When To Splurge & When To Save When Building Your Wardrobe

I talk a lot about the importance of investing in good quality basics to form the foundation to your wardrobe and then adding less expensive trendy pieces each season to keep your wardrobe fresh and up to date, so I thought it might be fun to talk about things I do and don’t splurge on.

When To Splurge & When To Save When Building Your Wardrobe

First let me say that I don’t take splurge purchases lightly, and I don’t think you should either. Whether your budget is $100 for the month or $1000, you are making an investment in your wardrobe, and your splurge items should be things you are confident you will use a lot and/or for many years.

Sometimes I come across a splurge item that I just KNOW I will use a ton, and I make a spontaneous purchase, but I generally take more time and consideration when making my splurge purchases, and I do my best to find them on sale.

Higher quality pieces generally fit better, have better construction and more unique details, and they’re made of more luxurious fabrics than their cheaper counterparts. Oftentimes the laborers who make the products are treated better as well. The quality of material and construction makes a big difference in the price as well as the longevity of a product.

That said, it isn’t always necessary to buy the highest quality in every wardrobe category. Most of us can’t afford to do that, plus mixing high and low fashion is a great way to convey your personal style.

Let’s start with the wardrobe items I DO splurge on.

Wardrobe Items I DO Splurge On (and Why)

Classic Shoes & Handbags

Rebecca Minkoff Satchel // Rag & Bone Booties

The best thing about shoes and handbags is, you don’t outgrow them when you gain or lose weight or get pregnant. I’m always nervous to spend a lot on a form-fitting dress, for example, because I know it may not fit next year. But shoes and bags don’t care if you ate too much mac-and-cheese at dinner last night, and they will be your faithful wardrobe companions through thick and thin. Ha!

But seriously, a pair of good quality shoes generally is far more comfortable and flattering than cheaper pair, and they wear so much better, but definitely consider cost per wear when deciding how much you’re willing to spend.

Stuart Weitzman Marabella Suede Wedge Sandals

I’m also a big fan of a quality handbag — at least for the bags I carry a lot. Cheaper bags lose their shape, get dinged up faster, get loose threads, and tend to have garish looking hardware; plus they can actually add to the frump factor as we get older.

See my post: Fight the Frump: Update Your Handbag.

When selecting a bag I’m going to carry a lot, I look for genuine leather (or suede), good quality construction, and elegant details.

Tory Burch McGraw Hobo // Veja Esplar Sneakers

That said, sometimes I want to try a new trend, and I don’t want to invest a lot. Perhaps I need a pair of shoes or a clutch for one event, but I’m not sure I’ll ever wear them again. In those instances, I’ll totally cheap out and go for the bargain buy, so definitely take into account how much use these items will get.

Kohl's SO Taffy Wedge Sandals
Kohl’s SO Taffy Wedge Sandals

Remember, you can always take advantage of second-hand stores, eBay, and thredUP if you are on a limited budget but want a quality bag. Shoes are a little harder to buy used, but there are often good sales if you’re patient.

A Great Fitting Pair of Jeans

AG Legging Ankle Jeans

Y’all know that I have a love affair with premium denim, and I have quite a collection, but I do wear them every day and I love the fit and feel and the look of better denim. It’s my thing.

I am not suggesting everyone have a closet full of $200 jeans; I realize that’s not practical for most people. That said, I think every woman should have at least one pair of jeans that fits impeccably and makes her feel like a million bucks. It will definitely take some trial and error, but if you wear jeans much at all, it’s worth the effort.

Cashmere Sweaters

Everlane The Cashmere V-Neck

Another classic wardrobe piece that I’m willing to spend on is a good cashmere sweater — and not all cashmere is created equal. Did you know that there are three grades of cashmere?

“Grade A fibers are the best and most expensive, meaning they are the finest and thinnest. Grade B is slightly thicker than A, so it is less soft. Grade C is almost double the thickness of Grade A, which is significantly coarser. Unfortunately, cashmere garments never list grades on their labels…” (source)

Also, as an aside, that article explains that all sweaters pill, no matter what the price. I’ve been asked about that many times here on the blog, and I’ve also been frustrated by the fact that my pricey Vince sweaters pill almost as quickly as my more budget-friendly Halogen and Aqua cashmere, but evidently that’s just the way it is.

More expensive sweaters also have more intricate design elements, some are hand-knit, and smaller designers often produce their products in the USA, so you are helping to support the local economy and fair wages for workers… just a few things to consider when buying designer brands of anything.

All that to say, sometimes I am willing to pay for those features, and sometimes I opt for the less expensive versions, but I think it’s important to know what you’re paying for. This article is also interesting if you want to know more about where cashmere comes from and why there is such a disparity in pricing.

Wool or Leather Coats

J.Crew stadium cloth cocoon coat (sold out, but comes back every year)

Once again, I pick and choose which coats I splurge on and which ones I don’t, but generally I like to have at least one really nice quality wool or wool blend coat in my closet for winter, and I also love a good leather jacket. Most “wool coats” are wool blends, but it is on my wish list to purchase one quality 100% wool coat at some point. It will definitely be a piece I plan to have for 10-15 years.

Meanwhile, it is fun to have several different coats in your winter wardrobe as more of an accessory, and I don’t see the need to pay a lot for every one of them, so I pick and choose.

Designer & Fine Jewelry

wearing: David Yurman bracelet & ring

I love having a variety of costume jewelry to change up my outfits, and I cycle those in and out of my wardrobe every couple of years, but I’ve also gathered a small collection of fine jewelry and designer pieces over the years that I plan to have forever and pass on to my girls.

These are sterling silver or 14K gold pieces with or without gemstones, and usually they are gifts from my husband. I would also include designer accessories such as a Burberry scarf (still on my wish list) in this category.

If you’re looking to add some designer pieces to your collection, my favorite jewelry designer is David Yurman, and I also like John Hardy and Lagos (a Philadelphia designer!) They all have their own unique distinguishing features that make their designs recognizable and set them apart.

 Wardrobe Items I Do NOT Splurge On (and Why)

Caslon Print Tassel Ruana

Is it a copout to say everything else? Haha!

Again, I realize a “non-splurge” price means different things to different people. Some probably think my entire wardrobe is made up of splurge items, but when it comes to tops to go with my jeans, dresses (which I don’t wear very often), and fashion jewelry, I don’t want to spend a lot because I don’t keep them long enough or wear them often enough to justify the expense of a higher quality item.

The ruana pictured above is the perfect example of a trendy item I don’t want to pay a lot for, but it’s fun to have in my closet for a season or two. At $29, it won’t break the bank, and it allows me to experiment with a trend with minimal investment. Also, the tee I’m wearing is only $18. For that price, I won’t mind replacing it if it gets stained or worn out.

The shorts and sandals are more of a mid-range price point for me, and I would say a lot of my clothes and shoes fall that category. They may be a splurge for some and a save for others — it all depends on personal budget and how we scale our wardrobe purchases.

I would also put sunglasses on my splurge list, but I know a lot of people don’t trust themselves to keep up with them and prefer to save on these. It’s definitely a personal decision — in fact, all of these are.

This post is more about what I do and less about advice. We all have different priorities and budgets and will have different splurge-and-save lists. I think it’s important to know what yours are, though. If you’ve never really thought about it before, maybe you want to make your own list.

When To Rent

Don’t forget about rental possibilities. If you attend a lot of formal events with the same groups of people and don’t want to repeat dresses, consider utilizing services like Rent The Runway. You can also rent jewelry and handbags.

In Closing

I also want to point out that “splurge items” don’t necessarily have to break the bank. I tend to subscribe to the school of thought that you get what you pay for, but that’s not always true.

You can find hidden gems if you’re patient and discerning and know how to distinguish quality pieces. I know a lot of people who score amazing finds at thrift stores and off-price retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s, and I often shop Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth to find discounts on designer cashmere sweaters and premium denim. You can search online by designer, size, price, etc. — a really nice feature if you have trusted designers you know and love.

And of course the big box retailers run great sales every so often that are worth checking out. I do my best to alert you to those!

I hope this post was helpful, or at least fun! Feel free to share your personal splurge-and-save list in the comments!

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