Privilege Blog

5 Good-Looking Products At 5 Very Nice Prices

Let’s talk about good taste.

We know it’s not the same as money. Expensive tastelessness is everywhere. However, finding the inexpensive tasteful can take a little work.

Advanced tasteful in particular. First level, raise-no-eyebrows style, like a plain white toaster, gray tee, or black and white photograph of your kids is pretty easy to come by. Hard to go wrong. But advanced tasteful relies on the elusive click of good design. Something in material, the shape, the color, or all of the above, makes you suck in your breath and say, “Nice.”

These nice goods, when done in a distinctly Anglo-Saxon style, are what my mother calls “good-looking.” As in, “Dear, that’s really good-looking.” To be sure, there are other kinds of good taste than the good-looking. It’s possible to have good taste in the ornate, the gothic, the punk, the hand-crafted, the mid-century. Just not for your garden variety Sturdy Gal. And, luckily for fading family fortunes, one can find the good-looking at good prices. For example, this glass pitcher and glasses from Target. $25.79.

Why is this good-looking? The pitcher’s insouciant lip and rolled base, coupled with practical short-stemmed glasses. Glass. Almost anything looks better in glass. Let’s not even get started on plates. From Finland, in particular.

How about these peridot earrings from Walmart? $49.

Made so by precious and semi-precious metals and stones in a classic circle, set off by dissonant color. Worn by a dark-haired brunette, with a navy dress, or white button front shirt, yes. Worn with careless pastels, perhaps less so. Good-looking low cost items often require constraints where the high-priced goods and their extraordinary materials of construction need none.

My mother would appreciate this cashmere sweater from Bluefly. $73.99. It’s yellow and gray, an unusual color combination, just ‘off ‘enough to avoid bumblebee implications. Stripes are always a cheat sheet for “good-looking.” Close to the body for shape, cabling for texture, buttons up the neckline for whimsy*. Cashmere for, well, cashmere.

What about this cropped twill motorcycle jacket from Old Navy? $39.50.

OK. Confession. My mother just might not call this good-looking. Anything James Dean wore is probably excluded. But I, a generation later, can use the term with impunity. And shall. In gray, we thumb our noses at orthodox black jackets. Without causing any sort of stir. I might wear this with a pair of Converse and dark wash jeans. And pearl studs, just to make clear I haven’t forgotten myself.

Even better if the good-looking supports your values. Witness this stainless lunch carrier from To-Go Wear, $24.95, and their reusable utensils, $11.95.
All these goods share simple but harmonious proportions, authentic materials (authentic gold or authentic stainless, doesn’t matter), a striking but dignified surface, texture or color, and, do not forget, useability. We’re still sturdy, after all. Things should do a good job, just like people.

I’ve mostly avoided the words “good taste,” until now. They are the unspoken creed, a muttered spell of the High WASP secret society. We meet in the ivy-covered cottage out back of the main house. Lord, ivy smells dreadful. At night. With gin. Now, gin, gin smells pretty good. Especially if you find yourself some Junipero.

We used to think we were better than everyone else. But now we know, the good-looking is only good looking. The good itself is something else altogether. And we have to remind ourselves of this every single day.

*The buttons might just take this shirt over the edge into contrived territory. We’d have to see it in person to know.

Carolina pitcher and glasses via Target
Peridot earrings via Walmart
Cullen cashmere Henley via Bluefly
Twill motorcycle jacket via Old Navy
Reusable bamboo utensils via Amazon
Stainless steel lunch carrier via Amazon

There is no monetary or compensatory association for any of these items.

31 Responses

  1. Olde monied people exude good taste…
    the nouveau riche have no taste…
    and there's no accounting for taste…
    all things my mother used to say!

    "Good looking" products Lisa…and found in unusual retail outlets.
    Great sleuthing.

  2. My birthstone is peridot. I've always thought of it as emerald's wanna-be jealous cousin in the shadows, and rarely have I found anything in it worth wearing. Thank you for the for the surprising mention.

    I just might pick up myself a stocking stuffer for christmas. (yes, I even purchase my own gifts, ocd much?) Delightful post, as always.

    1. SouthernProletariat, I’m a fellow Peridot queen and feel the exact same way! Thanks Lisa, for showing us the possibilities

  3. Love all of these, especially those peridot earrings! "Good-looking," heh. That one was popular in my family too.

  4. I love the tiffin-style lunch containers. Sadly, since I consider the weight of everything when I'm walking 40 minutes with my bag full, I'm relying on much less tasteful lightweight Glad containers to carry my leftover soup. Sad but true.

  5. LPC, these are all great items. While it is generally so hard to find tastefull items at a reasonable, I happen to know of a little online jewelry store that sells very nice things at very reasonable prices…

  6. Another vote for the peridot earrings! Like SouthernProletariat, my sister's birthstone also is peridot, and I haven't found much attractive jewelry that uses it. I think I have just found one of her Christmas presents …

  7. IMO good-looking things are not overly embellished, and I think your choices mostly reflect that. I like that glass pitcher set a lot.

    Old Navy is an excellent source of casual items like that jacket. I always stop in and look the jackets over. You can buy a current-looking jacket, do it up with a killer scarf or accessory and head out without draining the trust fund. If you decide you want something different next year it's not a big deal.

  8. I just made my first Old Navy purchase because of this. Not the motorcycle jacket, but two trench coats. It felt…odd.

    In any event, instead of saying good looking I tend towards sharp looking or smart, which basically means that in my early twenties I am older than your mother.

  9. Good-looking choices, indeed. I have to admit that I avoid Walmart at all costs, but those earrings made me pause–primarily because of your suggestions of what to wear with them. Ditto with the Old Navy jacket, dark wash jeans idea. (You are so smart!) I think the Southern mother's substitutes for good-looking are "lovely" or "quite fine."

  10. I cannot believe those earrings came from Walmart; not that is just silly, I know!

  11. Thanks, Carole. The Glad containers I use are of the "Tupperware light" variety,rather than the baggies, but they could certainly be improved on, environmentally.

  12. The notion of what's in Good Taste and what's not clearly divides the masses and polarises people.

  13. It seems not too awfully long ago that nearly everything was in good taste, Pendleton Wool Toggle coats, a brooks button down, a Carhart work Jacket, a classic pair of cords from LLBean and a Swiss Army Knife.
    When did all the "bad taste" products become available to the masses?
    Perhaps you could do an post about "bad taste" – which comes at a price. Love to see what you find.
    Love your good taste.

  14. Now where did you find those glass plates? I believe the series is called "Kastehelmi", and because of the latter part-helmi ( pearl ), which was my grandmothers name, she was fond of this series.

  15. I love the pitcher and glasses – they would go well with my thin, plain white Corelle dishes because I hate patterned dishes with a passion.

  16. I always enjoy your posts. This one, however, lovingly brought to mind my mother and her constant quest for the best. A few cashmere sweaters in one's closet was a must. Summer meant linen–pure linen. My sisters and I used to object because linen wrinkled. "Dears, that's how one knows it's linen" was my mother's response. To this day, I seek out at least one linen outfit for the summer and proudly wear it wrinkled! Thanks for evoking the memory.


  17. Hostess – Our mothers speak through us more than we know:).

    Southern – My middle sister's birthstone too. Go for it.

    Fickle Cattle – Thank you very much.

    Deja – Heh:).

    Ms. Givens -Thank you!

    Belle – Yes, I know. You deserve an entire post.

  18. virago – Sister Christmas presents are a very honorable mission in which I am honored to participate.

    SlynnRo – Who knew?

    Rose – It is a lot easier to do tasteful without embellishment. Once you start with the curlicues you have to know what you are doing. And I'm going to have to stop by Old Navy myself.

    Charlotte – Ha! Very smart. I confess, I've got to talk to myself carefully when I shop on a budget.

    T&C – "Quite fine." I will try to expand my vocabulary. Thank you!

    Carole – Thank you for the information and the kind words.

  19. North – Well imagine my surprise too!

    Mater – :)

    La Belette – Something an analyst could surely carry to her office…

    FF – I agree. It is a touchy subject leading to many hurt feelings.

    pve – Thank you so much. I hesitate to do a post about bad taste in fear of offending anyone who has done nothing wrong except put too much peach next to too much tawny rose. Or decorate with an overabundance of valences.

    Mette – My mother and stepfather have these plates and I have long admired them. I love that your grandmother was named Pearl.

  20. Jan – I have white plates too. Except those ones from the Swedish princess's wedding, of course.

    Caitlyn – Thank you!

    Bonnie – You are very welcome. My mother calls us Dear, too. The endearments are as characteristic as linen.

  21. My mother has the Kastehelmi plates, as well. We used to have them out every christmas for dinner. :c) Mother used to do advertising for Iittala, in the late seventies when it was still called Nuutajärvi and only manufactured glass. You wouldn't believe how many glass ornaments my mom has received during those years.

  22. These are great choices. The peridot hoops are not a rich, saturated colour in person, sad to say, at least the pair I saw at the local Wal-Mart… maybe if they have more than two pairs you can find really good ones. The design is so pleasing.

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