If you've followed me for more than a minute, you know I'm always talking about "investing" in your wardrobe. Obviously, I mean buying the nicest things you can afford (in some cases). But I also mean investing the time and effort into deciding how you want to look, and shopping for the pieces that flatter your body, fit your lifestyle, and honor your budget. Investing time and effort is as, if not more, important than investing money when building a fab wardrobe. I do believe there are somethings worth spending extra money on (shoes, bras, and jeans, are at the top of my list!), but there are a few reasons not to pass on fast-fashion entirely...and a few things you should always pick up on the cheap.
Before we get to the good stuff, though, I do understand the problems with fast-fashion. The way it's made and the toll on the environment should make anyone question their purchases. However, the reality is that it's hard to avoid those issues entirely, unless you're buying 100% organic/fair trade/ethically sourced clothing, or buying everything second hand. I'm absolutely not advocating you fill your entire wardrobe with as much H&M as you can find....I'm just saying not everything in your closet needs to be $100+ to have value. I've actually had 3 clients in the last 2 weeks prefer the fit and feel of the Old Navy plaid flannel over the Nordstrom version, so it just goes to show you can't always judge a top by it's price tag!
Here are 3 good reasons to love cheap clothes:
Styles (and tastes) change quickly.
If you're someone who likes to keep up with trends, it may not make sense to invest in pieces you might not want to wear in a season or two. A couple of years ago, I bought an embellished sweatshirt at Nordstrom Rack for under $20. I loved it and wore the heck out if it...but now it screams "2013" to me, I feel like I definitely got my money's worth from it, but I'm happy to move on. Had I bought the $100 Anthropologie version, I might feel bad now that the trend is over.
Clothes are pretty disposable these days.
There isn't a huge difference in quality unless you're spending $$$$. I wish I could tell my clients that by investing a little more at Gap, they'd be getting a much better quality item than they would at Old Navy, but the reality is, the t-shirts at Gap aren't going to hold up twice as long to justify spending twice the price. The endless sale cycle has caused the quality at main-stream mall stores to plummet--which means unless you're going to have to spend a lot to see a real difference in quality. Knowing that, it's difficult to justify spending the extra money.
One problem I see in closets all the time is we don't recognize when our own clothes get tired. When they've pilled beyond redemption, faded, or gotten holes/stains, it's time to let them go, no matter what you spent on them. Sometimes, it's better to buy clothes knowing they won't last forever (or even that long, these days) and plan replace often.
Women are always in a state of transition.
Ladies, there comes a day when we have to accept the bodies we have as our bodies--and not temporary vessels that are going to change drastically...starting Monday. But, especially during the baby and little kid years, your body will, very likely, be in transition. It doesn't make sense to invest in a "forever wardrobe" when you have a "right now body". Don't use this as an excuse to buy cheap crap forever, but don't invest in a $300 leather jacket if you're planning on getting pregnant next month. If your children are out of preschool (and you're not planning on more), or you're not currently participating in a get-in-shape plan, the body you have is the body you have. Dress it well, and don't hold back from spending a little money on things that make you feel great. On the other hand, don't buy designer post-partum duds that will only work for 6 months. Spend wisely!
Now, read on to find out the 3 wardrobe items you should buy on the cheap!
I remember the first leopard scarf I bought years ago. Leopard was just starting to go main-stream, and i wasn't sure how I felt about it. I bought one at Francesca's for under $10, and it became one of my favorite pieces. Later, when it needed to be replaced, I didn't bat an eye spending 6 times as much on a new one, because I knew how much wear I'd get out of it. If you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a new style, test the waters first with an inexpensive piece. If you don't wear it, you won't feel bad. If you wear it all the time (and it goes from a trend to a wardrobe staple, like leopard print), you'll know you can justify the price. This Utility vest is available from Jane.com for under $30, and is one of the biggest trends for fall
Special Occasion Wear
So many of my clients spend a big chunk of their wardrobe budget on the clothes they wear the least, which doesn't make sense to me. It's my experience that quality-wise, you can tell the difference in a basic piece much more easily than you can in a special occasion garment. Special pieces also don't have to hold up to repeated wearing and caring. I've had quite a few clients have one or two big events per year they really go all out for, but because its the same event with the same people, they don't want to recycle their dresses year after year. Spending a lot of money on something that will literally be worn once or twice isn't a good use of wardrobe budget dollars. Check out Rent the Runway instead, or head to a discount retailer like Nordstrom Rack--you'd be shocked at what you can find! Or check out this dress from H&M for under $60!
Most women like to have a lot of variety in their wardrobe, and tend to buy more tops. No one will notice if you wear the same pair of jeans 2 or 3 days a week, but it doesn't work that way for tops! Splurge on great basics for the bottom, and save on the tops. Your wardrobe budget will be balanced, and the good quality bottoms will keep your wardrobe from looking cheap. This under $25 blouse from Target could be paired with jeans and heels for dinner out, or a pencil skirt for work--super budget and style friendly!
What's your favorite budget-clothing destination? Leave a comment and let me know!