Clothes cost money. I know. There’s no workaround for that, unfortunately. If there is, I would have found it. But a fabulous wardrobe that makes getting dressed every day easy and effortless doesn’t require you to spend a ton of money. Instead, it’s all about making the right decisions about where to allocate the money you do spend.
Spend it where it counts. Save where it doesn’t.
But making that distinction can be a challenge. And that’s why I break it down for you right here. As a general rule, and a mantra of mine if you have tuned into my videos before: Spend on the things you wear the most.
So here are my recommendations in the form of splurges & steals.
Splurge: Classic Leather Bag
Your best investment bag, and the one where you should consider spending the most, is a classic, simple, structured leather bag in your best neutral. Your most neutral color is one that is going to harmonize or match your hair color. A simple structured style without a lot of embellishments or hardware is going to hold up over time, and be worth the investment.
If you go outside of your comfort zone, price-wise, with any purchase, make it a designer bag. Whether your version of a designer bag is a medium-priced brand, like Coach, Kate Spade, or even Hobo, or a high end brand like Bottega Veneta, Gucci, or Prada, pick a very simple, preferably solid bag in a neutral that you will have for years to come. You can find all the picks below and many others right here.
Steal: Straw or Canvas Bags
Straw is a fun, summer-only material, and canvas totes are a super-casual way to carry all of your stuff around. Because of their limited use, and the fact that these materials don’t vary widely across price points (unlike leather, for example), a simple straw or canvas bag should not be an investment piece. If you spend more for these styles, you are paying for elevated workmanship, details, and maybe the brand name.
Nothing takes an outfit to the next level more quickly than a quality bag and shoes. They can take the most casual and basic look and make it look chic and polished. Plus, you can wear a stylish and versatile pair of neutral shoes every day if you like. And with care, a well made pair of leather shoes will last years. You can find all my favorites right here.
While I’ll never object to anyone spending more on an elevated or high quality top from the fashion essentials list, these are also the same pieces you can find everywhere, from Old Navy to Net a Porter. Essential tops are available in every price range, so there’s no reason to spend a ton of money on a chambray top or a basic tee. Ditto trendy or statement tops, which are in today and out tomorrow. Those should definitely be bought inexpensively, worn on repeat while they are in style and recycled when they are no longer trendy. You can find all of the tops shown here in this catalog.
Spend as much as you need to, and as little as you can get away with, on jeans. Here’s the way I see it. The most important feature to look for in a great pair of jeans is the perfect fit, followed by a contemporary wash and fabulous fabric. Depending on your specifications and your body, you might be able to find your perfect fit at Old Navy, or you might need to save up for a pair from Good American or Frame. Because jeans are a staple and something you can wear all the time expect to invest as much as you need to for that flattering fit. You’ll also want to spend more if you’re looking for trendy details or a funky wash, because the quality of these elements varies widely by brand. And finally, for thicker fabrics or better form retention, paying a bit more can get you much better quality.
A good simple pair of skinny or slim jeans in a dark even wash, as well as black or white, can be found at nearly every price point. Anything beyond that requires an upgrade. My favorite denim picks are all here.
With shorts, the simpler the better for most of us. You want a clean tailored pair in a substantial fabric that hits at a flattering spot on your legs. Period. And these can be found anywhere from Old Navy to Neiman Marcus. My favorite brands for flattering shorts are J. Crew, Old Navy, and Nic & Zoe. You can find them right here.
Splurge: Collectible Jewelry
Demi-fine jewelry brands are the modern woman’s answer to building a jewelry wardrobe. They are not as expensive as traditional fine jewelry, but have the quality, style, and staying power to wear day in and day out for years. Dean Davidson, Cat Janiga, Monica Vinader, Tat2 Designs, Kendra Scott and Gorjana are a few of the big players in this category, and they all create elegant, contemporary and very wearable pieces that are designed to be an integral part of your wardrobe. For that reason, I always recommend spending more on these. They instantly elevate an outfit and add polish to the most casual looks. My favorites can be found right here.
Steal: Statement Earrings
Fun, trendy earrings, from hoops to beaded baubles, are an instant update but quickly date, so buy these anywhere you find them at an affordable price. I like Target, Francesca’s, and department store sales for these finds. You’ll find some cute trendy options here.
If you are not looking for a flattering swimsuit, skip this section. For the rest of us, finding a bathing suit that fits, flatters, and looks chic and contemporary is critical. We want it to lift our bust, minimize our bum, tone our tummy, and give us the boost of confidence that we need to appear half-dressed in public. It’s a tall order, and one worth spending a bit more on. Like jeans, if you can find your most flattering suit at Cupshe or Target or another budget-friendly source, go for it! If not, it might be worth it to spend a bit more on a suit from Miraclesuit, or Summersalt, or Becca, among many others, that checks all of the boxes for you. These suits and more can be found here.
Unless you’re going for a whole look to lounge poolside at a posh resort, you don’t need to buy a matching coverup for every swimsuit. I know. I can’t believe I said that either. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that I wear the same styles of coverups most of the time. They are usually neutral and flowy and comfortable and easy to slip in and out of. I don’t have the lifestyle, right now. to fiddle with a complicated coverup for every suit. A gauzy, silky, or terry coverup in a solid neutral can be found everywhere, at every price, so choose a budget-friendly version to get you through the summer in comfort and style. You can find these right here.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Most of us place way too much importance, and spend too much money, on clothes, and too little on bras. But the right bra can make everything you wear look more expensive, more flattering, more slimming, more… You get the picture. If you have a small bust, you can probably find a great bra anywhere at every price, but for those of us who need a little extra lift, there’s no substitute for a good quality bra. My favorites are all right here.
I just can’t bring myself to say the actual word for these, especially in a post, so I’ll just call them knickers or underwear. Most days, a comfortable, neutral pair that doesn’t make itself known through clothes is all we need. If you like to match your knickers to your bras, go for it. I try to do this with color only, as my go-to everyday essential style is a microfiber bikini or thong. They’re comfortable and seamless, so they check all of the boxes for me. Sure there are times when I’ll need to reach for these or these, but for the most part, my daily pick works under everything every day. And you can find all my faves right here.
What did you think of my choices for splurges and steals? And how do you like to allocate your wardrobe budget? Let me know in the comments!