There are light years of difference between serious designer clothing and the stuff we buy in malls, hence the vast differences in affordability. It’s the same gulf that resides between mayonnaisey hotel paintings that chimps could be trained to create with a spatula, and the stuff in the permanent collection at the Met. If you squint really hard, the high-end stuff and low-end stuff can look fairly similar, but the fundamental difference is in the artistic energy invested in the garment or the painting itself. Bad art won’t revive your soul.
You don’t have to own monstrously beautiful, prohibitively expensive Oscar de la Renta garments any more than you need to own a genuine Kandinsky. But your life can generally be improved just by knowing such gorgeous stuff exists. That Keats guy said it: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
To read the entire (excellent) article, go here http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/fashion/20CRITIC.html