How to Tell if You have Expensive Taste

How to Tell if You have Expensive Taste
Mr Charles Batten in an advertising dress, 1903.
Photo by Mark James Daniel (1867 – 1949) via State Library Victoria

There have been several recent instances where I have been identified as a person with expensive taste. It’s said with affection, but there is a definite moral judgement to the pronouncement. That it is “wrong” to have expensive taste, and that I am therefore lacking in character. And it is this sense of my inferiority that stings the most.

While I don’t know exactly what prompted the comments, I think I’m fairly safe to assume that it’s more about the clothes and jewellery I wear than the food I eat or the house I live in. Clothes are the most obvious indicator of taste, and someone who dresses well is almost automatically assumed to spend a lot of money on clothes.

What Does it Mean to Have Expensive Taste

If something is expensive, it has a high price – more than the “average” person could afford, and if something is to one’s taste, then one finds it pleasing. And this does suggest that high price things make you happy. The closest I have come to a definition of expensive taste comes after the definition of expensive:

If someone tells you, “I have expensive taste,” it means that person likes things that cost a lot of money, whether they are purchased or just admired from the shop window.

And this implies that the only reason they like something is because it has a high price tag. As opposed to liking it because of the quality of the materials or workmanship. Given the popularity of counterfeit clothing, shoes and accessories, there may be something to this argument.

I currently have five branded items; one is a Macy’s tote bag I got for free in 2001 when I visited New York on holiday, the other four are Mattt bags. I have bought many Mattt bags over the years, partly because I like the patterns and partly because they are handmade in Melbourne. I still have the first Mattt bag I bought – it’s my everyday bag and is still going strong more than a decade later (though I had to change the fabric panel), so on a cost per use basis, it’s been a very economical bag.

Is Expensive Taste Good Taste?

NO. Absolutely not.

Good taste involves the design elements of form and function, attention to details like pattern matching and garment construction regardless of price. If you care and are willing to look, you can get these at any price point, and some expensive things are completely lacking in them.

I have at times bought things that were expensive but ill-made, but I find that setting a budget gives me sufficient backbone to put ill-made clothing back on the rack.

Is Expensive Taste Extravagant?

Perhaps the issue of expensive taste is more about the presumption of extravagance; spending more money that you need to, or spending it wastefully. I’ve already addressed the issue of quality in clothing, and that there is not a single objective quality for everyone. That different people have different opinions about the importance of appropriateness, durability and comfort in their clothing. And those opinions change over time as circumstances change.

As an adult in a body of child-like dimensions, I find it hard to buy clothes off the rack that fit. Regardless of what I buy, I have to allow an extra 10 – 25% of the cost for alterations (mainly leg and arm shortening, sometimes adjustments to the body like moving waistlines or adding darts). Even in the petite ranges.

As an adult, I am happy to do that because I am past the point of being satisfied looking like I am playing dress ups in Mummy’s wardrobe. Though I admit I don’t always get my alterations made quickly so that could be seen as wasteful – to buy something and not wear it.

Recently I started buying clothes made to my measurements. My reasoning is that if it can be done for approximately the same cost as buying and altering a garment, and I can wear it immediately, it’s a better deal. And with websites like Etsy, made to measure can be less expensive than the larger High Street stores, and quicker than having post-purchase alterations.

Is Expensive Taste Having Your Priorities Out of Whack?

Maybe expensive taste is more about not having the same priorities as “average” people – this would certainly make sense given that element of moral judgement.

I’m not sure what other people’s priorities are, but I can’t help feeling that if they don’t have wardrobe plans, they can’t have priorities. How can you prioritise something you haven’t given any thought to?

Or does it mean that I should be spending money on the things that “average” people do? Like beer or take out coffee? Netflix subscription? Vogue magazine subscription? Going out for dinner? Start colouring my hair again? Start smoking again? Buying and maintaining a second car? Joining a gym? Taking an annual trip to Bali?

Is Expensive Taste Wasteful?

Lots of people think that it is important to have a large range of clothes to choose from. However, many of those people also constantly complain that they have nothing to wear and are always shopping for something new on an occasion by occasion basis. And sometimes, they throw out clothes they have never worn to make more space for new clothes they may never wear. And sometimes they find that they have two or more versions of the same thing because they forgot or couldn’t find the first. But they rarely wear their clothes often enough to know what is wrong with them, so they keep making the same mistakes again and again.

I, on the other hand, am a 20% dresser – regardless of how many clothes I have, I rarely wear more than 20% of them. It’s too hard to make a lot of decisions about getting dressed first thing in the morning, so I try to plan my wardrobe for maximum wear for the most occasions.

I do feel guilty that I bought four tops for my 2016 Summer Wardrobe, and only regularly wore two; the blue almost constantly, the white often enough to know I need to alter the body shape, and the orange and pink barely at all. I now know that the necklines are wrong for me; it might be possible to do something to “fix” them but I don’t know what yet. My signature look has been refined a little further and I won’t be making those mistakes again.

Is Expensive Taste Needlessly Showy?

I’d say not necessarily. You can buy showy garments at many different price points. And what do you mean by showy anyway? I think a showy garment would be one that is so distinctive, (e.g. a beaded parakeet t-shirt) that people remember it and comment on it. I think that you would get tired of a beaded parakeet t-shirt very quickly and it wouldn’t last longer than a season in your wardrobe. If that.

From my experience, well made “classic” items often cost more, but because they are not distinctive enough to be memorable, people don’t always know it’s the same garment every time. In fact, I was amused when I went to the bank one day, and the person I spoke with recognised my red tunic as the same one I am wearing on my home page, but not as the one I had been wearing a couple of weeks previously. It’s the same one I have been wearing constantly for the last three years and am still expecting to fail imminently.

Is Expensive Taste Exclusive?

Well no. I have told several people where to get their own version of my red tunic, or where to get cheap custom made jeans in Melbourne. Where the best alterations can be obtained and where the best Melbourne cobbler is (conveniently close to the best banana smoothies).

Do I have Expensive Taste?

No, I don’t believe I have expensive taste, though I am probably out of touch with what “average” people think is expensive.

When I was young I bought lots of expensive fashionable branded clothes I couldn’t afford. But now I prefer a more distinctive and individual look. I suppose this looks expensive partly because you don’t see the clothes I wear anywhere else except on me.

I have a small collection of durable well-made clothes that fit properly, and accessories that I wear frequently. Behind the scenes, when no one is looking, I do a lot of hand washing and take very good care of my clothes so that they last.

I don’t buy clothes willy-nilly; I plan my purchases according to what I need as I described in Build Your Signature Wardrobe. It’s the same method I used for my 2017  Winter Wardrobe. My priority is clothes that are appropriate for my needs (e.g. the kidney related anaemia), that meet my style (shape and colour) desires, as well as my outfit needs within or close to the budget I set.

I started setting a clothing budget in 2012 (3% of DB’s salary) have come in under my budget since then. Even though it includes the cost of dry cleaning and alterations, as well as shoes, jewellery and makeup. In fact, over the year, we spend more on our dogs than on my clothing!

So no. Not expensive taste.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.