The Best

A Subtle Gamecock Refashion
Leftover Dye? Give This a Try!

I gave up cable years ago.  It was after I realized I had just spent the previous 6 hours of my life deeply engrossed in a Rock of Love marathon on VH1.

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Bret Michaels taught us all so much about love, bandanas, and spandex.

I replaced cable with a (then) new device called the Roku Player where I’ve been streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime ever since. The other day, I turned on my trusty Roku and saw an ad encouraging me to upgrade to their newest version.  “You deserve the best.” the ad proclaimed.

As a writer, I hate ads like this.  They make no sense.  The good folks at Roku have no idea what I deserve.  I could actually be a pretty terrible person who deserves nothing more than a life of misery with absolutely no video streaming services whatsoever.

You see this type of advertising everywhere.

“You’re worth it!”

“Don’t settle for less!”

“Because she deserves the best!”

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…or perhaps you’re just a narcissist who easily falls for marketing ploys.

The problem is, the things we’re constantly being told we need to purchase are rarely “The Best”.

I remember a conversation with a friend and her husband wherein she mentioned she was going to a formal event and didn’t have anything to wear.  I offered to let her peruse my sizeable collection of vintage formalwear I’ve acquired over the years to borrow something.

“No.  You don’t need to wear something used.  Take my card and buy something,” he said arching his eyebrows at me, “She deserves the best.”

This guy who had no idea what a princess seam, heirloom stitiches, or fortuny-pleated silk was – or why these and other details are almost impossible to find in modern formalwear – had some nerve.  His wife happily hopped off to the mall for a mass-produced gown from China.

We don’t seem to really know what “the best” is anymore.

For something to be “the best”, it is of the finest quality.  It is durable and timeless.  It is something that will be valued for years to come.

This is why we got giddy when we discovered a set of hand-blown martini glasses in a junk shop for $25.  We could have easily bought a set new, but it wouldn’t be “the best.” When we found a few pairs of mid-century cufflinks for him, we were equally excited. My thrifted $3 Dooney & Bourke handbag is durable, beautiful, and of better quality than its newer counterparts. And you should see how stoked I get when I see a handmade 60’s wiggle dress in my thrifting adventures.

Seriously. $3.
Seriously. $3.

I’m not buying a new Roku player, because I like mine just fine.  It still serves its function remarkably well.  My 1970’s food processor with its fake wood paneling is still pretty great too.

I don’t suppose I “deserve” any less than anyone else, but I don’t have to validate my self-worth with something new that I don’t need.

What does “the best” mean to you?

4.8 (96.4%) 150 votes

83 thoughts on “The Best

  1. The Best is to find a passion niche, as I have done with refashioning clothes thanks entirely to your example. It has given my leisure time new meaning. One of The Best refashionista posts you ever did was making men’s XXL trousers into a skirt – please can you link me to that post – I can’t find it and want to give that idea a whirl.

  2. I’m sooooo with you on this one. As long as we continue to equate “the best” with “the newest,” per capita debt will continue its alarming climb. I’ve been enjoying your blog for about a year (and I’ve read all your posts, right from the beginning). Thanks so much for keeping it up.

  3. I’ve been following your blog for a while because I’ve just recently gotten into sewing and I love seeing the way you up cycle things, but I love, love, love this post!

  4. She really should have taken you up on your offer! I bet she would have found a one of a kind in your closet! Does she not know you? I totally agree with you about “the best”. Keep it up!

  5. ‘the best’ to me means to do my best, to strive to be perfect and although I never will be I still want to be the woman who tried her best and gave her all to each and every creation I make. I don’t need false advertising and personally I would prefer to find a beautiful detailed dress that fits me and looks fabulous.
    It doesn’t mean that it has to be new, if it’s new to me then I’m a happy bunny and it’s always fun to think I wonder what and where the lady who last wore/used this did with it and where did she go and what were those parties and feelings. Everyone tries to hard to get the new because they think it’s the best – it should me more about quality and not newness. Right I’m off my soap box now Karen x

  6. I absolutely love this article. Too often in our ‘newer is better’ culture we forget this simple truth, and I love getting reaffirmations like this one. Thank you for sharing!
    -kat

  7. I geek out when I find a handmade item on my thrifting adventures. To me those are “the best.” Even if the item has an wonky stitch or two, you know that person made it with their best intentions and work they could do (at that time).

  8. Standing applause!! Yes! One of the reasons so many people are in a financial mess is that they’ve bought into this “more $ = better” mind trap. Sometimes the best things really are free (or thrifted). You get it. This is one of the reasons I love your blog!

  9. Amen Sista!!! The best to me is getting the big picture. How is this purchase effecting the environment and the people that make it? Buying/ thrifting quality items that go the long haul is best!

  10. I’m with you, Jillian. Quality, not price, is the “best”. Wish I had a pal who offered me a choice of vintage evening wear-never mind that I could be sure I wouldn’t run into someone wearing what I bought from a mass produced dresses department!

  11. I had 30k in credit card debt when I got married because “I deserved the best.” And when I became a stay at home mom, my children go” the best.” But then times changed and the purse strings tightened and then closed completely. I started going to thrift shops and I found it so satisfying- more than any trip to the mall could provide. It was the hunt, the kill, and then the figurative mounting on the wall. I have hundreds of dollars of designer clothes that I spent next to nothing on. My boys dress in name brands, but only because someone else’s kid wore it once and decided that didn’t want it. Thank you kid!! We’re now back to making well into the 6 figures again and I can shop a little more freely. I love my Coach bags (50% off coupons!!) But I still love my thrift shop finds. And that Donna Karan dress I have? Just a dirty little secret of mine;)

  12. I love the question! To me it doesn’t mean the most expensive or brand new. I look for things of quality that will last or do what I need it to do without a lot of fluff. I do have a soft spot for vintage kitchen wares but again I pick up only what makes me happy and I have room for.
    I’ve enjoyed your blog for years (I think I found you right after you started to blog) because I love your creative process, funny comments and how to make each piece your own.
    My daughter, who a few years ago would never even think of wearing anything from a thrift shop it totally in love with your blog! Plans are in the works to get a sewing machine and give it a whirl.
    Thank you for sharing!

  13. What the best means to me is quality in form, fit, and most importantly function. “New” is nowhere in that meaning. It might be, don’t get me wrong – especially with technological advances that improve my life. Wonderful post and in the same vain as Seth Godin. If you haven’t read any of his blog posts, please read at least one (you’ll be hooked).

  14. The best is what works best for me. I love my 50s wooden handled hot cake turner, potato masher, food strainer, etc. I’m still using the microwave my parents gave me for graduation in 1985. Things definitely don’t have to be brand new to be the best! Great article.

  15. Amen, sister. I am learning to sew, and it makes me realize how shoddily most clothing is now made. I realize this is partly because many things are not manufactured in America anymore and materials and labor are cheap and not valued (that’s another rant for another day), but it also makes me realize how WELL made and high quality vintage clothing (and the cloth it’s made from) is.

  16. Everything You Own, Owns a Little Bit Of You. You must find a place for it, or dust it or clean it, etc. The Best to me is spending fun and quality time with loved relatives and friends. Everything else is relegated to Second Best for me.

  17. J. O., Thank you for being such an inspiration in both, looking great in stylish clothes and saving money at the same time. Perhaps as a result of my early life humble beginnings, I used to think that thrift shopping was “below me” until I came across your blog recently, which completely changed my outlook on thrift shopping, wearing used clothing and dressing up in general. I agree that the most expensive and most popular things in life may not always be the best. Inspired by your blog, I’ve been looking over several store sites like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, to come up with ideas for my refashions and a lot of that clothing seems like it could be easily reproduced for pennies on the dollar yet it would be entirely (well almost entirely) the creation of my handy work AND your inspiration yet look unique because no one else will have the same piece. Thank you for keeping up with this blog through thick and thin for such a long time! You really are an inspiration and example for many women and perhaps some men! :)

  18. Jillian, I don’t know how old you are but you have learned one of life’s most important lessons much earlier than I did. It took my sons’ debilitating illness for me to realize what “the best” looks like. A day with no seizures, not trips to the hospital, no frantic phone calls from his school. Those are the best. “Things” don’t mean much……..

  19. Yes! My daughter will, someday I hope, treasure the American Girl doll clothes I made for her out of her too small clothes, and bed skirts picked up for half off at Goodwill. More so than anything mass produced.

    All of my belly dance clothes are hand made, either by me or an individual who does all the work herself. I can proudly say, and impress people, that every sequin on my dance bras are sewn on by me! And I know they’ll stay on because I did it. Nearly all of my dance sisters and I refashion things from Goodwill. We’re always trying to one-up each other! LOL

    My next challenge, once I have all the pieces collected, will be to make an 1880’s Polonaise walking outfit, the skirt is all ruffles, using an authentic historical pattern, and all the ruffled bed skirts, remnants picked up at garage sales, fabric stores, and thrift stores that I’ve been gathering for years. My husband is always “grounding” me from adding to my collection until I’ve used what I have. If only he understood! LOL

  20. I love this! Not sure how I’d definte “the best” – but speaking of bad advertising – there is a mall near us, and the billboard for it reads “Find the Urge to Splurge” – ugh! Drives me crazy. People are getting more and more materialistic. People can’t pay for their kids lunches but can pay hundreds of dollars each month for smartphones and expensive cable. I don’t think they need to find the urge to splurge, I think it’s already taken over most people’s lives! But in all fairness, I am far from perfect and do make occasional splurges :)

  21. I absolutely agree with you. And am so happy you have found a man that has the same mindset. The two of you can actually have a good time shopping together, which is more than most relationships can say.

  22. Awesome post! The best for me is something preloved (my only new things are socks and underwear, by choice, not necessity), that makes me feel great when I wear it.
    It’s fabulous having a partner who shares your outlook – it makes travelling your path so much more fun.

  23. I have been a reader for years and years and have never commented, but I just wanted to say how much I loved how eloquently you put into words what I feel almost all the time. We definitely live in a society where the newest and greatest are the trend, but why throw something away that works perfectly well? All your posts are great, but this one really struck a cord, so thanks :)

  24. Good share! I struggle with feeling like I deserve “the best”. And yes I got rid of my cable as well. Netflix and Amazon prime are plenty of TV for me. I did get one of those external antennas for the local channels. Surprisingly I get so many more channels than I expected. Keep up the good work.

  25. I had a 1970s food processor. It was the best!!!

    Lately the best is simply what I want. I am working on my family to get rid of cable. I love used and vintage items. Most of our furniture and art we made. I adore it. I am working on a sink made from old wood and a metal bucket. My husband wonders about me but it always turns out super cool.

  26. I am so in love with this post. This is like, everything I’ve wanted to say to people who think that just because it is expensive and new, it is automatically better than anything else out there. For me, the best is handmade clothing. To take a piece of cloth and transform it into exactly what you want is the absolute best.

    Thank you for your constant inspiration. Also, that Dooney & Bourke is amazing… and such a steal!

  27. Bonjour !!!! Je préfère être qu’avoir !!! Donc, peut importe les marques de vêtements, de sacs ou de chaussures …. Ton article m’a énormément plu !!!! ” The Best “, pour moi, est d’être en harmonie avec mes convictions, respect, partage, communication et amour/ amitié.

  28. I hate the concept of using something ONCE. When I got married I got a vintage dress, and it was a big chunk of change. I know I could of bought it for half the price on ebay, but it was really nice to try on various dresses in person (went to Millcrest Vintage in NJ) I would of felt VERY weird buying a dress for the wedding and not wear it again. New dresses cycle really fast so I was reading reviews saying if you want to sell your wedding dress you need to list it asap! Plus they were usually cheap materials and I am a little bit of a snob with quality.

    Aside from quality, styles and cultural changes make things “the best.” I started to really get into cocktails, and I have to pretty much buy all vintage. Why? Because new cocktail glasses are huge! You can buy smaller ones but they tend to be boring and sold in wholesale restaurant supply shops. I have a huge martini glass and my drinks look so tiny! Even if I plan on drinking three drinks for the whole evening (which can fit in one martini glass), it would get too warm overtime. Better to make several batches.

  29. No one gets more excited then when I introduce someone to the many thrift stores in my area. Many people donate very high quality clothing, shoes, handbags that beg to be taken home at a smidgen of the original cost. Remaking or repairing has been very therapeutic and cost saving for me and I never run out of comments on the quality of my designs and goodies. I love an old good Coach 100%leather bag and have the stash to prove it. Lol. Keep up the high quality of your posts and remakes.

  30. Well said! “The best” seems to equate with newer these days. The turnover of electronics and fashion for the latest model, style etc is just ridiculous. I simply love it when my children find a bargain in the thift store and are thrilled with it! My pre teen son loves to find surf gear and name brands for only a few bucks a piece. And he understands that the money saved goes towards his education or his sports, as well as wearing unique gear that noone else has at that time. I have a gorgeous teal blouse that I get lots of comments on and when I tell people its a $2 thift store bargain i get one of two reactions. Either they are stoked for me finding such a cool item and such a great fit or they are disgusted and curl their lip in disdain and tell me how they cannot stand the thought of wearing someone elses cast offs. Either way i reiterate how glad I am to have found such a great top, so unique as i have not seen another quite like it, and how I love a bargain!

  31. You can’t top tailored dresses, or suits from the past. Where I work we have an 1881 skirt and top of dark blue velvet that has impeccable tailoring. I show it to people to help them understand what is so special about this outfit. I turn up the hem to see the pleated protective underskirt, I open the top to see all the hand tailoring to make it fit whoever it was made for. I love finding a well made anything.

  32. When it comes to clothes, “the best” for me is something that fits my shape, is flattering, doesn’t make me feel frumpy and doesn’t pull, tug, gape, cling or otherwise act in a way that makes me conscious of what I’m wearing the whole time I’m wearing it. Sometimes that item is an expensive dress, other times it cost me $5 at a second hand shop. But almost always the item has been of a good brand, with no compromise on fabric or stitching or structure. Quality is about so much more than new and on trend, and mass produced $8 off the rack garments never make me feel that way.

  33. The Best means quality and it has nothing to do with marketing hype. I am so with you on this one. Love your thrift store handbag and your refashions. You rock!

  34. We seldom buy new furniture. Older furniture is much better made. We also frequent thrift stores, Goodwills, the Salvation Army… well, you get the idea. We feel that the best is what makes us happy-time spent together finding bargains, putting together unique outfits, finding the odd piece that looks good in our house. That’s the best!

  35. To me, the best is always something that I or someone I know has had a hand in making. It’s unique, it has character, and most of all it shows a love and passion for creativity. Just this morning I altered a thrifted skirt to fit me better and to suit my style. It’s got beautiful fall colours and I imagine I’ll be reaching for it all winter (with tights of course, otherwise I’ll freeze up here in BC in November). I’ve been wearing it all day and I absolutely love it. My most worn pieces are probably 90% thirifted and altered/refashioned. They’re always things that no one else will have. That’s the best, that’s what makes me happy.

  36. I love when I see something in a thrift store that I remembered wanting years ago from a full-price store, but couldn’t stomach the price tag. Alas, here it is, right in front of me, for only a few dollars… and still in style ’cause I’ve always liked the classics! :)

  37. I love this post! Thank you so much for addressing our consumerish ideals. I love thrifting. I can afford anything I want new but the hunt makes it so much more fun. Knowing that I am giving something a new life makes me smile. Keeping things out of the landfill fills me with pleasure. And yes, vintage items are frequently of much higher quality than now. We are going to an Octoberfest shindig and the group I’m going with is dressing up. We went to a costume shop where I tried on various outfits made of the worst polyester with terrible trim, finsh and fit. The cheapest one was $70.00. I marched into a thrift store bought and almost new duvet cover and a sheet with eyelet trim and I will be making myself a SLAMMIN’ dirndl outfit.

  38. Well, you’re preaching to the choir! Almost all my wardrobe acquired in the last few years has been thrifted and often say I’m dressing better since then.You’ve inspired to refashion a bit, though the sleeveless arm doesn’t suit me and limits my modifications.
    My husband doesn’t like my telling folks; I’ve stopped unless asked. I think it’s ego that keeps some out of thrifts. More for us!

  39. To me, the best is what ever brings me joy. It may be a 50 cent book that I find at a yardsale or it may be an expensive trip to see grandchildren who live across the ocean. The best are the people, places, and things that give us purpose and joy.

  40. I totally agree with you Jillian! This is why I spend hours in thrift shops. Unfortunately here in Italy it’s difficult to find old clothes at a low price, but I’m always searching.
    I’m also attending sewing classes this month, so I’m going to sew my own clothes (simple pieces of course :) ). New clothes: you will be left in shops! :))

  41. I’ve read all of your posts and this is my favorite ever! I was watching Antique Roadshow the other day and thought, “what do me make anymore that someone would find and be so excited 50, 100 years later to find?” Nothing. Most of what we make today is junk. Cheaply made and not build to last. My moms crockpot from the 70’s is better than any $200 one they have in stores now. I wish we’d move back to quality. Buying things you need and use, less junk. Girl, you don’t deserve the best, YOU ARE THE BEST! And I would’ve opted for your vintage collection any day!!!

  42. I totally agree. My Step-Mum often confuses “the most expensive” with the best. She says she doesn’t like food from the (Cheap) supermarket I used but when she eats it she always enjoys her meal. She buys lots of designer clothes for my daughter in america cos that is cheeper than in the uk, but she will only get new. Where I can find the same stuff in nearly new on eBay for less. The best is often the cheapest when buying new these days in my opinion. And though the oldest does not always mean the best it does often mean the most reliable and I doesn’t often replace things until I need to. Most of the toys that my kids have had recently are the ones me and my brother played with when we were their age but toys bought new for them seem to last about 5 minutes and are 5 times more expensive. than they ever used to be.

  43. As many stated here, the best is what you love. Nothing to do with new or used. I never go to the mall, because I’d much rather find a treasure at one of many consignment or thrift stores here in Florida that are a treasure trove for thrifters like me who enjoy the hunt. And wonder where in the world something was purchased. Which brings me to the point – the older things, even from common brands like Carlos Santana/Jessica Simpson/Coach, etc, USED to be made well, and if they were shoes, they were made of leather. NOW, everything, including everyone’s beloved Michael Kors, is made in China. And it’s not leather either! Seriously – WHY do you want to pay all that money for something made in China? Find something by those designers from years past and you will see the difference, it’s HUGE. And your friend? OMG – a chance to borrow something vintage of yours and she turned away that chance? How extremely silly. This post obviously resonated with so many of us Jillian. New is not always better. And certainly not better for the environment. Happy you have a new man in your life that appreciates your sensibility and love for fashion. Well done Jillian – I always look forward to your posts. from Ali in Tampa, FL

  44. I love thrifting and have found some great stuff by checking my favorite places regularly; like a Fossil bag for $3. But I wish I had your vision for clothes!
    As far as the ‘you deserve the best’ ploy, I’m with you. New stuff has a timed obsolescence and you can count on it breaking down right after the warranty is up if it had one at all!! And I also have a Roku and hope to eventually trash cable altogether. (We dropped to basic) And absolutely quality is NOT part of most manufacturing processes today. I love the quality vintage stuff that was made to last a lifetime and beyond!!
    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  45. THE BEST is not measured by how new it is but rather how well is serves OUR need. For instance, I’ve had second hand garments that were amazing and brand new ones that fell apart. I do deserve the best, but I think I should be able to decide what that is. Bigger price tag does not mean better product.

  46. Go you! So many people have such a messed up perspective on what is important. I love hearing about folks who truly get it. Recently I read an article written by a gal who suddenly had an epiphany about possessions while cleaning out her deceased father’s apartment. I wish everyone would look at it that way.

    Drooling over your Dooney $3 find. I found a brand new one at a thrift store but it wasn’t THAT cheap!

  47. I will say this about Roku: if you can, go ahead and get the newer model. I’ve had a few Rokus over the years. My oldest one (no longer the SP one, which I gave away, but the oldest HD, which would now be the most basic) takes longer to load than the 3. I have the oldest in the living room, a 2 in my kid’s room (teenager who has friends over and they sometimes watch movies in her room) and I have a 3 in my bedroom. The picture is clearer, it errors less, updates more often than before and it loads fast-really fast. My oldest model takes a few minutes to load from the start page while the 3 takes maybe 30 seconds. The remote also works better than the older ones and even includes buttons that you can push to go directly to Netflix and Amazon without going through the menu. It’s nicer and I do like it.

    (For the record: we don’t have cable. We use Roku with a number of channels, both from the store and private, and a Mohu Leaf antenna for our over the air signal. The Leafs are paper thin. I live about an hour from Kansas City and I currently receive 38 over the air channels on the Leaf so between the two we have more than enough to satisfy our viewing interests, though I go back and forth with upgrading the Dramafever channel or subscribing to Acorn. Right now I’m too cheap.)

    Anyway, get the upgrade and you’ll see the difference in the picture but don’t get it yet-the 4 is due on the market in the next year which will drop the 3 at least $20 in price.

  48. oooo, how I agree with you.
    I hear a lot about “the best” regarding child rearing, soo many parent mix up “the best” with “all”, and giving your kids all, doesnt mean, giving them the best, it means just loading them with stuff and that is certainly not good for kids if you want the best for them now and in in their future. the best is your love, your values, etc, most of times, the best is invisible.
    thanks for your post, i really like it and showed a little more about you.

  49. I know what you mean. This is why I hate that my cell phone company keeps trying to get me to go with their new plan where I rent my phone from them and just get to turn it in for a new one every 2 years. I tend to get attached to my things and if my phone is working just fine and doing everything I want, then I don’t need a new one!

  50. OMG, Girl, I totally know what you mean about not finding quality clothes out there. Even the expensive high end brands are shoddily made nowadays. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to places like Nordstrom or Saks and see some really crappily put together clothes. I mean if I’m going to pay that kind of money for something, at least make sure the patterns are properly lined up! And the seams are well made. There are other high end things that just aren’t well made. The person is only paying for a name and the quality is just not there. That is one of my greatest pet peeves.

  51. So well said! I agree! The best is whatever brings me joy. Glad to hear about the new fella; he sounds like one sensible guy :)

  52. Jillian, you bring so much awareness to those around you. Your blog about refashioning made me feel that I could refashion, and refashion something to be proud of. This article gave me awareness too.

    I don’t watch tv often but yesterday during a commercial, I wasn’t paying much attention until the claim at the end, “you deserve the best!” I laughed to myself, thinking about your statement “…have no idea what I deserve.” which was so true–I don’t even like that kind of burger :)

  53. Vintage always means the best to me. If something can live that long and still look that good it must be of high quality and If I do get something new I use it for the life of the idem. I use phones computers TV’s until they die not until they are old. I save my money that way giving me more to spend on quality antiques.

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