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I've always been jealous of That Girl — you know, the one who goes into a thrift store and walks out with an amazing new wardrobe she bought for $10. I, on the other hand, am a sucker for a well-curated display of new arrivals at Anthropologie. Shopping, for me, is a constant balancing act between digging for a bargain and trying to figure out what fashion items are actually worth splurging on.
The concept of a "splurge" is different for everyone, of course. Last summer I crossed a new personal threshold: I bought a casual dress for a cool $200 at Reformation. I knew I'd get a ton of wear out of it, probably for years to come, but my stomach still dropped as I handed over my credit card.
Splurges, however you define them, really are worth it sometimes. The key to having a nice high-low mix in your wardrobe is knowing what to spend the big bucks on, and what you should get on the cheap. I tend to use the time-honored method of shelling out more money for timeless pieces, then hitting up inexpensive retailers for trendier items that might look dated in just a few seasons.
But that concept is familiar — I wanted to know what unexpected fashion accoutrements were worth spending more on, so I hit up a series of fashion experts and non-expert-style-enthusiasts in order to get best, most practical advice on splurges for a wide range of budgets and lifestyles. Here are their tips.
1. A Clothing Rental Service
The thought of having to give back my clothing after wearing it for awhile doesn't really appeal to me, but a constantly evolving designer wardrobe at a fraction of the true cost? That's another story. If you are fickle but have a taste for the finer things, you may want to invest in Rent The Runway Unlimited, which Christian Louboutin Global Digital Editor Nicole Loher calls, "welllll worth the money." For $139 a month the service allows you to rent three items from RTR's catalog of designer goods and keep them for as long as you want.
2. Sunglasses Built For Portability
Sunglasses can take up a ton of room in your bag, but the struggle is significantly diminished with a pair that's built for portability. "[T]he foldable, polarized Ray-Bans were an investment that has been really great and worth it on so many occasions," performer and freelance artist Monica Lerch tells Bustle.
3. Shoes You Can Put Through The Ringer
"I can't say this enough: Splurge on a really good pair of boots, especially if you do a lot of walking or are just generally outside in inclement weather," Tiffany Yannetta, Shopping Director at Racked, tells Bustle. "I bought a pair of the Phillip Lim Alexa boots about three or four years ago and they're still in great condition. I added a rubber sole so that I could wear them in the rain and snow without fear of busting my ass. When I bought them they cost me around $500 (I had a gift card, I think) which is by far the most I've ever spent on shoes, but they really did earn their keep after just one season. I definitely don't believe that all expensive/designer shoes will last just because they're expensive or designer — if they're not made well, it doesn't matter! — but these were totally worth it."
4. Underwear That Really Fits
I'm guilty of buying cheap underwear and then wondering why I feel low-key uncomfortable all the time, so this tip was a bit of a revelation. "Once I started buying underwear that is high quality and actually fits correctly, it's been impossible to go back," science writer Abby Norman says. "I mean, we all know it makes a lot of clothes fit better to have the right underwear — but I never realized how much low-grade discomfort/annoyance was actually because I had constant wedgies, or otherwise just felt like I could *feel* my underwear!"
5. Clothes Customized To Fit Your Body
Tailor-made clothes might sound like an impossible luxury, but they don't have to be. "When I can afford to I buy dresses and shirts from eShakti, and always pay to have them customized. I'm booby and short-waisted, so getting good quality clothes that fit me well is worth the price for me!" says UX Researcher Lauren Stern.
Stern also recommends investing in "an arsenal of stain removal products for all different kinds of stains and fabrics," to preserve the special pieces in your wardrobe.
6. A Real Leather Jacket
"I never knew if spending several hundred dollars on a leather jacket would be worth the investment because of the countless fake ones out there that actually look amazing," says model and blogger Tara Brose. "I finally broke down and bought the Papin biker leather jacket from All Saints and it has been my favorite item I own ever since! The fit is amazing, the style timeless, and it's one of those purchases I've never regretted. All the faux leather jackets I've owned need replacing after a year or two, but this one just gets better with age!"
7. A Quilted Coat
"I barely take this jacket off," Elissa Millican, Head of Marketing North America at J Barbour & Sons Ltd, says of the brand's Ebbertson jacket. "I am regularly traveling for work, so when I can only grab one jacket for a week-long trip, this is the one. The longer length makes it perfect to throw on over any outfit —dresses, jeans, or trousers — and the neutral color is always a nice complement to my daily look."
8. Athletic Clothes You Can Wear Anywhere
I usually work out in sweatpants with holes in the crotch that I wore to dance class in college, but it might be time for an upgrade. "I love A Day and their approach to combining function and wellness," Kat Schneider, founder of Ritual, tells me. "Between having a toddler and running a company, it's hard to find time to take care of myself. With A Day's clothes, you can go from a pilates class into the office and feel confident. I'm also obsessed with Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL). Their sneakers are chic enough to wear in a workout class and on a night out."
9. Pajamas That Make You Feel Fancy
"I usually spend most of my shopping budget on work clothes, but I recently discovered the power of 100 percent silk pajamas," says Erin Fitzpatrick, News Editor at WhoWhatWear. "I've been wearing my college T-shirts and sweatpants for years, but it feels like such a treat to wear something luxurious. Plus, the cost-per-wear definitely makes sense if you put them on every single night! "
Vitruvi founder Sara Panton agrees, citing additional benefits, "Beyond being incredibly comfortable, silk helps keep skin smooth and helps regulate body temperature as you slumber. Although they can be pricey, they are definitely worth the investment because of their timeless look and health benefits. My favorite is a set of Fleur du Mal pajamas found on Goop.com"
10. A Cold-Shoulder Dress
Jennifer Song, president of TOBI, recommends spending more money on pieces that will carry your from one season to the next. "The cold shoulder sweater dress, like this one from Rag & Bone, is a staple. The textured fabric keeps you warm while the exposed shoulders elevate the look and make it easy to style up or down for a night in or out. You can also snag the look for less at TOBI here." You might even get more use out of an item like this because it can be layered or worn alone, depending on the weather.
11. White Ankle Boots
Black might be the most practical shoe color, but it's not the only versatile option. "If you're looking to expand your shoe selection I'd without a doubt recommend a sizzling pair of white ankle booties," Song tells Bustle. "I love the studding and detail on these ones from Helmut Lang. You can pair with a knit sweater and printed skirt for work, or slip on a satin dress with a denim jacket for date night. You can also score TOBI's take on the trend for less here."
12. A Classic Bag
"Last fall I bought a lovely leather Coach bag (specifically the Coach 1941 saddle in this lovely burgundy glovetanned leather lined with red leather). I'd been watching it for many months and then took the plunge!" Administrative Assistant Julia Sinclair tells Bustle. "Growing up my mother carried around a Coach station bag for my entire childhood (and she had it since before I was born, this purse lasted like 20-30 years) so I was confident in its longevity. I use it everyday (it's actually sitting next me while I'm at work right now) and bring it into Coach every three months for cleaning and conditioning."
13. A Designer Belt
"My go-to splurge is a vintage Gucci belt," Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder of Lively, tells Bustle. "Given this year's amazing high waisted pants trend and overall 70’s vibe seen all over the runways, a classic vintage belt feels like a must-have staple this season. If you can’t find a vintage one, new always works too!"
14. High-Fashion Sunnies
"With the endless selection of trendy and affordable sunnies out there on the market, you can easily get away with spending less than $30 on a pair of frames. But I've found that investing in a well-crafted pair of sunglasses is definitely an expense worth splurging on," Sara Tan, Bustle's West Coast Fashion & Beauty Editor, says. "They're often made with higher-quality hardware and pieces, which means one pair will last you much longer than those $5 pairs you bought on the street. An expensive pair will also likely do a better job of doing its job — protecting your eyes with lenses that aren't just tinted, but built to shield your cornea and retina from UV rays. Lastly, you'll probably just take better care of them knowing that they weren't cheap!"
Anyone else feeling like they need to save up for their next big fashion purchase right about now?