As a pre-teen and teen girl growing up in suburban New York, the fast paced world of fashion was so close that I could taste it. I dreamed of the day when I was old enough to work in fashion and live in New York City. From a very young age I could picture myself catching a yellow cab with a newly purchased designer handbag dangling from my arm. And, as silly as it sounds, I often feel like I was born to do what I do now.
Aside from a couple of distant relatives that I only saw once or twice a year who carried Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, I didn’t grow up around designer goods. I’m not even sure how I knew what a Dior bag was in 6th grade or why I knew that I would one day own a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag, but as a kid I never felt like designer clothes and accessories were outside of my reach.
My parents worked very hard to give me a wonderful, secure childhood, but I didn’t grow up extremely wealthy. For the most part, I worked hard for everything I wanted, and though I knew that the purses I yearned for were pricey and would take hours of work at my summer camp job, plus many additional nights babysitting, I never felt that they were out of my reach.
I used to dream of the day I’d be able to own a classic Chanel Flap Bag, but the current cost of $5,600 is more than triple the price of my (already extremely expensive) NYC rent. I could possibly justify the price of the Camera Bag, which would be even more doable if I were to purchase it pre-owned, but I can’t help but feel that fashion has become more and more unattainable as the years go on.
Sure, luxury fashion isn’t meant to cater to the masses, and that’s part of the appeal, but something about these astronomical increases disappoints me. It saddens me to think that to the young girl growing up the way I did, the fashion world is just a pipe dream, reserved for trust fund babies, influencers and A-list celebs. Why does it feel like fashion is becoming so out of reach? It’s interesting that this financial perspective comes at a time when fashion is more gender inclusive and fluid than ever before. It’s become more accessible in some ways, and untouchable in others.
Why does it feel like fashion is becoming so out of reach? It’s interesting that this financial perspective comes at a time when fashion is more gender inclusive and fluid than ever before. It’s become more accessible in some ways, and untouchable in others.
I wanted to dig into this theory a bit further and see if there were numbers to back it up. Sure enough, the numbers don’t lie.
Fashion is becoming more and more unattainable as the years go on.
Back in 2005 I was a sophomore in high school, and at 15 years old I devoured every ounce of fashion culture I could get my hands on. Back then a Medium Chanel Flap Bag would set you back $1,650. At the same time, according to the Census ACS survey, the median monthly household income in the US was $3,858.
For one months pay in 2005, you could theoretically purchase 2 Chanel Flap Bags. Not bad, right?
Today, that’s no longer the case. Data from last year won’t be published until September of this year, so we’ll use data from the 2017 Census ACS survey to compare.
In 2017, the median monthly household income in the US was $5,028, while the cost of a Medium Chanel Flap Bag was $5,300. Even with no other expenses taken into account, one months pay wouldn’t even get you one Chanel Flap Bag.
So where does it end? Will fashion companies continue to make it so that their products are more and more out of reach? We’ve heard of a ‘glass ceiling’ as a negative connotation but should there be a glass ceiling when it comes to the pricing structure of luxury fashion?
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