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Non-Consumer Mish-Mash — Links, Beans & Knockoff Skirts

by Katy on April 17, 2014 · 63 comments


Black beans

It’s time for another Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

Link-O-Rama Mama

This April 19th and 20th are days when all American national parks have free admission! Click HERE to find which parks are in your area.

Looking to print some of those digital photo that live in your computer? Snapfish has a deal right now where you get 100 free 4 X 6 prints per month simply by downloading their free app! 1,200 free prints, people! Click HERE for all the details.

A woman in the Netherlands is living her life as if she she’s time traveled to the 1930′s. She’s an historical consultant, so she’s really got the details down. Click HERE to read her story.

 

Filling My Freezer

Canning and preserving can seem an intimidating task for many, but it doesn’t have to be. I have a chest freezer in my basement, and I like to keep it filled with preprepared meals and homemade convenience foods.

Just yesterday I:

Boiled up a large amount of dried black beans in my pressure cooker, which I then put into pint canning jars and froze. Not only are home cooked beans cheaper than buying canned, but the freezer is now a bit fuller, and therefor slightly less expensive to run. Bonus – with home cooked beans, I don’t have to worry about BPA from the can liners! And since the jars were frozen instead of stored on a shelf, there’s no fussy boiling or worrying about botulism; plus this is a situation where lids can be reused.

Bought 25 $1.99 packages of nice pastrami at the Grocery Outlet, which are also filling my freezer. My husband brings cold cut sandwiches to work every day, so expensive meat is a annoying chunk of our grocery bill. I recognized this brand, which is sold at Trader Joe’s and New Season’s, so I bought a couple packs to try. They were delicious, so I went back and cleared the shelf. And since this pastrami was $5 per pound rather than the $10 per pound we usually pay, this will save us a lot of money in the long run!

 

 Ethics and Frugality

Skirt hack

Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group member Heather recently share her “Non-Consumer Victory:”

“After an exhaustive search for a below-the-knee comfortable skirt, I bought the skirt on the left for my daughter at the Eddie Bauer outlet for $30. (Retails for $70). When I saw it I thought I could easily make one, so I laid out the one I bought on some art paper and made a pattern. I bought a knit fabric that had similar content as the EB skirt. I put it together and am so pleased I’m going to return the EB one and make some more for my dd and me!”

Group members congratulated her on her ingenuity, but one reader unfortunately was uncomfortable with Heather’s skirt hack and wrote:

Great job, unfortunately what you did is illegal. You can’t just buy something, reverse engineer it, then return it. Ever heard of a copyright? I’m all for figuring out how to do things yourself, but don’t just steal someone else’s new design.”

Other members came to Heather’s defense, but it brought up an interesting debate about ethics and frugality. Is is ethical to copy a store bought sort design for personal use? There are certainly many frugal tricks that I abstain from as they border on unethical, (Mackelmore’s “popping tags” refers to switching tags in thrift shops) but I likely do stuff that others would be uncomfortable with.

Do you feel comfortable with the skirt knockoff? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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April 27, 2014 at 4:01 am

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1 Sharon April 17, 2014 at 8:56 am

I don’t see any harm done to the store or the designer. Accepting returns is part of their business strategy. Designers use other people’s work as inspiration and then sell it. This crafty person didn’t make an exact copy, nor did she make money off her version. She used her expert eye and a measuring tape, and came up with her own version of a skirt. For her own family.

As a (non-practicing) lawyer, if a client came to me with this situation, I would tell them they are fine. No copyright infringement. If someone came to me as a friend asking for moral guidance, I would say it’s fine.

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2 Katy April 17, 2014 at 9:05 am

Thanks for your legal consultation! :-)

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3 Lynda D. April 17, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I’m a lot less worried about Eddie Bauer’s profit margin and more concerned with ethics. I wonder how ethically the Eddie Bauer skirt was made? It is highly likely to have been made by underpaid workers in “third world” sweatshops who work 15 hour days for 6 days a week. Without health care benefits. And also possible it was made by children working in the same situation.
Now, if the skirt was from an environmentally responsible, Fair Trade company and made with materials grown in a sustainable manner THEN I would feel it was unethical to return the skirt.

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4 Megg April 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Someone is going to buy that skirt anyway, because $30 for a $70 skirt is a good deal. It’s not like she was throwing it away.

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5 WilliamB April 18, 2014 at 3:01 am

I, too, am a currently nonpracting lawyer – business and contracts were my field. I’m not convinced the reader is in the clear legally. She did profit from the return – she profited by the $70 she didn’t have to spend on the skirt. There is a difference between eyeing something in the store and taking it home to thoroughly measure and examine.

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6 WilliamB April 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Later: “would have profited” since she decided not to return the skirt.

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7 Jessica April 17, 2014 at 9:08 am

That skirt is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. Of all the ethical considerations involved in getting dressed, I can’t bring myself to drill down on this one. She’s not selling the skirt, and even of she were, it’s a totally generic design.

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8 surviving and thriving on pennies April 17, 2014 at 9:24 am

Way to go with the beans Katy! I do this all the time. More of a reason of laziness though lol. Let’s not forget you control the sodium! BPA free and yes you can reuse the lids. Win win!

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9 Kate April 17, 2014 at 9:24 am

I think my squeamishness with the skirt return is that the store is not a lending library; it’s purpose is to sell stuff. When they accept returns it’s with the assumption that the product hasn’t been used. While using the skirt to make a pattern is certainly not the same as wearing an item and then returning it(which we can all agree is obviously wrong), there is a slippery slope there and I’m not comfortable at the top of it.

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10 Jenny April 18, 2014 at 9:01 am

I agree. Trying on the skirt at the store, liking the way it fits and then buying a similar pattern to make one is ok in my ethics. I’m also ok with buying the skirt, wearing it, and using the skirt you have bought and paid for as a pattern for more.
I’m probably a little touchier than most on this subject since I own a bookstore- and we have had instances where crafters have bought books and then returned them a day or two later, and then we’ve seen them wearing clothing made from the patterns in the book. (It’s a very small town). Obviously they photocopied the patterns and then returned the book. Or maybe they were savvy enough to find an extremely similar pattern on the Internet, but the items were very distinctive.

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11 Jenny April 17, 2014 at 9:33 am

The copyright deal is a non-issue. Up until sewing clothes at home became really unusual, it was common practice for people to look at clothes in a store, magazine, catalogue, or on someone else and copy them. Plus, copying designs and styles is how the fashion world works! (The couture designers introduce new ideas, then the upscale department stores copy them at their price point, then the bargain retailers do the same)… Add to that…the poster is not making any money at it…it’s just for the family.

The one ethical thing that might give me a second thought would be returning the first skirt. On the one hand, it’s undamaged so the store could still sell it. On the other, they did pay for staff time to unpack it, tag it, ring up the sale, ring up the return etc. and the poster did get value out of it by learning how to make a copy. I have gotten more conscious of the costs of taking advantage of resources of businesses without paying (for instance, looking at books in a bookstore and then buying cheaply online). So I might keep the first skirt but then enjoy the many comfortable, stylish skirts I can make based on it!

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12 K D April 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I had a similar thought, that would just feel better (more right) to me. Saving money at all costs does have a price.

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13 Christy April 18, 2014 at 6:05 am

I second this. It seems like buying a pattern (aka skirt), using it and then returning it because you don’t need it any more is at minimum a sketchy thing to do.

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14 Michelle H. April 18, 2014 at 7:28 am

Perfect answer, Jenny! That was my thought as well, and you stated it far better than I could have. Keep the $30 skirt – seems like she got her money’s worth out of it.

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15 Mary April 17, 2014 at 9:40 am

I think, for me personally, I would feel more comfortable with the skirt situation if I had bought and KEPT the store’s skirt… and THEN copied the design to make duplicates for myself. I don’t think I would have felt right returning it.

But also a key thing to remember is that she is not profiting off the skirts. It’s not like she’s making hundreds of them and selling them. That would be wrong. But making a few for her own personal use? I don’t really feel so strongly about.

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16 Gina April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am

I don’t see any ethical dilemma here – she didn’t wear the skirt and she didn’t remove the tags so she should be able to legally return it…and she didn’t sell the “knock-off” that she made so she didn’t infringe on any patent. If you have a patent on a product, that doesn’t mean that someone else can’t make a copycat version of it for their own use, it just means they can’t replicate it for sale. A patent is an exclusive right to “market” an item. As long as she didn’t take the skirt apart to get the dimensions or alter it in any way, there is no reason she can’t return the skirt. I used to work in retail and people would WEAR an item with the tags tucked in – or even cut off the tags – and return the item with deodorant stains and perfume embedded in the garment. THAT’s morally wrong. Would it make a difference in your opinion if she was inspired to alter or embellish a skirt from her closet to look like the store skirt above instead of sewing it from scratch?

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17 RNA April 17, 2014 at 9:50 am

If you paid for the skirt at either the eb store or a thrift store and copied it I don’t have a problem, you own the product you are copying. The returning it seems unethical to me. Like the people who wear something with the tags still on but hidden and then return it after the occasion they bought it for. I have no idea what if any laws apply to this, just my own personal life compass.

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18 WilliamB April 18, 2014 at 2:56 am

I, too, am uncomfortable with the reader’s returning of the skirt.

I don’t think it’s down to the level of buying something for an event, knowing you’re going to return it after, though.

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19 Maggie April 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

I personally would be comfortable copying a skirt I saw in the store, but not buying the skirt, taking it home, copying it, then returning it. That just seems rude and like you’re taking advantage of the store.
I never realized “popping tags” meant switching tags in the store- my (younger and infinitely hipper) cousin told me it just meant shopping. Maybe that’s a regional difference.

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20 Gail April 17, 2014 at 9:52 am

For one, the complainer was in entirely correct, this is not a “new design”. This cotton blend, fold over top skirt has been around for a very long time. And, it’s not like her daughter wore the thing for six months and then decided to returning it after “copying” it. I see nothing wrong with what Heather did. I actually commend her and I’m very impressed with the quality of hers.

I’m a knitter, this copy right issue has been discussed to death. It’s hard to prove and the law is very broad. I doubt she’s going to mass market these. I’m sure she’s only doing it for personal use.

Go Heather! Make one in every color!!

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21 Kathy April 17, 2014 at 10:05 am

I wonder if the person who sold her this skirt was working on commission lost the commission because of this return. That to me is unethical.

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22 Megg April 17, 2014 at 6:49 pm

I highly doubt an outlet store works on commission.

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23 Jennifer April 17, 2014 at 10:19 am

I saw that on facebook and was shocked that she returned the original skirt. I thought it was a great idea that she loved it so much that she made more of them herself – but she should have kept the original skirt that she bought.

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24 Diane April 17, 2014 at 10:23 am

I work in a field where the “borrowing” of intellectual property is an issue, so I’m sensitive to a business’ concerns in this case. I invest my time and resources into the creation of intellectual property (which is what the design of an article of clothing is), and that’s how I earn my income. If others copy my work for their own use, that’s fine, but I would take issue with someone who purchased my work, made a copy of it, and returned their purchase, and then encouraged others to do the same.

I think the creating of a copycat skirt for personal use is fine and probably a common practice. In her post, if she had just said “hey, I loved this skirt so much I made my own just like it” and left it at that, I’d feel better about it. But returning the skirt and then publicly posting about the details of the process as an encouragement to others is crossing an ethical line, if not a legal one. No, she’s not profiting from the skirt she made, but she did hurt the potential for the company to make a profit.

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25 Anna April 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

I guess I’m with the majority here – there is obviously no copyright violation when it’s for personal use. BUT there is definitely an ethics violation when you return the skirt. The store put lots of money into hiring sales people, paying overhead, and creating the original design. Returning a product that you liked and that is not defective AFTER you used it is unethical – you’re actually costing the store MORE because they have to put the salesperson to more work to process paperwork & re – shelve your return – depending on local health department code, they may not even be able to re-sell it. I see this in the same category as enjoying a meal all but one bite, then returning it and asking for your money back. Or buying a prom dress & returning it after wearing it to the prom. Cheap (robbing someone else so you can “save money”), not frugal.

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26 Katy April 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

I believe that there are zero health code restrictions on reshelving a previously purchased skirt. That would only be underwear and bathing suits.

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27 marie April 17, 2014 at 11:13 am

Love the idea of cooking beans and freezing them. I don’t have a pressure cooker and every time I cook black beans they explode. Maybe I need to simmer them.
I have ton’s of canning jars and a half full freezer, Hmmm!

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28 C. April 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

I actually just finished an interesting book that touches on this idea of copying designs from retail shops (got it as a publisher giveaway on Goodreads–BTW, if you’re not on there, you ought to be! Great source for free reading material). It’s called The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, by Linda Przybyszewski. It’s a paean to the women who made up the vanished field of Home Economics, and how they taught their students to achieve both style and thrift. Copying designs from the stores was actually a testament to a seamstress’ skills, and applauded back in the day. I imagine there were more women back then copying dresses by draping, rather than taking a pattern directly from a garment they’d bought, but I think the concept still holds. Don’t really see the ethical conflict. It’s not even as though she purchased the skirt with the intent to return it–she found she liked her own version just as well or better. Who hasn’t bought a garment and then decided another better suited them, and returned the unnecessary item? Same thing here.

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29 marie April 17, 2014 at 11:16 am

Oh, and the skirt issue. I had an aunt that though she was wealthy, would wear new clothes to an occasion, hiding the tags. then return.
That is wrong, I see nothing wrong with Heather returning something she no longer wanted

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30 tna April 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

Ha. This is interesting. I liked “Devil Wears Prada” quote by Miranda Priestly about “cerulean” trickling down from a top designer to the bargain bin of a discount store. I know even the cheapest clothes you buy originate from designer styles and colors and only very blatant copying and production for profit results in lawsuits and most end in settlements if that. You send your brand manager to NY or Paris fashion week, they buy an article in a color or design they think will a big seller that season and copy. Color standard houses produce color swatches you purchase to ensure factories dye it properly and they are quality checked. The laws are vague and hard to prosecute. I’ve read that only the actual original patterns are protected, not the clothes. Who knows?

The photo looks like a quality reproduction. She could probably get a job in the industry.

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31 Lynn D. April 17, 2014 at 11:44 am

I had a friend who bought a dress from KMart, wore it to a job interview and then to her first day at work (hostess at a restaurant). She then exchanged it for another dress for the next day. She did this a couple of times until she got a paycheck and could afford to buy some clothes. Perhaps unethical, but very enterprising.
I froze some things in glass jars, but they broke, even thought I thought I’d left plenty of empty space. Any tricks to this?

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32 Trish April 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm

that happened to me too, with chicken broth – I lost the broth and the jars.

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33 Tracy April 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Make sure to buy the canning jars that say “freezer safe” on the box. I believe they are only the wide mouth type and you still have to leave a little room. I’ve been freezing beans for years using these jars and lids over and over.

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34 Amy April 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

I think “popping tags” refers to just removing the tags
after something has been purchased at a thrift store.
Where did someone say it means switching tags??

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35 Katy April 17, 2014 at 12:18 pm
36 Linda April 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

That second definition on urban dictionary wasn’t there when the song first got radio play. I was curious as to what the meaning of the phrase was, so I looked it up when the song was blowing up on the radio. At that time the only reference was to the removal of price tags so an item couldn’t be returned.

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37 Lisa April 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Since my sewing skills are no where near this level, I have paid to have a shirt I already owned copied for my own use. I see no problem with that. However, when I read this my first thought wasn’tabout being frugal but cheap. I do wonder what the general reader reaction would have been if the original purchase was from a mom and pop artisan type store rather than a mass market one.

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38 Dawn April 17, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Could you give details on how you freeze the beans in jars? Could I re-use pasta sauce jars, etc? Since not in canner? How much head space etc? I will have a freezer to use soon and this seems a great idea. Thanks!

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39 Jill April 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Stores expect a certain number of returns as the cost of doing business, for reasons as varied as “it didn’t fit” to “I realized that I had spent too much money that day.” Presumably, the Eddie Bauer outlet has a return policy- something along the lines of “you may return items in like-new, re-saleable condition, within X days, for same tender/store credit” etc. As long as Heather met those requirements, I have no problem at all with her returning the skirt.

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40 Debbie W. April 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I, too, would love to get more details from Katy on freezing cooked beans in Mason jars! For more than 20 years, I have been buying dried beans in bulk, then cooking and freezing them in Tupperware, simply because I feared that glass would crack. So, Katy, please “spill the beans”, and give us more details! :)

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41 Barb April 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I don’t think it is ethical to return the skirt. I bought a pricey “nursing shirt” for my daughter when she had a baby and used it to create a custom pattern to fit her. I then used that pattern as a basis for multiple nursing shirts, sweatshirts, tshirts etc. I consider the cost of the first garment as the cost of a pattern. I would have purchased an actual pattern if I could have found one in the style we were looking for.

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42 Tracy April 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I’m repeating myself from a reply above but….I buy the pint size ball jars that say freezer safe on the box. They are all wide mouth. I’ve been using the same jars and lids for years. I freeze leftovers, soups, pressure cooked beans and anything else I need to freeze. They work great. I wanted to get all the plastic out of my house.

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43 Rebecca Creason April 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I’m pretty sure what she did was not illegal, but I’m not a lawyer. She didn’t sell it, she didn’t deconstruct it and then sew it back up and return it. She didn’t even buy the skirt with the intention of copying it. She simply realized it looked easy to make, laid the skirt out and drew a pattern herself that is similar to the name brand skirt. I think morally – she didn’t do anything wrong either, really. I mean, maybe she should have kept the skirt she bought because a salesperson isn’t going to get that commission now, but that’s for her to deal with. But other than that, I personally believe she has every reason to sleep well at night. :)

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44 Bauunny April 17, 2014 at 4:33 pm

I think copying the skirt pattern is fine. However, then returning it gives me some moral angst. I think she should have kept the skirt and congratulated herself on getting multiple uses out of it. People, including chain brands, should be able to make a living wage or profit – returning the skirt, especially one that was already discounted, feels wrong to me.

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45 Shari April 17, 2014 at 5:48 pm

There is no illegal action here as the skirt pattern in not copyrighted. It is however unethical. If she had simply bought the skirt and used it as a pattern basis for more skirts, she would have achieved the goal of being frugal.

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46 Nic April 17, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I don’t have a problem with someone buying an item of clothing, making a pattern from it and creating copies for their own use. Returning the original item is another matter – a moral one. I feel that decision was dishonest and unethical.

She was already being frugal when she bought it on sale. She robbed the store of the profit that was entitled to. How would she feel about the situation if she was the shop owner – instead of the customer?

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47 Heather April 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Hi guys! I’m the same Heather who made the skirt. I’ve been amazed at all the comments. I haven’t returned the skirt as of yet, and I’ve given your comments a great deal of thought. I actually take ethics very seriously (majored in Philosophy – Ethics was my favorite class and am a regular church-goer). I would never return anything worn in any way. I believe that swapping tags at the store is nothing short of stealing. I worked in retail while going to school, so I am aware of return policies and sales commissions. I would never violate the return policy that specifies that the item be in new, unworn condition with tags attached. I agree with a previous poster that said that retail shops know and plan for a certain number of things to be returned. Things that are returned in new condition with tags and receipt are not considered losses at all. I actually bought the dress with the idea that I may return it if we found something we liked better. The store is close to my home or I wouldn’t have risked buying it without being sure of it. I probably could have come home and made the skirt without buying it. I usually sew without a pattern. That being said… I have decided to keep the skirt as the “price” of the pattern. Well, I may exchange it for the blue one. ;)

Other questions… I save pictures of interior spaces I like and recreate them on a budget. I did my master bedroom this way. I didn’t send the interior designer a commission and I even had Home Depot mix the Sherwin Williams color listed in their cheaper paint… Oh, the guilt…

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48 Katy April 17, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Heather,

Thank you so much for weighing in on “Skirt-Gate 2014.” ;-) And thank you to all commenters who were able to put forth their points of view in a kind and non-judgmental manner.

This blog and associated Facebook group has the most amazingly respectful members!

Mwah!

Katy

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49 JoDi April 17, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I’m in agreement with those who say it’s unethical to return to skirt after using it as a pattern to make your own so I’m glad you decided to keep it.

And your comparison of using photos as design inspiration isn’t even remotely similar. Now, if you said you bought a home design magazine, took pictures of the pages you liked so you could recreate the designs, and then returned the magazine for a refund, it would be similar to what you did with the skirt, and that would be unethical too.

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50 Megyn April 18, 2014 at 7:33 am

I’m going to be on the converse side and say return it! How many of the same skirts do you really need?! I would say not to keep it if it’s out of guilt. I can assure those concerned that Eddie Bauer employees are not working off commissions. Very few sales positions, especially in retail have commissions anymore. I worked at Victoria Secret where people thought we made commission, and we had sales goals we HAD to meet hourly. Yet, we made $7ish an hour and had to wear a suit. Even when cashiers ask who helped you, it’s usually not for commission, but so the company can track who is selling more and use it for their review. Usually it has little bearing on what they actually make. Also returning this single skirt to this monster business is surely unlikely to hurt the business, especially since it can be resold. In terms of time costs, there is very little for the business. Retail workers always have “go backs” and deal with returns. It’s really not that much more work in all honesty.

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51 Megg April 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

I don’t think it’s unethical at all. There are plenty of similar patterns online; this wouldn’t have been an issue if she’d used a pinterest link to make the same shirt. And I don’t think she robbed the store of a profit…someone else will likely buy the skirt. And yes, it’s on clearance, but I can only guess that the store is still going to make a profit, since it probably cost pennies to produce.

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52 Stacie April 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I loved that she found a skirt and found a way to make more for herself by sewing them. I guess my two cents is that this is Eddie Bauer we are talking about. They aren’t a small business that is selling one of a kind items. I used to manage a Bookstore and would have people want to return books that they had read but didn’t like how it ended, or that they got half way through and disliked the plot….
we did give them their money back if the books binding wasn’t broken or it wasn’t tattered and fell into the 10 day return time. I found that unethical, and yet my manager didn’t. I guess it doesn’t bother me that she returned it. Good discussion!!
Especially since she didn’t wear it and it had all the

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53 Lee April 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I have a tangentially related anecdote about clothes that have been returned: several years ago I bought a new pair of jeans (this was before I discovered non consumerism). When I put them on at home and put my hand in the pocket for the first time, I found — ta-da!– a $20 bill in there. So, not only were the jeans a return, but they’d clearly been worn at least once before being returned and re-tagged and sold as new. I actually didn’t have a problem with that, just as I wouldn’t have found anything wrong in Heather returning her skirt. It’s not our responsibility to keep huge multi-national corporations in business, after all.

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54 emmer April 18, 2014 at 6:07 am

i use canning jars in the freezer with a variety of goods. i leave the lid loose until the food has frozen, just in case i mis-judged the expansion space. probably saved me a few broken jars.

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55 Donna April 18, 2014 at 6:38 am

I think it’s creative to buy something and then attempt to re-create it for your own use. I wouldn’t return it. For me, living in a cold climate, I had to find boots my dog could wear in the snow. She has super sensitive paws. Found a set for about $20 that worked really well. Bought a variety of designs and materials. When I finally found a set that worked, we ended up going through two sets. Thought to self was “this is going to be expensive”. They were lasting about three to four weeks. I wish winter was that short. Studied the boot, realized that with some fleece and Velcro (what bought ones were made from) I could make my own. Like Heather I used one for a pattern, made some adjustments for my dogs foot and keep my girl in boots now all winter long. A yard of fleece ( in fun patterns) bought at wholesaler is half the price of a store bought set. Mine don’t fall off her feet when we walk and I’ve modified mine to two layers of fleece as that wears and lasts longer. My girl has warm happy feet, keeps the sand a salt off her feet and it’s a win win. Will admit that I have made more pairs for a friend whose dog was having trouble walking in the cold. People tell me I should make them and sell them but I just do it for me. Now if I could just quit buying funky fleece patterns for booties.

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56 Marie April 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

From what I know from knitting and such, a finished item isn’t copyright itself, but the pattern/instructions *are* – It’s why you can find cute clothes on ModCloth and then turn around and find the dress pattern from the original manufacturer (or, rather, something incredibly similar/very close) to make yourself. It’s why knitting pattern designers try to say “you can’t sell your finished product without my permission” but the threat is totally useless – I’m not reselling your instructions, I’m making a product based off your instructions using my own labor and materials that are not copyrighted by the designer.

And let’s face it – it isn’t like the skirt in question is something crazy innovative and new – it’s a basic skirt that is clearly easily able to be constructed with or without having it in front of you. One could easily draft their own pattern in the same shape.

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57 Heather N. April 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I have a problem with it. If she looked at the skirt in the store, searched the internet for instructions for knit maxi skirts (there are many tutorials) and then made the skirt I would not have a problem. It is the buy it, take it home, trace it and then plan on returning the original that I have a problem with. If she just kept the original and considered it the cost of the ‘pattern’ then I don’t see an issue.

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58 Lesley April 19, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with what Heather did: Heather, if you like the original, you could always keep it, but I don’t think you should have to if you don’t want it now.

The skirt is in brand new condition; someone like me who can’t sew will buy it, wear it, and love it. Meanwhile, the true problem with knock-offs is overseas, where bazillions of dresses, bags, shoes, etc are cheaply made by people making slave wages (if they’re making any wages at all, ugh!). Those goods are then passed off as “designer” here in the US.

That’s not ethical. But buying what is clearly a very simple skirt and making one just like it, and then returning the original in brand new condition with the tags attached–sorry, I can’t find the issue. Nobody even wore the skirt.

Katy, just to back you up: in Seattle (where Macklemore is apparently from) “popping” tags is switching them for lower-priced ones. Not ethical :)

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59 Katy April 19, 2014 at 9:52 pm

The Goodwills here in Portland have tear apart tags so they can’t be “popped.”

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60 Michelle April 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm

It’s that idea of using the store as a “lending library” and buying something with the intention of returning it later that rubs me the wrong way. Yes, the skirt was returned in new condition so that it could be resold — but the store lost the opportunity to sell it while it was at someone’s house being used as a pattern, and other customers who might have needed that size also lost the opportunity to buy it.

It didn’t hurt anything or anyone, but it’s not something I’d do myself.

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61 Pam April 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

I love your blog! I’m always so inspired by your commitment to frugality. Just “delurking” to say though that “popping tags” usually refers to prominently featuring labels – so I think Macklemore was referring to the fact that he could sport the brand labels without spending the non-thrift store price.

Also, clothing designs are not copyrightable since they are considered “useful objects” and therefore not protected by the Copyright office. Costumes may be copyrightable, but not always. It is definitely debatable whether this is the correct path, as the Copyright office treats a pair of Crocs the same as a couture gown in that respect. But “reverse engineering” a skirt in that manner would not infringe on any laws.

Signed,
An intellectual property attorney in Seattle :)

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62 Sarah July 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

All the pearl clutching over returning an unworn skirt with tags still on it to an outlet store is making me laugh. I realize this is an old post but seriously? No one on this thread has ever returned an unworn item of clothing? Give me a break. I have and would return a skirt I knew I wouldn’t wear. End of story. It’s not unethical so please unbunch your panties, ladies. And making a pattern of a non-descript, seen a thousand times before at fifty different shops, skirt using her eye and a tape measure then making it for she and her daughter’s own use? Meh, this is a total non-story. But the comments are pure comedy gold!

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