The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Who Is Amancio Ortega?

He’s wealthier that Jeff Zuckerburg.

He’s wealthier than the Koch Brothers.

He’s wealthier than George Soros.

On the Forbes 2017 Wealthiest People, he’s #4. (Actually today he’s #2 – Forbes does a by-the-day ranking – mostly cause Bezos and Buffett go up and down with the market!)

So who is this guy? He’s not doing any sort of investements a la Warren Buffet, or high tech stuff like Jeff Bezos. And he’s self-made, so he didn’t inherit a lot of his wealth.  So how did he get to be so wealthy?

The short answer:  By selling cheap/fast fashion.

I don’t have anything against this guy.  He may be a perfectly charming and very nice fellow, and for all I know he could be hugely philanthropic.  My only beef is that the consumer does not know that she is being taken to the cleaners and that the whole concept of buying cheap clothes is actually horribly more expensive than buying well-made, long-lasting clothes.

Let’s look at this from another angle:

The Old Money Book: How to Live Better While Spending Less: Secrets of America’s Upper Class is a book about how old money (that’s money that lasts from generation to generation to generation, not simply one or two generations) spends their money and how they hang onto it generation after generation.  They do it in the way they spend their money.  First of all they don’t have over-the-top lifestyles.  As a matter of fact, most of the old-money people I know are very careful with their money.  They want very stable investments and all their purchases are very stable.  That means they don’t buy the cheapest thing, but they don’t buy the most expensive either.  

They buy quality.  They buy quality furniture, medical, homes, groceries, art, entertainment all the nick-nacks around the home, education and above all clothes.  They don’t buy the most expensive, but they buy quality in their lives.  Why?  Because it lasts, because it’s the most frugal, economical way to live.  This is what this group of people have known and teach their kids each generation, and it’s why they keep their money.  Yes, they work and earn money like the rest of us, but it’s the way they spend their money that separates them from the rest of us.  They spend very wisely and are very frugal, but they live a very rich life because they don’t buy cheap.  They know that cheap not only doesn’t last, but because it doesn’t last makes these items spendthrift, literally a way to throw their money away.

Think how much you would save if you purchased this way.  For the normal Jane on the street, she can’t buy anything but different versions of cheap/fast fashion.  From Zara, Forever 21 to Neiman’s and Barneys, this business model has taken over.  And although you would pay more at the higher end department store or boutique, you aren’t necessarily getting a better quality item, because this business model (the cheap/fast fashion business model) is so profitable, that it’s hard for the bottom-line dwellers to steer the company in any other direction.

But we sewists have another alternative.  We do have the ability to stock our wardrobes with well-made, quality items.  And these items last and last and last.  Suddenly we look at our wardrobes and we have the clothes that work for us, and fulfill most of our needs.

This is a great time of year to take a look at our closets and cull out what we haven’t worn, put asside what is iffy and figure out what holes are in our wardrobe to fill.  If you’ve been doing this for a while and keeping up with it, usually you will only need 2 or 3 items – at the most 5 or so.  This means you’re not completely redoing your entire wardrobe or have holes that you don’t know about or overages you can’t see.  It means you have a well-edited wardrobe that works for you – not a wardrobe that is so cluttered and over-stocked you can’t see what you have or even what you don’t have.

Right now I’m into stretch things because my shape is fluxuating (moving out of a 3-level home to a one-level is sooooooooooo nice, but no automatic Stair Master), so I’m slowly replacing my woven garments with stretch or at the least Ponte or Neoprene type garments.  But I’m not replacing everything in my wardrobe – only a few key items.  A jacket, a couple of pairs of pants and a top – four items that will fill in some holes that I have making my entire wardrobe functional and serviceable for me till I check things out in the Spring.  Then I will look at the things I put asside last fall (2016) and if I didn’t wear them this fall (2017)  and don’t missed them, they are going out the door.

But here’s the kicker – I get to replace those garments (that are also well-made and have serviced me for many years), with garments that will service me for many years to come.  My wardrobe for almost 40 years has been filled with well-made, sturdy, long-lasting garments.  They are not only serviceable for me, but when I take them out and recycle, upcycle or give to charity, will have another whole life left.  It will be many decades before they are completely unuseable.

Here’s another kicker.  Remember that jacket you made that you loved so much cause it was perfect fit?  OK, you’ve grown a little (who hasn’t as we get older), but do a muslin with the alterations needed, and poof – you have that favorite jacket back.  Think about how many hours it would cost you to hunt for that jacket in a store.  The reality is that once you purchase a garment, the likelihood of finding a comparable replacement is almost nil and time spent hunting for it is a waste of your most valuable asset – time!

So this way of stocking your wardrobe is not only more economical, it’s also a way to wear better clothes.  I know, that doesn’t make sense, but there it is:  make better clothes, it’s cheaper in the long run.  So if you feel you can’t afford that $25/yard or $125/yard fabric?… up your money till you can, purchase it and make it up (make the proverbial muslin first or use one of your TNT patterns that you know fits and works).  The garment costing at most $300 will last you for 10 years minimum…..that’s $30/year!  See how cheap that is!

Or you can support your local billionaire – Amancio Ortega!


  1. I am a person who was never driven by au courant fashion. While not wealthy, my family did teach me to buy quality clothing that would last and my personal tastes are somewhat conservative and I prefer simple lines.

    I taught myself to sew clothes beginning at age 9, and began quilting in 1976 . Some years ago I read Elizabeth Cline’s book, “Overdressed; The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion” and Lucy Siegle’s book on fast fashion. These books and they really opened my eyes! Even though I was not a fast fashion aficionado, I thought “I can sew, I know what I like and I can make my own very, very, teeney, tiny, ripple in the fast fashion pond” .

    I have no learning resources anywhere near where I live, nor can I afford any fitting workshops, but I am slowly teaching myself. The simple clothes that I make suit me well. I find that I am now much more comfortable with how I look and I enjoy having clothes that totally suit my personal style sense.

    This is a great post! Thank you!

    • You know Marie, if you keep at it, you will be amazed at what you learn and more importantly, the practice will not only make you better at sewing, but it will also help you develop your own little tweaks to fitting and a nod to your style. There are so many simple yet meaningful adjustments that you can make to your clothes that not only make them good for the Earth but also great for your style – much more than anything you can buy.

      Congratulations for you and your wardrobe, My bet is that you have a much more satisfying and useful wardrobe than you ever could if you purchased your clothing.

  2. Here is the backstory – my mother and grandmother were big sewists. When they could no longer sew I inherited their “stuff”. One of the things are some really great buttons. How great? I am trying to find things to make so I can use them!
    Here is the burning question: How do you store your buttons? By color or size!? Having an obsession with having an organized space – I can’t figure out what is the most efficient way.
    What are your thoughts on this hot topic on Thursday night?

    Love your blog-


    • I mostly organize to type.  When I go to sort for a button, I’m usually looking for something specific, so material or what the buttons are made of seems to be the most useful to me. After that according to formality or casualness…..Metal Sets, Metal Misc., Pearl Light, Pearl Dark, Antique Sets, Antique Misc (this is mostly buttons I have purchased from garage sales or have picked up here and there that are either two or three or singles. I do pin or somehow attach those that are matches.) I put them in little ziplock bags so that they stay in the groups or sets which are usually like blazer sets or blouse sets. Then I put them in zip lock bags – the large ones, and keep them in there. I’ve done this for so long that I’m pretty clear on what is in each of those bags.

      One thing is for sure is that you will be surprised how many of those are very valuable. Some may cost a few dollars a piece, but when you add that up, it comes to a substantial amount. I’ve warned my family not to put all my buttons in a box and offer it for $25, or I’ll come and haunt them!!!! Hopefully you have the really good ones wrapped and protected. Buttons can be incredibly valuable because the good unique ones aren’t being produced so much anymore. RTW uses only very plain buttons for fear that a person won’t buy the garment because the buttons are so distinctive. This is also a usual giveaway to couture or custom-made clothing is that the buttons are very distinctive.

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