Opinion: The Haves and the Have Nots


This week I was invited to appear on This Morning to debate the so-called 'Fat Tax' some retailers are imposing on the plus size versions of their clothes. For me the argument was simple, if you are making the same garment across all your sizing range, then the extra costs incurred from making a bigger garment should be absorbed through the process. If the argument is it takes more fabric and time to produce a bigger item, then surely those garments on the lower end of the scale take less fabric and less time? 

One Size doesn't fit all...

My argument was based on those who mass-manufacture and cover a large percentage of sizes within their ranges. I am not deluded enough to think that specialist ranges, independents and smaller brands can absorb the costs in the same way. Of course they have to set out their costings appropriately to ensure their businesses are profitable. After all, that's what being in business is about; I don't expect them to function as charities. 

But it was as we left the studio to head back to the green room that I had a conversation with Anna  Scholz with whom I was on the show with that got me thinking about consumerism - she stated that she thought clothes were too cheap nowadays anyway and that people should make an investment in their clothing...

Fast Fashion vs Quality Garments

I can 100% understand where Anna is coming from, we are a 'throwaway' nation, everything is fast paced and disposable. Long gone are the days of quality over quantity; It's all about instant gratification on a mass scale. 

The Haves and the Have Nots... 

I come from a working class family. I am a working class woman. The most I have ever earned in my life was £23k a year, and when you're a single mum, that actually doesn't come to much (I earn less than half that now). I live in a town full of unemployment, where the average person probably earns no more than 16K a year, if they're lucky. House prices are low, and rent is high, where the real kicker is that no one can actually afford to buy a house, so we're all being squeezed for rent we can barley afford. 

So when it comes to our spending habits, the reality of the matter is yes, we are probably going to choose a cheaper garment over a quality garment. And ultimately, it's all about supply and demand. 

Some might say "why not save up and buy two more expensive pieces instead of six cheap bits of clothing?" 

Well there's an idea, and it's not a terrible one. It's something I've started to do with my shoes and bags, after all, they get the most use don't they? For some reason, I'm happy to save up and invest in a leather bag, or a decent pair of shoes... but when it comes to fashion, I'm not quite there yet. 

Fast Love...

But why? For me personally it is about enjoyment and pleasure. I get a joy from clothing like no other. My unadulterated passion for all things fabric is unquenchable. I could happily spend 100's and 100's of pounds on clothes every day and still never be satisfied. I live for putting outfits together, for that feeling that wearing the most amazing outfit gives you. 

I was never big on drugs, so I imagine this is akin to the euphoria of popping an E, I want to hug everyone and tell them I love them when I'm wearing a gorgeous ensemble. 

But in all seriousness, for those have nots, there isn't always a lot of pleasure in life. We make choices based on what we have right here, right now. Some weeks I can barely afford my food shopping, some weeks I feel like Rockerfeller because I managed to get a bit of extra work. 

Should I manage my money a bit better? Definitely. But is life so very short and very precious? Yes. 

So when I've got a spare £20, if I want to go into Primark and feel like a fucking queen spending it; I will. The fact of the matter is, I'm not a squirrler. I don't want to save. I could literally be dead tomorrow. And then where would my investment clothes be? In a charity shop probably, with all my other worldly possessions. 

Selfish or Self Love?

There is a fine line between being selfish and self love. When do those little treats and splurges become problematic? Is my spending jeopardising my health and my daughter's well being? No. Is it having an impact on the environment... Possibly. And that's something I need to educate myself on a bit more. 

But the fact of the matter is, those who are living with very little don't have the luxury to be mindful of the environment, or economy or other global issues. Having very little income is about being selfish, it narrows your worldview because it's basically survival of the fittest. When you're surviving on a low income you very much have to make decisions based on the here and now. What is the cheapest option? 

From absolute survival based decisions like "What's going to feed my family more adequately? Two chickens for £5 or a organic, corn fed bird for £9"(I'm looking at you Jamie and Hugh, don't even get me started) to "shall I save up a deposit for a house that I probably won't get a mortgage for because my credit rating is shit, or shall I treat the family to a holiday?' The memories I make on that holiday will last a lifetime. The house I scrimped and saved for and drained me of every penny maintaining will probably be swallowed up by the local authority for care costs when I finally lose my marbles and end up in a home. 

These are the things real people think about. Is it right in the wider sense? Probably not, but is it right them, for me? Yes. Because until I have the luxury to make decisions based on their wider impact and not their immediate impact (on me and my family) then I will remain selfish. And I'm not sorry. 

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