Can a $49 Dress Be Distinguished From a $1,000 One?

It's a challenge that few in the fashion industry would be brave enough to undertake, since the results not only lay bare one's style acumen, but cut to the very heart of the rag trade's dependence on mythically overvalued clothes. So we applaud Parsons dean of fashion Simon Collins and designer Randi Rahm's willingness to participate in the Wall Street Journal's little game that asks: Can you identify the $1,145 designer dress, pulled from the rack at Barneys, among various cheap things including Thakoon Panichgul and Behnaz Sarafpour's lines for Target, and Comme des Garçons and Roberto Cavalli's for H&M?

After examining the clothes, from which the labels had been removed, Collins and Rahm were quick to condemn the cheapness of most of the H&M items, but both thought the Target stuff was high quality, and Collins even decided that a $44.99 Thakoon for Target flowered raincoat was the high-end designer piece. A compliment to the range or an indictment of how much designer clothes are a monumental rip-off? You decide!

Rahm, having narrowed her choices down to the same raincoat and the expensive dress, a red patterned summer frock by Michelle Obama's favored designer Thakoon, won the challenge by picking the latter because, she said, of its higher quality fabric. Which is not only a huge relief to everyone who makes a living from 700 percent mark-ups, but to us all, because it means that the First Lady's fashion credentials—which are basically responsible for maintaining the country's shaky morale right now—remain unblemished.

Do Designer Discount Duds Make the Grade? [WSJ]