not $98. I don't get the worn look. I am an 8th grade teacher and half of my students look like they live in the dregs, but they paid to look that way.

Great post! Michele sent me!

At 3:35 PM , Blogger margalit said...

Halaluluh, Sister! I'm right there with you on this one. Only my 13.5 year old daughter wouldn't be caught dead wearing Gap or Old Navy because we live in richy richville (and no, we are not even close to rich). MY darling daughter wants to wear Seven and True Religion jeans that have holes in them and are distressed and only cost $300. Like that's ever gonna happen in my lifetime.

But I know how to distress jeans and I'm ready and willing to distress any pair of Levis that cost less than $30/pair. She's appalled.

Via Michele today

At 3:59 PM , Blogger David said...

i have some "vintage" cat litter for you

from michele - do come see me

At 7:50 AM , Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

Why do people buy obviously badly made clothes at extortionate prices? Who told them that is cool?

At 7:02 AM , Blogger sage said...

thanks for "preaching to the choir." Been there, done that, got another one who will soon be there... I often wonder what those laborers in sweatshops in Vietman and China think about when they created these outrageous expensive fashion statements on their 2 bucks a day.

At 9:12 AM , Blogger keda said...

hi! i didnt skip you- we just posted at the same time!!! anyway i'm back from michele's....
as a mum of young twins, and very style conscious i have to say i love some distressed clothing.

HOWEVER some of it and most of the stuff thats produced for the teenage 'fad' market is awful, and not only looks like it'll fall apart but even looks dirty.

i actually hope my kids will find their own style no matter how wierd that may be. the worst thing is this having to dress like your peers no matter how silly it looks or how little it suits you.

my 4 yr old dress themselves even now- i only put my foot down if its not suitable weather wise or the patters/colours SERIOUSLY clash. i hope as it did for me, that this will encourage their own taste and confidence in their choices...but i can imagine i will not always feel so cool about it!

as for the photo tips, as a keen amateur i agree wholeheartedly*

i'm glad i came and i'll pop back..

At 9:15 AM , Blogger rashbre said...

Another good place for distressed clothing is the local Oxfam shop. This is a great place to pick up some real vintage and sometimes some amazing designer label too.

Here today via Michele's.


At 9:18 AM , Blogger keda said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:25 AM , Blogger Courtney said...

I hate fashion. If I want ripped jeans, I'll fall down my stairs or take a razor to them myself.
Here via Michele today; good luck!

At 9:26 AM , Anonymous Nikki-ann said...

I've got a pair of "distressed" jeans on at the moment, but they're only slightly distressed as I don't want to look like I've had an argument with a lawnmover! Hehe.

I hope you're having a good weekend.

Here via Michele's :)

At 3:28 PM , Blogger Thumper said...

Last week the Spouse Thingy and I were in Old Navy and wondering about the clothes, too...I kept looking at these jeans thinking, "I could do that myself!" And when we were teens, that was the point. You bought them brand new and new-looking, and getting them to that wretched look was a point of pride.

(Wait...this makes me sound really old. "When I was a kid, we distressed our jeans ourselves and were were glad of it!")

I'm not sure which is worse, though...the current distressed look, or the jeans around the butt look...

Here via Michele's!

At 5:31 PM , Anonymous another grandma said...

I really like my distressed clothing too. I even live in the country so I can still wear it. But when I go to town, I still change into something less worn. Who knew? Now I'm gonna have to go out to the machine shed and take a second look in that rag barrel. Could be that's where my look resides. . . .

At 7:17 AM , Blogger Paige said...

Hi, here from Michele's. Why not shop a 2nd hand store? Now that would be cheaper. Sorry I mean less expensive. Have a great day!

At 2:16 PM , Blogger Jade said...

Howdy again neighbor. Stopping by to say thanks for visiting. Hope you have a wonderful day. Hey look the sun!

At 6:40 AM , Blogger Sandy said...

LOL! The entire family had a mini-spree (or series of them) this weekend. My husband bought some of the crappy shorts from Old Navy. The man is 46. He thought they looked cool. I said to him "You do realize I put back clothes that look like that because I find it utterly ridiculous. You could have shorts like that the last four times I went shopping for you."

He wanted to know why I had a problem with it. I said "Honey, you could have stuck with your old crappy, worn, clothes for free."

At 8:13 AM , Blogger Sue said...

Karen, distressed EVERYthing seems to be the order of the day these days, from clothing to homes -- the beauty of it is that styles and fashions change so quickly -- you will only have to put up with it a short while -- your thoughts of not taking out a mortgage to cloth your child is a good one :)
Here from Michele's

At 6:13 AM , Anonymous Scribe said...

Better to wear distressed clothing than for her to wear way too skimpy attire!

Hi! Michele sent me! :)

At 9:47 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

Funny, but I shop at Old Navy and The Gap, and manage to find decent business casual stuff for my mandatory IT-geek wardrobe. I usually yank the kids away from the ripped-to-shreds section for precisely the same reasons you cite in your (excellent) post.

Of course, my kids are younger and still impressionable in that way. But our 8-year-old daughter is already showing signs of serious fashionitis. When we were on vacation, she spent time with her professional fashion designer cousin, and she hasn't been the same since.

Pity us. Please.

At 4:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally someone who had the same thoughts I had!

The clothes style are AWFUL!

I'm 36 and I have a jeans jacket from the 80's that is in better condition than the crap they sell.

Are they kidding with this crap? The clothes are so bare-thin in threads that they look like one wash will tear them. I don't mind trendy fashions - but make them good quality.

My husband commented, Goodwill won't even take these "new" clothes as they would think they were unsaleable.

Take your kids to Goodwill or Salvation Army - better quality clothes and they can destroy them themselves!

At 7:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is everyone here completely clueless? I cant belive I stumbled across a circle jerking group of moms bashing on clothing when they do not understand the motives or thoughts of a younger generation.

Style is a forever changeing idea. There is nothing in this world that everyone will like, depending on your preception of what is "cool" depends on the values you are placing on that item. Should it make people look? Should it last until you die? Should it be low-cut? Should it be speicalty washed? etc...

The point is you can not change an industry or even one persons mind by bitching in a little group like this, but....your moms...and thats what you do.


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