Splurge or Save? How to Know When to Invest in Your Wardrobe

With a capsule wardrobe, it's all about being selective. Learn when to save and when to splurge

How do you decide when to splurge...or save?

It was decided, I HAD TO HAVE a trench coat. Chic, stylish, classic, and sure to solve all of my style woes. Never mind I’d never had a trench coat, I decided I had to buy the PERFECT trench coat, the ultimate trench coat, the one that would last a lifetime. It would be my first, and my last. After a month of research and shopping, I found the one, and it was a major splurge…and a major mistake. 

Because I love having a capsule wardrobe, quality over quantity is my mantra, but the choice to splurge or save is a piece-by-piece decision. Not every item is splurge-worthy. How do you know the difference? I have some tips for you to decide whether to invest or save on your items.

This article and the video below are taken from the Stunning Style Weekly Style Snack! Join us weekly at 11am MT/1pm ET on the Stunning Style Facebook page (HERE) or the FREE Capsule Wardrobes for Classic Style Facebook Group.
  • Splurge or save starts at minute 2:40
  •  Splurge starts at 9:45
  • Q&A starts at minute 34

Two things to consider first

Figure out your cost-per-wear

The first question to ask yourself is, “How often will I wear it?” If this is an occasional-wear item, then I’m not as likely to spend a lot on it. When it’s something I intend to wear many times or for several years, then I am willing to invest in the quality that will stand the test of time, wash, and wear.

If I spend $100 on a sweater and wear it 50 times over the years, it cost me $2 per wear, but if I spend $30 on a sweater and wear it twice, it cost me $15 per wear, and was ultimately more expensive. Being unhappy with that $30 sweater also means I’m likely to go out and buy something else to fill that hole, spending even more money. I’m a bargain shopper at heart, and I’ve wasted a lot of money on “great deals” that I never wore or wore once and hated.

A $30 sweater can give you as much joy as a $100 sweater, so more expensive doesn’t have to mean more better, but when the price tag makes you stop and think, consider the cost-per-wear to decide how expensive it really is. Don’t automatically purchase or dismiss something because of the price tag.

Everything in this outfit is a basic except the scarf, and all splurge-worthy because I wear them so much.

Quality over quantity

Because I really know the right clothes for my style, I am extremely selective about what comes into my closet. I would rather have one black bag that I love and goes with everything than 15 cheaper quality bags I kind of like. If an item doesn’t thrill me, it has no place in my closet.

Everything in my closet is my favorite, and because I don’t buy any “maybes”, I know that anything I buy will get a lot of wear. I love having a very curated closet, and because I’m not picking up lots of random inexpensive items, I can use the same clothing budget to buy fewer, but more expensive/high quality items.

Since I have a more minimalist capsule wardrobe, the items in my closet get a lot more wear, and that means higher quality items will last more seasons. I spend less time and money replacing things that didn’t hold up to repeated wear.

Not every quality item is expensive, and not every expensive item is quality, but by only buying what I truly love, I can afford to splurge if the perfect item comes along.

If I could only keep one of my bags, it would be this one.

When I Splurge

Just because I’m willing to splurge on these items doesn’t mean I insist on it. If I find a quality item at a lower price, I’m all about it! But if I can’t, I am willing to spend more on these items because they are worth it to me.

Wardrobe Basics

When it comes to clothes, I tend to spend more money on my wardrobe basics like jeans, solid, neutral-colored staples like a navy v-neck sweater, or a figure-flattering black skirt. That’s not sexy or exciting, but these are the foundation of my wardrobe and my outfits. I wear them over and over and over, and they get more wear than anything else in my wardrobe, so they need to be able to stand up to the abuse of frequent wear.

It doesn’t feel fun or exciting to drop some money on a pair of dark wash jeans, but I’m telling you, when they fit you like a glove, they stretch but don’t stretch out, they lift and separate your bum so you don’t have mooshy mommy bottom, and they flatter your figure, they are worth every penny and more. You will get more than your money’s worth in how much you wear them, not to mention the confidence boost of a great-looking toosh!

The moto jacket and flats are both splurges, and I wear them so much I definitely get my value from them.
This silver bag, denim button up and white jeans get so much love and wear they are worth paying more for.
A bold black and white stripe sweater, perfect-for-my-body-type jeans, black boots and studded black bag are all wardrobe staples for me.

shoes, bags and outerwear

Quality really shows in your shoes, bags, and outerwear, and a great quality bag can elevate an outfit. The same goes for shoes and coats. This is definitely an area of quality over quantity. It also goes back to foundation pieces. I’m willing to spend more on neutral shoes, bags, and outerwear because I will wear them the most.

 

Not every single one is splurge-worthy. Colorful, patterned, or more unique shoes, bags, and outerwear don’t get as much wear, and I don’t spend as much as I do on the classic neutral ones. Shoes, bags and outerwear also show the quality level more obviously than, say, a t-shirt. Save items are instantly elevated by a great bag and pair of shoes. 

what you value and brings you joy

My son recently pointed out a really expensive car and asked if the person driving it wasted their money on that. I explained that if having that kind of car is important to them and they can afford it, then no, it’s not a waste of money. We each have our thing we are willing to splurge on. For me it’s my wardrobe, for someone else it could be eating out, a sport like golf, concerts, art, or electronics. 

I will never forget the day my friend asked me if she should buy a car…or a watch. I never realized they were mutually exclusive, but the watches she values cost as much as a luxury car. Since she had no transportation, and no public transportation, I advised her to buy the car – you know, so she could get to work and the grocery store – and save up for the watch. If watches are what you value, then it’s worth it because you will get so much joy from it. 

difficult-to-find items

Leopard is one of my very favorite patterns, and it’s a pattern I crave, but I am very particular about leopard in both color and pattern. It’s hard to find the perfect one, so I am willing to spend more when I find it because I know I will wear that item a lot and get my cost-per-wear.

Dresses are a wardrobe favorite, but finding dresses that fit my shape and all my other criteria are another challenge for me because of my body type, color palette preferences, and my Edgy Classic style. If I find one that ticks all the boxes, I will splurge and wear it forever.

Shorts are another problem item for me, and I’m willing to pay more for a pair of shorts in the colors I want and a style that fits my body type and other criteria. Worth every penny.

My signature color and edgy patterns are also hard to come by and something else I will splurge on because I love them, I wear them, and they make my wardrobe special.

This black on navy diamond pattern is so perfectly me, and not something I come across...ever.
When I find a dress that fits me right and meets all my requirements, it's worth splurging.
This duster cardigan is my favorite color, I love the style and fit, and it was worth a splurge.

Clothes I know suit my style

Have you ever bought something you THOUGHT you would or should like, only to never wear it and not really know why? I have! Every woman I know has. Knowing your style and what details you are looking for will help you know what to look for as you explore new styles. If you love classic style the Stunning Style Wardrobe Guides do all the work for you with a curated collection of 30+ pieces, all the shopping links, 100 outfit combinations, and a monthly wardrobe calendar.

I splurged on this moto jacket because I understand my Edgy Classic style so well I knew it was THE ONE, and I would wear it and love it. I was right! I’ve had it for 3 or 4 years, and it is easily my most-worn jacket, if not my most-worn wardrobe item. If I lost it today, I’d be so sad, but I have definitely gotten my money’s worth!

Did I pay full price? No. But would I today? Yes.

The more specific your requirements, the harder it is to find what you will love and wear, the more worth it is to splurge on an item that ticks all the boxes. 

The perfect leopard booties, moto jacket, and black studded bag were all worthy spurges because they were so hard to find.
This unique stabby striped pattern tee is so perfectly my style, it was worth splurging.
This bag and these earrings are my hard-to-find signature color, and they were worth the splurge. These boots are the exact brown color I love, and were worth the splurge.

Save Items

Trendy Items

One way to keep a classic wardrobe modern and build a capsule wardrobe that isn’t boring is to incorporate trends that suit your style. Some trends follow a long arc, like pant silhouettes and hem lengths, which are shifting again after a 10-year love affair with skinny jeans. Those aren’t the trends I’m talking about.

Trends that are suddenly everywhere and very extreme, and you know they’ll be gone in a season or two, think cold-shoulder tops, huge ruffles on the shoulders, really large bell sleeves, etc. They are fun to wear, but they aren’t going to stick around long, so I save on items like that.

I tried out the jumpsuit trend because I liked them on others, but quickly realized I hate them on me. Experience has taught me to try an inexpensive one first.

Jumpsuits are a trend I tried...and hated. Fortunately I saved on this one.

New-to-you styles

Remember the trench coat I splurged on? Turns out I do love trench coats, but I have very specific preferences. Now I know I should have tried an inexpensive one first to find out what I do and don’t like before investing in the one I love (and now have). I love to try new styles and expand my style, but now I know to go for the trial version first. 

It’s also easy to think you should love something because someone (Pinterest, Instagram, your mom) said you should, but try it out with a trial version first. 

The "perfect" trench coat that was all wrong for me (not to mention the scarf).
The trench coat that really is perfect for me and suits my style perfectly.

I’ve been expanding my personal color palette over the last few years, and whenever I try a new color or style, like leopard, I start with an inexpensive version first. Then if I discover I do love it, I will invest in a more expensive version. A recent example is this linen color. I used to LOVE it, but most color palette systems will say it’s a color I “can’t” wear, and I gave it up. After searching for a year, I finally found something to try. I only paid $8 for it, and that was worth the experiment.

Can you tell by the smile on my face that I LOVE IT? For now I’m happy with this cardigan and don’t need to replace it with something more expensive. I’ll enjoy it for as long as it lasts. I did the same with leopard, and after loving the inexpensive version of flats, I upgraded to a much better quality version and added a bag, heels, wedges, a skirt, sweater, booties, and button up. And I love them.

This linen-colored cardigan was an inexpensive experiment. I upgraded to these splurge leopard flats and bag after a successful experiment.

Items that wear out quickly

Some items, no matter how great the quality, will wear out quickly, and those are definitely in the save category for me. Top of the list: t-shirts. Have you ever found a little hole in the hem? Do you know what it comes from? Rubbing against the top of your jeans. It’s also happened to some of my sweaters (and one reason I front tuck).

White clothes are another save item for me. Most white clothes are actually dyed white and as you wash them, the dye fades. Keeping whites white is the ultimate laundry challenge. Over time they age, yellow and they look dingy. Over-use of bleach will make them yellow, air makes them yellow, breathing makes them yellow, looking at them makes them yellow. And that doesn’t even include what my dog and kids do to whites.

The only whites I do splurge on are jeans/shorts because I wear them so much and fit is so important to me, I know I will get my cost-per-wear.

White sweaters are hard to find, but this one is a save item because it won't stay white forever. The white jeans are more of a splurge because I wear them so much.

how to save on your splurges

Shopping sales, outlets and pre-loved are a great way to save. I’ve included some articles I’ve written on those topics below. if you sign up for Poshmark (on a computer, it doesn’t work if you sign up on your phone) and use the code DANCEME23 you will get a credit to use on your first purchase.

My Poshmark Closet 

How to Shop on Poshmark

How to Sell on Poshmark

22 Tips to Shop the Outlets

 

The Truth About Pre Black Friday Sales

4 thoughts on “Splurge or Save? How to Know When to Invest in Your Wardrobe”

      1. Thank you! Capsule wardrobes don’t have to be boring! I think it’s overwhelming for many women to figure out how the colors go together, so they stick with neutrals. I love neutrals, but I need some color too.

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