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Style 101: How to Decide to Save vs. Spend When it Comes to Wardrobe Essentials

Style 101: How to Decide to Save vs. Spend When it Comes to Wardrobe Essentials

Above: My Gucci loafers–one of my absolute favorite wardrobe staples, with Everlane’s easy pants (amazing for both in and out of the office!) 

One of the most common questions I get these days–especially as you and I are both “growing up” ? and getting older, so to speak and have a little bit more disposable income to play with and therefore are starting to consider more and more–is, where do you spend, vs save, when it comes to your wardrobe staples? 

The answer is truly an individual one–the way I make decisions will differ from yours, but if you find yourself wondering the question–today’s post goes through some helpful ways to REALLY get to the bottom of what’s worth your investment, and where it’s best to go with a cheaper option.

First though, know that “splurge” and “investment” aren’t always one in the same. 

The definition of “splurge” really varies from person to person, and it can be very different than an “investment” piece.

For example, in my early twenties, a $50 “fun going out top” with ruffles and a fun color/pattern would’ve been a “splurge”–but a $50 silk button down that I could wear to work with a pencil skirt and out on a date or with the girls multiple times per month, that’s an “investment.”

Everyone’s definition and “threshold” if you will, for “splurge” and “investment” items is different and will depend on your lifestyle or budget.

My point in bringing this up is to know that you shouldn’t be comparing your spending, wardrobe (or ANYTHING else for that matter) to anyone else. Not to your best friend, not to me, not to anyone else you follow on instagram. Like most things in life, it’s best to go with your gut here.

That being said, these questions will help you make the most informed, assured choice when it comes to investing in your wardrobe staples rather than splurging on something that will inevitably end up in the back of your closet after a couple of wears.

What kind of item is it?

Admittedly, I can think of very few things aside from shoes, handbags, and coats that would be worth investing in.

Clothes just don’t hold up as well as accessories, and they go out of style much more quickly. Expensive clothing also requires expensive upkeep–so that’s also something to keep in mind!

Honestly, I can rarely justify spending more than $200 on any piece of clothing. So next time you’re lusting after a friends’ trendy and expensive dress that she paid an arm and a leg for–remember, she probably won’t be wearing that next year anyway!

Everlane $100 Cashmere Mock Neck sweater 

Above: Everlane $100 Cashmere Mock Neck sweater  and Halogen Ponte leggings

Is there a more affordable alternative that looks the same, for the same quality?

This is one of the biggest factors that should be considered when you’re shopping around–is there something that looks the same somewhere else that you can get for less money? If so, is the quality the same?

So many times, you’re really just paying for the brand label.

I’ll go back to my favorite silk blouse example because it’s a good one–you can pay upwards of $300 for one from Vince, Theory, or Equipment. And it will be a STUNNING blouse–but you can also get one at Everlane for $100 that looks exactly the same and is of the same quality.

Same with an expensive cashmere sweater–Everlane sells cashmere sweaters for $100, too! You don’t need to pay hundred os dollars for a cashmere sweater. (I mean, you know Everlane is my go-to for good reason! ?)

We can play devil’s advocate here with another example–Gucci loafers. Many people will argue that a $200 pair of loafers is just as cute and well made–and that’s great!!

But others (like me) will argue that you are paying for a quality and design that can’t be replicated (no blisters from day one, leather as soft as butter, and the most beautiful sleek shape with a toe that isn’t too round, square, is just pointed enough but not pointy–not too preppy, not too modern–I could go on).

Another example is my Stuart Weitzman OTK boots–for me personally, there really is no alternative. I have very small calves and I’ve never been able to find a pair of OTK boots that truly hug my calves like they do. The Lowland’s are also some of the most comfortable boots I own, and I wanted them for SO long.

For all these reasons, I personally think they’re worth
every penny.

But there are so many other women out there who ADORE their Steve Madden OTK boots for example, and they fit their unique bodies as well as my Stuart Weitzmans fit mine. It’s all a matter of preference and what works for YOUR body.

Now–what about a winter coat? If you live in the Midwest or East Coast, you know that a coat is something you truly, 100% cannot cheap out on. It’s just too damn cold. There is a reason the warmest coats will cost you an arm and a leg–because the cheaper versions are less quality and aren’t nearly as warm!

So don’t look at what anyone else is doing–figure out what works for YOUR budget, YOUR body, and YOUR personal happiness.

Stuart Weitzman Lowland boots

Above: Stuart Weitzman Lowland boots–one of my favorite winter wardrobe staples 

Will a cheaper alternative make me just as happy? Or is it just a “band-aid”?

That being said, will a cheaper alternative make you happy?

To illustrate this point, I will tell you a story about 4th grade Jessica.

For weeks, I BEGGED my mom to get me a Tomagotchi. My best friend Molly Walker had one and I was absolutely dying for my own. They proved to be pretty in demand, and when my mom agreed–she let my nanny take me to the store to get a Tomagotchi, but they were out of stock, so I got a GigaPet instead. I told myself I was excited about it, and I really did love my Gigapet, but there was a little feeling deep down–an itch that had not been scratched–a piece of me that still longed for that Tomagotchi. I mean, it was an ALIEN and there are just some ways that a pet computer cat can’t stack up to an alien that you hatch and raise from birth.

After weeks of still longing for a Tomagotchi, I was able to get my hands on one when they came back in stock. (It was green with yellow zebra stripes) and it was SO WORTH THE WAIT.

I know, first world 80’s baby problems–but a good example to illustrate that sometimes, for whatever reason, you just aren’t going to be truly satisfied until you get the real thing. If you want a Louis Vuitton tote–you’re never going to be satisfied with a Madewell tote.  But if you want a Cuyana backpack and you also find that you love the Madewell version just as much and it’s half the price–then that’s perfect!

Or, there’s also a happy medium here:

If you’ve been dying for a Burberry trench coat since you were a little girl, but you only have $200 to spend on a trench coat–that doesn’t mean you’ll be MISERABLE if you have to buy a $200 version. A Burberry trench has been one of my goals to buy myself for my entire life–I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger last time I went to London, but now I feel comfortable doing so–next time I go to London, I’m going to buy one for myself! But in the meantime, I really love my London Fog version that has gotten me through the last two years and makes me feel incredibly chic when I put it on, despite NOT being the “real thing.”

Sidebar conversation: Now, I think it’s really necessary to identify WHY you want the real “designer’ thing. Is it because there is nothing else that has a design as beautiful and unique, is the quality unbeatable? Or do you just want it for the status symbol (if the latter–that is NOT a reason to invest in something!) Remember: Only buy for YOU. Nobody else!

My favorite London Fog trench 

Above: My favorite London Fog trench (mine is this one, which is almost sold out, but I’m hoping they re-stock it!) that I LOVE and will tide me over until I make my Burberry splurge 😛 

Is it classic or trendy? Will I want to wear it years from now?

This brings me to my next point–I rarely spend a lot of money on items that are super trendy. (Some will argue that OTK boots fall under the “trendy” category–but again, keep in mind this is personal preference).

This is easy for me to say because I tend to dress more classic than trendy anyway, but I think this is especially important to differentiate when it comes to investing in anything–it will always be a better idea to invest in classic items than the ones that are “hot right now.”

The same can apply to colors–while it would be SO fun to have your dream bag in this season’s “it color”–it’s much more practical to go with something like black or brown, for obvious reasons. 

I keep going back to the classic Gucci loafers, I know, but let’s use them as an example here again.

Remember those trendy Gucci mules with the fur? When I got my loafers, those were the ones that were the hottest. But years later, I’m so glad I stuck with the classics, because the trendy furry mule trend has faded, but classic loafers never will. 

Is it durable and comfortable?

Two factors that are NON NEGOTIABLE. Almost every girl I know that owns a pair of Louboutin pumps NEVER wears them–why? Because to most women, they are ungodly high, uncomfortable, and nearly impossible to walk in. (Again, I say almost, because I have known one or two who swear by them and wear them to work all the time–even though I don’t know how ?).  Just be really honest with yourself about what you want to buy because the thrill is in “the buying of the item” or if it’s something you know will really bring a lot of value to your wardrobe in everyday life.

Another thing–I also have friends who have splurged on super light colored designer bags only to have their purses rub against their jeans every day and stain the entire back of their purse dark blue. Cute? Yes. Durable? No. Or they’ll splurge on a leather that is so soft they’re terrified to wear it–that likely isn’t going to be worth your money in the long run!

Personally, if it can’t withstand a little beating–I probably shouldn’t own it. ????

Can I wear it with almost everything I own?

This is another big one. How often are you realistically going to wear it? How many seasons will it work for? What kind of weather? Will you wear it in at least 3 seasons? Think of things in terms of price per wear–the more you’re likely to wear something, the cheaper it is “per wear.” These are all questions I like to weigh no matter how expensive or inexpensive the item–it’s just a good habit to get into! I also think how *often* you will wear something is worth considering. I know it can seem counterintuitive, but I believe you should wear your designer items often–you shouldn’t wait for a special occasion and only use it a few times per year. They should get regular use–not collect dust on a shelf. You bought it to enjoy–so enjoy it! 

Consider the resale value: 

Bags and jewelry typically hold their value better than shoes or clothes–but definitely worth considering. Resale value will also vary by brand, so if you’re in between two brands, it could be helpful to do some research on what they’re going for on the second-hand market in the event you’re ready to part with it down the road. Chanel bags retain incredible resale value, for example–especially the classic designs! 

Was this helpful? I hope so! I would love to hear about your decision making process as well!