Worse Than No Clothes, The Emperor Has Crappy Clothes

by Katy on January 4, 2016 · 17 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

My week has been pleasantly busy, with tasks and outings related to hosting a 15-year-old Japanese speech contest winner. And Monday, after he presented his speech on Bushido: The Samurai Moral Code, we spent a few hours downtown, as the teenagers shopped and did some sightseeing. Now you, as regular readers, know that time spent shopping downtown is about as usual for me as inviting ChemLawn over for a spray-fest. But not wanting to start an international incident, I shepherded the kids around, even ushering them into the downtown mall. (I consider this to be my ticket to heaven, as it was an entirely selfless task!)

The one store they seemed most excited about was a large Swiss department store that sells everything from shoes to slutty underwear. The joint was hopping, with loud rock music, prominent displays featuring supermodels attired head to toe in their merchandise, and store personnel with edgy piercings and Crayola hued dye jobs.

In other words, fashionista heaven.

But a closer look at the merchandise revealed that everything in the store looked like crap. The jewelry appeared about the same as gumball machine stuff, the towering heels were constructed from vinyl-esque material, the clothing was made with really thin fabric and the seams all looked wonky. And yes, everything was made in China, not Switzerland.

So yes, crap.

I looked around at the crowd of weekday shoppers, yet everyone seemed to be enjoying the illusion. And the phrase “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” began to swirl through my head.

Then I started to think about the Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. The story of a King, duped into believing in clothing that is only visible to the worthy. In the story, no one except a small child has the cojones to inform the king of his rather, ahem . . . nude status. I wanted to run an intervention with the people standing in line or at least scream “Does anyone else notice that everything in here is a piece of crap?!”

But then I took a deep breath, waited patiently while the Japanese teenagers made their purchases and then took everyone down to the food court.

And that night, I had a glass of wine.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth January 5, 2016 at 12:48 am

You deserved the wine after a full day of that! 😉 Great blog! 🙂


Julia January 5, 2016 at 1:02 am

I don’t know why a Swedish store should sell things made in Switzerland… =)


AFS January 5, 2016 at 9:42 pm

Katy said “large Swiss department store”


Elise @ Simply Scaled Down January 5, 2016 at 5:21 am

I have a few sisters who fall into the “it’s on $10 trap” when it comes to clothes. It makes me want to beat my head against a wall. I understand that wearing used clothing isn’t for everyone (although I certainly do enjoy the perks), but at least spend your money on something that is ethically made and of good construction! SMH.


Mary January 5, 2016 at 5:37 am

I find that “everything is crap” in most of the stores in the mall……so, I stay out of the malls.


Jennifer January 5, 2016 at 8:11 am

All the stuff in the mall is overpriced whether it is crap or not! I never go to the mall, have not been since Christmas 2014. The only reason I went then was to pick up a free bath and body works candle.


Lorraine January 5, 2016 at 7:19 am

Great article… I missed it the first time you published it. Glad you reissued it. I can relate. I have grandchildren and when I’ve gone to the malls with them, I’ve experienced the same sensation. Total amazement that people are excited over such “crap.” It’s mind-boggling… Thanks again for putting your spin on it. Spot on….

Another observation – I had a friend stay with me for a couple days after Christmas. Her daughter was picking her up and the halfway point we agreed on was a large, high-end mall. It was New Year’s Day and even though the traffic on the highway was light – this mall was packed! The last thing on my mind on New Year’s Day was shopping. However, this mall had a Container Store and my friend wanted to look inside. I’ll admit, they have some great ideas – but sooooo much junk! They had 3 cash registers open and there were very long lines at each one. Needless to say, we just looked until the time we needed to meet her ride. I was more than ready to hit the road and head home.


Vickie January 5, 2016 at 9:19 am

You definitely deserved the wine!!!

My rare foray into the Mall is always for underwear at a specific store. The only retail store I have to control myself in is Sam’s, because I love buying certain foods in bulk. Other than that the Goodwill store or the Pawn shop can be dangerous, but I’ve quit going into those without a specific item in mind.
I am definitely not a shopping Queen.


tonya parham January 5, 2016 at 9:45 am

I’ve always hated the mall– even when I was a teenager back in the ’80s. Now, that might be because I never had much money or because I wasn’t a size 2 and couldn’t wear the clothes. Still, I’ve never gotten the attraction of malls with the exception of music and book stores. Especially the latter.

A few years ago, I went to Nashville (a two hour drive) to see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX and it was at the “new” Opry Mills Mall. Back years ago, Opryland was an amusement part with loads of great rides. They tore it down, though, and put up a mall. I’d refused to go for years but…Batman….not just Batman, Christian Bale Batman….*sigh* so I went.

And, you know what I learned? Since the music and publishing industries have changed(most music being bought online and many more ebooks, audiobooks, and books sold through online sellers), there really AREN’T any music stores or book stores to be had in the malls anymore! So, we spent an hour just walking around, finally spending the last 2o minutes before the film in a massage chair.

I had a fun time seeing the movie and getting a massage, but I just look at the mall and all those folks with a mixture of disdain and pity. I don’t get it. I never have. The movie was good, though!


Tracy January 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm

I was taking my son to the eye doctor who happens to have his office in our only mall. I rarely every go to the mall but this day I had messed up the appointment so I had time to kill so we went to the Sears right next to the office. It had recently become a Sears outlet so I was curious to see what the deals were. It turned out that they had purchased a lot of Target’s merchandise because Target went out of business here in Canada. I found so many great clothing deals for my kids ( most of them teens ) so having new items with tags on them is a big deal to them. I could not get the items for cheaper at the thrift stores. I made about four trips to the store over the month and every time I went the discount bin had better deals. It started at 3.99 an item and by the end of the month it was five items for ten dollars so 2.00 an item and I got brand name stuff levis, eddy bower, forever young. Needless to say that my kids were very happy with their gifts and they think mom spent a fortune.
That said I would agree that almost everything in the mall is over priced and poorly made.

I just returned a pair of buffalo jeans I had purchased my daughter at Costco in September they cost 20 dollars so when they tore in the butt for no reason I returned them. 4 months for a pair of jeans worn maybe 7 times by a girl, no way, Costco was great about returning them, but just goes to show that the quality is not there any more.


JD January 5, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I hadn’t been in the mall in…. well, I don’t know how long, but I was searching for some toddler dresses and was striking out everywhere, thrift stores included. I couldn’t find anything I liked. I finally sighed and went to the mall to find there was nothing there I liked, either! I couldn’t believe how little I found to attract me as I walked through the women’s or men’s departments on my way to the kids’ departments. And the kids’ departments had pitiful selections — for example, a free-standing rack with four arms would hold about two dozen each of a single style of a pair of leggings, a single style of top, a single style of frilly skirt, and a single style of sweater, and almost invariably, the items on one of those four arms would not coordinate with the items on the other three arms, making me wonder why they were hung on the same rack with the others. And it’s ALL made in China. I finally went online and bought a few toddler dresses on Thredup.


K D January 5, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I like having a smaller wardrobe of clothes that are not trendy and will not look worn out after being worn and washed a few times. It does not bother me to wear the same things over and over again. The only pair of dressy pants I own were purchased ten years ago. I sometimes snag my daughter’s give-aways. Going to the mall gives me a headache.

I dislike all the plastic junk they sell these days. Most of my kitchen stuff is 20-30 years old and I think it all works fine: Chicago Cutlery knives can be sharpened, the Kitchen-Aid mixer was probably made in America, Farberware cookware may not be sexy but it works fine. I don’t consider new to always be progress.

Thank you for re-running this Katy. I don’t remember this but I’m sure I was reading your blog back then.

I feel like there is such a disconnect between what people think they believe and their actions (e.g. they are concerned about global warming/climate change but consume like there is no tomorrow, they believe the solution is somebody else’s problem).

I will get off my soapbox now.


Frugal in the Valley January 5, 2016 at 3:38 pm

I like your soap box, you are spot on.


Frugal in the Valley January 5, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Oh well done you! I hear your pain. Last week when I had to martyr myself and take my 12 year old into town (to see if she could spend any of her Christmas money) I felt the same thing. Everything looked cheap and tawdry! Everything! Ironically, with the exception of one item (something Freddy Krueger based) she said the same thing and we came home with almost all her money. Great post.


Ruby January 6, 2016 at 11:04 am

I realized the other day that I haven’t shopped in a mall in over a decade for anything other than appliances or tools at Sears.


Karen January 6, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Since I read your blog faithfully I tend to think people think like us. I was telling my husband I thought people were living simpler lives buying less.

About a week later, Christmas time, we were driving past our local mall and got stuck in traffic. My husband said and you were saying what last week.

I felt a little stupid but mostly sad.


tonya parham January 7, 2016 at 2:34 pm

I think I fall into that trap too, thinking more people are living simply but when me and my spouse were discussing our bills we got to talking about our friends and realized that while we talked about how “we don’t have that much money left at the end of the month” we have savings we add to but that our friends who have “about the same income” are “always spending money going out” and” how that they do that and we can’t?”

I was nice to realize ours was going into savings. Sad to realize that they have no cushion.


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