A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column in support of our valley clothing retailers. I said many stores that carry quality clothing were going out of business due because people are no longer wearing nice clothes. Amazing responses came in. I want to share:

The most amazing response came from men who cheered. While there was a range of comments or complaints, one point came through loud and clear — they believe department store clothing is a rip-off due to high prices. They want them out of business.

More than once I was told we should all be happy just shopping at Deseret Industries and Savers. Somewhere along the line, they missed the lesson that someone has to buy nice clothing in order for there to be anything available to give to Deseret Industries and Savers. People who buy and wear nice clothes take them to Deseret Industries when they no longer fit so others can benefit.

Americans used to budget 6-11 percent of their income for clothing. What do we budget now? Nothing. What happened? People used to value their clothing.

It took a fascinating visit to a history museum in Atlanta, Ga., to really clue me in. I toured a restored mansion and modest farmhouse. In the garden cotton was growing. In the houses there were spinning wheels for making thread and yarn and looms for weaving cloth.

The people in the farmhouse hand-stitched their clothes. The people in the mansion had sewing machines to sew their clothes. No wonder they valued their clothing.

People in the "olden days" didn't have discount stores or Deseret Industries. They worked hard to make their clothes, didn't have many, and took care of what they had. Today, we can get a cheap shirt for $3 and pants for $6 that may meet the need, but the clothes won't fit well or last very long.

Unless we're willing to sow the cotton, hoe the cotton, harvest the cotton, clean the cotton, spin the thread, weave the cloth, design the garment and draft the pattern, cut the cloth, sew the cloth and press, pack and ship the clothes to market — not to mention pay the rent for space to show the clothes and a clerk to sell the clothes — then we need to allocate some portion in our budgets for someone else to do all that work.

So where is the money for clothing going? It's getting spent on eating out. In the process we're gaining weight so we won't buy any nice clothes. Records show we'll drop $50-$500 on scrapbooking materials and go into debt for a fancy SUV but wait for "hand-me-around" clothes.

Now, I'm not suggesting we stop eating out, but most of us need to eat less. I recently outfitted a family of four for the price of one dinner out and had money left over. So don't be afraid to get better acquainted with local clothing stores. Now is a terrific time to explore the sales in department stores and chain stores.

By January, we're into second and third mark-downs on some very nice clothes! I made the rounds and found tops of all types for $9.99-$19.99. I found pants for $9.99- $14.99. There are dresses at $29, sweaters from $8-$24, and dresses at $24.99-$39.99.

Find the stores that want to work with you. For example, I had bought a couple of items at the first mark-down price. In the same store with a client two weeks later, I found the same items at 70 percent off. After I'd picked out three special items I decided to buy at sale price, I approached the clerk. I told her what I paid just two weeks ago and she gave me the price adjustment toward my new items.

In total, I paid $39.36 for three beautiful pieces of clothing in wonderful fabric, construction and fit. That's a ridiculous price and so fun to have happen to you. One of those pieces is a velvet jacket I'll wear at holiday time for the rest of my life.

It can happen to you if you plan to make it happen. Allocate your money. Know what's available in your local stores. Choose carefully and get casual trend items at the box stores and discount stores. Save and allow yourself to shop at department and chain stores when prices work for you.

Judith Rasband is director of the Conselle Institute of Image Management and author of numerous publications on dress and image. Contact her at 801-224-1207 or [email protected]. For related image information, visit www.conselle.com and www.LDSImageIntegrity.info.