In 2008 dollars, a basic Brooks Brothers suit cost $788 in 1998 and costs $598 in 2008. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.
(p. E1) As luxury fashion has become more expensive, mainstream apparel has become markedly less so. Today, shoppers pay the same price for a basic Brooks Brothers men’s suit, $598, as they did in 1998. The suggested retail price of a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans, $46, is about $4 less than it was a decade ago. A three-pack of Calvin Klein men’s briefs costs $21.50, only $3.50 more than in 1998. Which is the better buy?
Factoring for inflation, each of these examples is actually less expensive today. In current dollars, the 1998 suit would cost $788, the jeans would be $66 and the underwear would be nearly $24.
. . .
(p. E9) Anyone who has spent time walking along 34th Street in Manhattan recently, from Kmart to Macy’s to Forever 21 and H&M, would think that the economic outlook is rosy. Shoppers there are still laden with bags from Payless and Victoria’s Secret, and several said they perceived fashion to be a better buy, with more variety and style at lower prices, than a decade ago.
“You can buy a lot more with your money today than before,” said Joanna Eliza, a recent graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology, shopping on 34th Street on Tuesday. “Stores like H&M and Forever 21 make it more affordable for people who want to be fashionable, and that makes me feel really good.”
Over all, apparel prices have gone down primarily because of two factors: the overwhelming movement of manufacturing to countries with cheaper labor, where the clothes are made, and increased competition between traditional retailers and discounters, where the clothes are sold.
In some cases, the low prices today seem almost ridiculous. Steve & Barry’s sells celebrity-branded shoes and dresses for $8.98 or less. Target offers a silk faille ball gown from Isaac Mizrahi on sale for $129.99. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, promotes an Op T-shirt for 97 cents.
For the full story, see:
ERIC WILSON. “Dress for Less and Less.” The New York Times (Thurs., May 29, 2008): E1 & E9.
(Note: ellipsis added.)