“Statistically, the average woman only wears 20% of what’s in her closet, so a high quantity of clothing isn’t even making us better-dressed or giving us more options; we still choose our favorites and reach for those pieces regularly,” says Gloria Cospito, a fashion stylist and image consultant based in New York City.
And fast fashion — think H&M, Forever 21, Zara — exacerbates the problem. But “lesser-quality items will fall apart more quickly, and entice the buyer to buy with more frequency,” says celebrity stylist Samantha Brown.
All of which is why I’m going to make the case for you to spend more on less clothing. Yes, you read that right. Throwing down the big bucks on a few staple pieces might be painful at the register, but in the long run it’ll save you money. Here are five items that are worth the splurge:
A Timeless Coat or Jacket
“A good quality winter coat [made of down or wool] is the first on my list, because many of the synthetic fibers used in less expensive garments will not provide the same warmth,” says Brown. Staying warm is definitely worth the price tag if you live in a place where the temperatures plummet in the winter. And if you live somewhere where the sun still shines all year round, Brown also says that blazers and jackets are generally worth the investment because they are difficult to fit correctly. “Any garment with a perfect fit that requires no tailoring, in a classic silhouette is a must!” says Brown.
Expect to spend at least: $200
A Staple Handbag
Cospito suggests investing in a sturdy handbag that’s made to last, and construction and materials are key to that. Going for a real leather handbag is probably your best bet in terms of material. Versatile? Check. Durable? Check. Stylish? Check. Expensive? Unfortunately, check. But it’s worth it — a leather bag won’t fall apart after a couple of uses. (If you’re vegan, focus on the construction of the bag instead. And note, you still have to spend enough to buy quality.)
Splurge on the pieces you’ll reach for again and again.
When shopping for an everyday handbag, go for a size that’ll fit everything you need: cell phone, lipstick, wallet, gum and whatever else you need to get through the day. Stick to neutrals, too. Black, brown, tan or gray bags can be worn with virtually any outfit, all year-round.
Expect to spend at least: $300
Whether you wear them to your dream job interview with a killer pantsuit or with your favorite pair of jeans and white T-shirt to happy hour, a classic pair of black pumps is a versatile addition to any women’s wardrobe. A pointed-toe, three to four-inch stiletto heel is a good place to start if you want a timeless pair of pumps. There’s a reason you always see a pair of black high heels in every shoe department. And while they don’t exactly need to be red-bottoms, make sure you’re spending on a heel that won’t break on your way to said interview.
Expect to spend at least: $200
Jewelry is the finishing touch on a look and can add a personal element to your outfit. “Splurge here on beautiful pieces that mean something to you. You’ll probably end up wearing them daily, and you’ll be happier you sprung for the real thing rather than something that will tarnish and degrade,” says Cospito. She also points out that jewelry is something you can pass down, so having real pieces is something that can be enjoyed for generations. A classic piece of jewelry could be a simple diamond pendant or a gold ring — anything that is wearable for your everyday lifestyle. You can find some unique pieces at your local jewelers or on consignment sites like TheRealReal and Tradesy.
Expect to spend at least: $1,000 on a 1/2 carat diamond necklace in 14 karat gold
You may be tempted to go for five panties for $28.50 at Victoria’s Secret, but know that the price you’ll pay is that you’ll need to replace them in short order. “Invest in proper undergarments. They lay the foundation for your outfit and can completely change the shape of your body—for better and for worse,” says Brown. Brands like ThirdLove and Lonely are high-quality (and body-positive!) options that are worth the investment for bras and panties you’ll be wearing every day.
Expect to spend at least: $75 on a bra, $15 on one pair of panties, $100 on shapewear.
All of this to say, this doesn’t mean you should never buy cheaper, trendier pieces from time to time. “I’m a believer in mixing high and low. The most interesting style comes from experimentation — something that’s difficult to do when buying only top designer pieces,” says Brown. So invest in the staples, and have fun with a trend piece here and there. Moral of the story: Splurge on the pieces you’ll reach for again and again.