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Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.
While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don't even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.
On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.
The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.
So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag? A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!
I have a pretty hard $100 line in my head that I find it very hard to go over for anything – there’s something about going into the triple digits! Having said that, I will go over for boots and shoes. I have finicky feet, so those are definitely my splurge items. And bras! I’ll also splurge on local designers or handmade items. I think it’s important to support people like that, and I know it’s much more expensive to make small batch items.
Save items definitely include socks and tights (always put holes in them no matter the cost), pjs and workout clothing, handbags, shirts, and anything light coloured (I’m a terrible klutz). I really resent how expensive jeans are, and haven’t owned any in a couple of years because they’re a save item in my head, but hard to find for reasonable prices (that fit me well).
(I’m a 40-yr-old single professional in a creative field)
Ooh, I loved this!! Currently, I have zero budget for new clothing items, as I’m supporting my husband and I on my little salary (he is a full-time graduate student and we both have plenty of student loans to pay back). However, when I’ve had more money to spend, these tend to be my numbers:
– Jeans: No more than $50, usually. But to be honest, I hate shopping for jeans and have kind of sworn them off, since I can’t seem to find any that fit me.
– Winter coat: I used to spend only about $50-75 max on a winter coat, but 3 years ago, I bought a winter jacket for about $200. It’s the warmest thing ever (I rarely ever feel cold while wearing it), and it’s held up amazingly. Because I live in Minnesota, I need a good quality coat to make it through the winter, and this jacket has definitely been worth every penny.
– Tall boots: These days, no more than $50. I bought a pair of nice boots for about $100 nearly two years ago, and they fell apart within a year. Plus, they weren’t all that comfortable. All of my $35 Target boots, however? They’ve lasted me for multiple seasons, are incredibly comfortable, and hold up so well! Target boots for the win!!
– A dress to wear to a wedding/gala: I live a very casual lifestyle, so most weddings I go to, I’m fine wearing a cute dress from Target/Old Navy/TJ Maxx. $35-40 is usually my top price. As a school counselor living in a smallish town, I don’t have many reasons to go to any galas, haha 🙂
Basically, I try to buy most things as cheap as possible (as long as I love the item and it feels durable) because of my minuscule budget. I will, however, splurge on a good quality, warm winter coat 🙂
Apparently my number for tall black boots is $240 since I just bought a new pair yesterday but my last pair cost $60 at DSW, I wore them constantly the last 3 winters and pretty much destroyed them. Before this, the most I ever spent on shoes was about $150 on a pair of heels I kept staring at in a shop window on a vacation in Italy. They are my happy shoes – super cute and have great memories! I work in retail, not clothing, and buy most of my clothes at Loft, TJ Maxx & Marshalls and can wear dark skinny jeans with boots to work. Target mostly for workout clothes and the nearby Nike outlet for running shoes. I tend to research many purchases and watch for sales, markdowns & coupons. To paraphrase my husband, I love good labels but I am cheap.
I’m a short, curvy DINK in my mid 30’s. I work in a soil lab so my work clothes tend toward very casual (denim (jeans, shorts, skirt), a tee and a cardigan are my uniform) and need to be able to stand up to a lot of movement and some dirt (even though I do wear a lab coat).
Things in NZ are a bit more expensive that in the States (yay living at the end of the earth!).
I’m going to quote in NZ dollars so remember that NZ$1 = US$0.80
Tees – up to $60, particularly if embellished. Although my current go-to’s only cost $7
Jeans – up to $200 (my Riders by Lee Mid Rise Straight’s were $120)
Cardigans – up to $70 (I tend to go for merino hence the price)
Skirts/Trousers – up to $200
Shoes – up to $200
Boots – up to $300
Dresses – up to $200
Bras – up to $100 (the curse of being particularly busty)
Handbags – I’m a sucker for gorgeous bags. I don’t buy them often but they’re often expensive!
I am a repairer and will wear things until they really truly aren’t wearable anymore (things from my work uniform will end up as gardening/horse riding clothes). Thus I don’t mind paying a little bit more for my clothes. But I do envy the selection and prices y’all have available to you 🙂
GREAT topic, and one I’ve had with friends many times! I’m in my mid-forties, step mom to 4 kids and work in PR/Marketing and as a makeup artist. I’m about 5’8″, busty and a curvy size 12. My price points have COMPLETELY changed over the years! I grew up poor and always worked to pay for my own clothes…I scoured the sales racks at Express and Contempo Casuals (anyone in my age demo remember them?!!) as well as goodwill for stylish clothes I could afford…Target didn’t have cute clothes back then and Old Navy didn’t exist. I just wanted more stuff in my closet, so I was looking for volume….I never spent more than $40 on anything, really. As I got older and had more money, I started to spend a bit more, but the real shift came just a few years ago. I looked at the 10 pairs of so-so Target/Marshall’s/etc boots under my bed and realized that I really didn’t love any of them and most of them looked pretty cheap. I found some classic, well made Halogen boots at Nordstrom on sale for $175….and bought the black and tan versions. This purchase shifted everything! I finally realized that having well made classic boots…and fewer pairs…suited my life so much better, and that I was worth getting “the good ones” and not just the cheap ones. I wear those boots constantly, they still look brand new. My most expensive item of clothing I own is a $500 pair of cowboy boots…total impulse purchase to wear to a charity event where I was volunteering, but I don’t regret it at all…they feel custom made, they are a classic style and every single time I wear them I get compliments! I have purchased a few pairs of Born boots for casual wear and they are worth every penny too…comfortable enough to be on my feet all day, and that’s worth a lot in the winter. In summer, I wear a selection of cute wedges and flat sandals…most were $40 or less, it’s easy to find cute ones that are well made but don’t cost a lot. Picked up two pair of leather flat sandals last year at Target that were $25 each and look and feel exactly like the $200 Ralph Lauren counterparts. I found some Sam and Libby flat sandals for $20 each (I got 5 pair in different colors) that look and feel as good as, if not better than….their $70 Sam Edelman counterparts. If I find the right item that I truly love, I will always buy a back up. I don’t spend on coats ( I live in Dallas, we only wear them a few times a year), I get cute ones on sale at Old Navy in classic styles. In recent years, I’ve spent $100 on 2 pairs of spanx structured leggings…I wear them all winter with boots and they far surpass any other leggings I’ve owned. I tossed all the crappy $10 leggings! I gave away all of my cheap purses and now have 4 Kate Spade bags in very classic styles and colors that I rotate (purchased with a bonus, all 4 cost me a total of $800 all in one shot) daily. I used to buy several $50 purses a year and never really loved any of them. The most I’d ever spend on a purse is $300, but there’s an outlet mall here where you can get top brands on sale, so I purchased my Kate Spade bags there at less than half price. I’m willing to spend on boots and purses. I have a lot of staples from Old Navy and Target that rival more expensive pieces, no need to spend a lot on tank tops, basic cardi’s, knit separates…for basic tanks, ts, etc, $30 or less is plenty, no need to spend more. For shoes, I will spend up to $100…I am able to find a WIDE selection at that price and under in brands I like… Guess, Vince Camuto…at DSW and Marshall’s. Now that I’m older and I truly understand my body type, my lifestyle, and know what I really will wear and use…. I’m willing to spend on the following: a truly classic and well made version of something I know I’ll wear nearly daily….black skirt, black maxi dress, great cardigan, well made boots, classic bag. My goal going forward is to continue to pony up for items that are worth it and skip purchasing disposable items….cute $40 top I only wore once, $20 necklace that tarnished after 3 wearings, etc. I’m on the hunt for a great leather jacket that fits my bust but isn’t too loose everywhere else…if I can find it, I will spend up to $300 for that, because I’ve been looking for a couple years now. I wouldn’t spend on the white T because it’s not one of my personal basics, but if I found a well fitting black maxi dress? I’d spend up to $200, because I wear them all year long as wardrobe foundation and layer other stuff on top. So far, I’ve only found cheaper versions, so I have to keep re-buying and replacing once they wear out. Now when I shop, I think 2 things….. A. am I buying a cheap version of something that I could NOT buy and put that money towards the better quality item? and B. on sale items, would I still want to buy it full price? If not, it goes back.
I’m 28 with two very little kids. I’ve been doing the mommy track / consulting since finishing grad school a couple of years ago, so my wardrobe from home has been pretty casual. Soon I’ll be getting a job in a casual office (my boss wears jeans, t-shirts, and ball caps). So, I see a lot of my clothes as temporary. I’m almost done nursing, but my kids are going to pull on clothes, wipe their hands and noses, and otherwise make messes. Pants I’d like to last a couple of years, as in hopefully two years, so I’ll go up to $30 for a pair I like. I’m 5’10” and it’s hard to find pants at that price point that are long enough. Blouses, though, I shop the clearance racks. “Good” or “Fun” or t-shirts at $10, “Makes me look and feel professional” at $20, and splurges no more than $29. I can wait for sales. I need to start spending more on my shoes. I’m so used to $20 shoes that I’m wary of buyer’s remorse if I buy a $50 pair.
I love your blog for inspirations and insights, even though your price point is higher than mine.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
Thanks Kate, and thanks for that feedback. I hope that some can be inspiration and I do try to wear simpler things that I believe can be replicated at lower pricepoints, but I’ll try to incorporate more lower pricepoints 🙂
I am in my mid-30s, both plus-sized and tall (5’10.5″ and wear anywhere from 22W to 28W depending on manufacturer, usually 24W tops and 26W pants), have large wide feet and mobility problems that mean I need to be Very Careful about shoes, work a mid-level professional civil service job that occasionally requires travel, am married to a graduate student who works part-time and does the majority of the day to day child care, and have two kids that go to a Catholic elementary school. And I live in upstate NY, which means hot summers and cold winters.
“Does it actually fit?” and “Is it machine-washable?” are my two big questions for the vast majority of my clothes. I will sometimes make an exception on the second for suits, coats, and special occasion dresses.
I will often watch sales carefully and try to considerably undercut these figures (my goal is usually to manage to get the items one level down from what I’ve listed here, and to get the things I list as “$15” for $10 or less, though sometimes that’s not realistic, e.g. bras for $15 is NOT going to happen!), but these are the limits of “I’d have to have a incredibly compelling reason to pay more than this” for me:
$150: winter coat, dress for a “best friend getting married!”-level special occasion, primary go-to interview suit, Exactly The Right Shoes (which may include boots). Whatever the item is has to be pretty well perfect for me in order to get me to pay this much.
$75: formal-ish dress, dress or outfit that can double as SCA garb, Exactly The Right Jewelry (I had an amber pendant that I bought for $75 that I wore constantly for about two years, for instance), most suits, spring/fall coats, everyday purse.
$60: most shoes, both pieces of a sweater twinset, jeans, a more casual dress, a big twirly skirt that I am absolutely in love with, a bra with a specialized purpose (halter, strapless, etc.), swimsuit.
$30: blouses, most ordinary bras, shapewear, pants or skirts that aren’t mentioned higher on this list, sweaters, T-shirts that are sentimental in some way (of two types: the absolutely gorgeous tie-dye creations made by one of my oldest friends, and concert/sport/etc. shirts), evening purse, small to medium bottle of the fragrances I like, Fair Trade jewelry, also about how much I’m typically willing to pay for a haircut.
$15: underwear (no more than this per pair), socks or hose (ditto), most makeup (no more than this per item), most ordinary everyday jewelry, plain t-shirts.
I watch 6pm.com, Amazon, and the manufacturer’s websites for the three brands of shoes I regularly wear, and Lands’ End, Macy’s, JustMySize.com, Amazon, Torrid, Lane Bryant, Catherine’s, OneStopPlus, and eBay for clothes. Yay online shopping, where I can have it acknowledged that a plus-size woman can still need greater than a 29″ inseam.
I am 35, mom of two, and work in a corporate setting. I am pretty cheap when it comes to clothing. I guess It’s just that I don’t see a reason to spend a lot because there are plenty of flattering good quality options out there, and hunting for bargains is kind of fun (for me anyway). Plus I enjoy a varied wardrobe that’s on trend – and don’t want to feel bad if I wore something for one season but got tired of it the next.
I’ll generally pay $50ish for jeans/pants, $30ish for blouses, $40ish for sweaters, and $15 for tees. All of my bras are from VS and I pay just over $30 for them. Dresses are anywhere from $20 to $80, skirts $40 to $70. The most I spent on shoes is $120, but usually it’s way less. Coats are typically under $150, but I do have two that were in the $500 range – ironically they are both too big on me now and I am not sure what to do with them.
What I will splurge on happily is bags – I love how the right bag can dress up the plainest outfit.
Little Red says
Early 40s, single, childless, and I work in a business casual environment. These last two to three years, I’ve definitely increased the amount I spend on each item. I just bought a semi-custom Katherine Hooker coat at one of her trunk shows. Also, I just upgraded my work jeans to dark wash within the last year and I think I spent about $100 max for the NYDJ ones with the remaining less than that. I buy dress shirts from Brooks Brothers when they go on sale. I like high quality things but I don’t want to spend more than I have to. I justify this by the fact that I wear and use my items for a long time so everything is an investment item. I’m still carrying the same Coach purse that I bought twelve or thirteen years ago. It gets used everyday except for dressy occasions. I have a pair of Cole Haan loafers for which I paid $150 more than nine years ago. I’ve been wearing them constantly and have only had them resoled twice. Admittedly, I don’t abuse my stuff and I take good care of it so things last a long time as is.
I’m really enjoying this topic! I’m single in my late 20s and work in the finance industry in London. I think what’s very different about the UK vs the US is that we don’t really have the same thrifting/coupons culture that you do? I will regularly donate clothes to charity shops but don’t really shop there as I never find anything good. So with that in mind…
My office is relatively smart (pencil skirts, heels, cardigans, but no suits) so I tend to buy my clothes from the high street (trousers and merino cardigans probably below $40, dresses below $60) and pay up to the same amount again to have them tailored for a better fit. I am searching for a really great pair of work trousers though and would pay up to $100 for a classic style which didn’t need tailoring! For jeans I lucked out and found some at the $30-40 level (American Eagle in the US and equivalent at home) which fit great; I have a few identical pairs in different colours and while they still make them I won’t pay more! I spend so much time at the office that I tend not to spend much on casual clothes.
I’m not much of a handbag person but agree that cheap handbags look obviously cheap; I will spend $150-ish on a leather bag but use it every day until it needs replacing.
The splurge always comes on shoes… I’ll spend up to $300 on designer heels because I find expensive heels a lot more comfortable (would rather have a few great pairs than lots of cheap ones), and up to $60 for (leather) ballet pumps (no more unless I’m really desperate because the smell forces me to bin them after a season…) I also happily pay up for expensive makeup and skincare as I have really sensitive skin.
I tend not to spend money on jewellery or scarves (don’t really wear the former, have LOTS of the latter in silk, cashmere and alpaca but all bought abroad for $10-20 vs. a lot more expensive at home!)
This post is making me think I’m probably overdue a wardrobe clear-out…
I’m in my 40’s and work in a mostly business casual office with occasional suit days. I spend the most on items that will last several years. I’ll spend $200-300 for suiting, leather shoes or bags. (I love Brahmin bags!) I agree with Lexalemmy’s comment about a cheap bag. It can bring down your whole outfit. I normally spend $40-50 on pants, skirts and blouses and buy these at Macys, Lands End or Dillards. I don’t mind waiting for a sale if an item is a bit too pricey. For weekend wear like jeans, yoga pants and t shirts, I spend very little. My favorite places for casual items are Kohls or Costco. My one more expensive casual must-have is SAS sandals. They are extremely comfy and well worth it!
Kati Rose says
This is something I’ve never really thought about, but now that it’s been brought to my attention I’ve spent time this morning thinking about how that price has fluctuated through my life based on certain factors and what it is right now.
Gale a.k.a. @gforthemoney says
I am tall, size 0X or 14, late 20s, and work at a casual, large-ish tech company. I am also buried in student loans and a new car payment, so my clothing budget is snug at $104/month. Currently saving up for wedding and honeymoon, so there’s really no wiggle room in the budget until next year.
Splurge: The most expensive pair of jeans I own was $70 from GAP, I also purchase designer jeans at a lower price point from local resale shops, but I would spend up to…$150, I think. I have one handbag that cost $100 on sale, but I would potentially spend up to $250 if I’m all stocked up on wardrobe staples and have room to save for a new bag (but realistically my budget would be more like $150). I definitely spend more on shoes, such as my black Tieks flats and DV riding boots at close to $200 each. I am also a Texan with shortened winters, and bought two coats in a Macy’s sale last winter at around $80-130 each. A couple of nice blazers at $100-150 each, also mostly only used for job interviews and the like.
Scrimp: Denim leggings like the Rockstar from Old Navy, layering tees from ON, Target, and GAP, button downs from ON and GAP, and cardigans from Target. I agree that discount stores do better with talls. Misc pieces from the Loft clearance rack. My ModCloth and eShakti pieces fall in to both the scrimp and splurge categories for me depending on the piece and if I got it on sale.
Save: I have to save up for splurge/investment pieces since my budget isn’t huge. My fiance and I are taking our winter honeymoon in Boston, so right now I’m saving for a good pair of waterproof boots; I plan to spend around $200 (preferred $180, but the ones I like are $220). I am also saving for a few handbags that I probably won’t be able to get till next spring; I need a better quality brown leather handbag, a black crossbody with a longer strap for nights out downtown, and a more polished black handbag (mine is fine for work, but wouldn’t be for job interviews if I were looking for something new right now); and I really want a red handbag. I’m also looking for a decent quality, packable rain coat/jacket under $100 for our travels. Final things I’m saving for are a white button down from one of those custom fit operations, a few new bracelets (deeply in love with Allie’s silver cuff), and a couple of pairs of nicer earrings for my work outfits.
Thanks for this topic, Allie! I’m enjoying the comments
So interesting! I’m in my late thirties and work in a pretty stuffy office that errs on the dressy side of business casual, so I have a work wardrobe of pencil skirts, dressy tanks/tees, dresses, cardigans and jackets. I go classic with all of that and get almost all of it from consignment shops, for both ecological and budget reasons. I don’t think I spend more than ~30 for any one item (maybe 40ish for cashmere) and I can usually score almost new pieces from shops like Banana Republic and JCrew that I’d never be able to bring home new. I splurge on boots and shoes – my commute is a lot of walking, and I count on my boots especially to provide some personality to my corporate robot look. Splurging for me means about $100 for shoes and up to $300 for boots, but I usually make them last at least a couple of seasons. I’ll usually grab a new scarf or necklace or two each season so that i don’t feel totally frumpy, but those are usually pretty inexpensive. I have a few nice bags for work (~200), but they’re classic, too, so that’s not a frequent expense.
My non-work clothes are all comfy casual jeans and t-shirts. i used to buy lucky jeans for ~100 on sale, but i’ve switched over to kut from the kloth (adore adore adore!), and can find those at nordstrom’s rack for about $40. i’m hard on play clothes, so i don’t think i would spend more than $20 on a tee. I thrift a lot of that kind of stuff, too…….
I don’t really have specific things I splurge on or save on. Just about every type of clothing available… tops, jeans, coats, shoes and boots etc. I have in every price range from super cheap to pretty damn spendy. My criteria I guess, is that it fits well, is well made and I love it. I look for details in the cheap clothes that make them look more expensive. I refuse to buy expensive if it looks cheap. I put as much thought into buying the inexpensive items as I do the expensive because a $10 thirst that I will never wear is $10 completely wasted. From past experience, I know that shit adds up!
Mid-40s, single, business casual work environment. Very interesting topic. I think my threshold has changed over the years based on age and income. I think about clothes I bought in my 20s and 30s
and “wasted” money and UGH. Now I try to judge an item by how much use I will get vs the quality of the item. Handbags – $100 – $150, I might go up to $200 for love. Jeans – $50. Tshirts – $20 max. Clothes for work never more than $80-$100. Shoes – $90 max. Workout wear – TJMaxx, Marshalls – last season’s at much less. I’m guilty of buying too many mutliples and am learning to pare back. What I’ve learned
in the last few years, buy what I will wear and use. I do splurge from time to time and pay a lot
more than I would otherwise – but that’s what makes it a splurge.
DINK, work in a smart casual office.
For me it depends on whether I *need* the item. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right fit, and if I need it for an upcoming trip or an occasion, I’ll pay whatever it is (up to 1.5 the price I was hoping to pay) so I can stop shopping and go home. For such reasons, I’ve paid $70-80 for silk (or poly-silk) shells, $100+ for business level cardigans (hate jackets), etc.
When I’m not in a rush however, which is most of the time:
– < $100 for trousers/skirts for work
– < $75 for sweaters/cardigans
– < $100 for jeans
– < $40 for plain t-shirts, <$60 for dressy ones that don't need another layer
– < $150 for shoes, <$200 for boots
– < $100 for purses
– < $100 for dresses (usually casual)
– Used to be <$50-60 for bras but recently venturing into a higher quality range, ~$100. But I wear padded sports bras a lot, which are more like $30-40, so it balances out.
– <$100 for a special occasion piece, and I always make sure it's wearable multiple times.
While I am employed, I figure I want my free time for things other than shopping for hours on end, so I'm OK with not getting the best deal. However, I do enjoy a deal as much as anyone so I'll take it if I can find it without tons of time invested. And if I know I'm just after the passing joy of getting a new pretty toy, I tend to go to a second-hand store and get a scarf/shawl/necklace – no worries about fit or frivolous spending.
Great discussion, Allison! I am super-scrimp on most pieces of clothing (not cheap clothing, but second-hand clothing for me). But I will drop a wad on a great bag, then wear it nonstop for two years (that’s my current Coach bag). I love reading all the comments; we’re all so different and it’s all good. xo
I will spend $23 on underwear (Hanky Panky retro thong), $90 on Chantelle bras, and am super picky about handbags. I can’t carry cheap bags, they make me sad. I have spent $1,000 on a handbag, but it will probably outlast me! I otherwise can wear a $25 dress and feel just as good as if I were wearing a $250 dress. Same with shoes. I don’t generally shop with dollar figures in mind. I’m learning to place priority on fit, whether I LOVE the item and whether it can be worn many different ways. If the item meets those criteria, I buy it and don’t think about the cost.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
Isn’t the retro thong the best? I’ll buy them during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale to save a couple bucks, but they are worth it to me too.
Wow! I love reading all the price points and choices of all kinds of women from professionals to SAHM.
Let’s see, I am 59 and work in an office, but periodically have to go out in jeans and boots to the construction sites. I pay very little on my every day clothing (from $20 to $75 at most) as I buy most everything on major sale from Ann Taylor, Nordstrom and Macys. I love blazers, sweater sets and tailored shirts. My jeans are Levis and, I buy whatever is on sale that will fit, which isn’t easy as I can buy two pair of the exact same style and only one pair will fit. Most of my clothing is classic, but a good deal of it is becoming trendy, so I sell what I don’t need on eBay. I also use eBay to buy my pre-owned designer watches to save money. One of my splurges are comfortable stylish shoes and boots; I’m willing to pay upwards of $100 or more on them, thanks to my surgically enhanced feet. I also splurge on good designer handbags, pay upwards of $400 on them and have quite the collection. I carry them on a whim and take extra good care of them with special leather cream, air bags for shaping, and cloth storage bags.
I will splurge on often-worn shoes and bras. I have messed-up feet, though, and I walk at least a mile each day, so I don’t really consider it a splurge to buy supportive, comfortable shoes. When I hiked for a living, I shelled out $300 for high-quality leather hiking boots, plus $35 for good supportive insoles. I will pay whatever it costs to replace my Saucony tennis shoes with new ones (usually ~$100 including insoles).
I have a really, really hard time spending money on clothing, though. Like, my husband has spent the last year trying to talk me into buying new clothes. And I am now, but still not spending very much. I picked up two pairs of boots in a 6pm $20 sale, my new favorite pair of work pants came from the clearance rack at Kohl’s (< $15), most of the rest of my newly purchased clothes came from a clearance rack somewhere. I bought a pair of booties at Payless the other day and felt guilty, even though they were on sale, because they were $35–because I'm not going to wear them every day.
I will sometimes spend on outerwear, even though I'm not going to wear that every day either. I spent about 100 euro on a peacoat at United Colors of Benetton when I was studying abroad 8 years ago, and damn, I have and love that coat still.
Cynthia Peterson says
I am 64 and have been retired for 6 years. I taught high school and was an administrator, and always dressed well, preferring business wear or at least business casual. I shopped department stores and outlet stores, often waiting for sales but always bought expensive leather shoes/boots as I was on my feet so much. More than once I paid up to $400 for a quality dressy winter coat, as I live in Canada. These lasted for years.
When I retired I had to replace most of my wardrobe. Now I shop thrift stores, online, and sales exclusively.
I love good quality leather handbags and have quite a collection, but won’t pay more than $40. The only thing I pay full price for is good shoes, as I have narrow, low-volume feet and need good support. I would pay up to $300 for the right shoes. Also I still haven’t found my “dream jeans” so if I found the right pair I’d pay up to $150 and wear them forever.
Love hearing all the viewpoints — great topic!
My priorities have definitely changed with this over the years. I’ll pay more for a decent tshirt with good coverage and drape that will last – but, honestly, I usually stock up at the Ann Taylor Factory Outlet and pay under $10 for one. I don’t know that I’d ever pay a lot for white because I’m a walking disaster area.
Jeans – Levis look fabulous on me or I’d consider paying between $150 – $200 on a pair.
Shoes – I always invest in good shoes because I’m on my feet 8 hours a day in the classroom.
Dresses – I look for end of season sales on good brands because I can wear most stuff for three-quarters of the year in Texas. I’ve paid $125 for a day dress though and would pay that for a good quality, Made in the U.S. dress again.
Boots – I’ve paid over $200 for a good pair of cowboy boots, but would go higher for something handmade in the U.S. or Mexico. I have some inexpensive riding boots, but am looking at dropping the $500 for a custom made pair from Poppy Barley because I know that they’ll last forever.
Evening wear – Thrift shops in the ritzy part of town all the way.
I should add that I’m in my late 40s and we’re DINKs, so my disposable income supports spending more on stuff that I feel warrants it.
I bought my tall Born boots on sale at the NAS years ago and paid $250 for them but they were totally worth it. I haven’t spent that much since because I don’t have to; they’ve lasted forever. Coats I usually thrift when I can, but will go up to about $200 for one because I’m tall and usually thrifted coats aren’t long enough in the arms. I get all of my jeans from either Old Navy or Gap because they’re inexpensive and fit me fine. I can’t see paying more than that because I’m not the biggest jeans-wearer ever. I will spend a lot on a handbag because I carry the same one for years and years, but never on a clutch because I thrift them. I’m willing to spend more on bras because I wore the wrong size for years and it was horrible so I am picky about that now. In terms of makeup, I only wear Bobbi Brown Smudge Free because it is the best for bike riding in the rain.
So, I guess if it’s something I will use regularly for years; boots, a purse, a well-fitting coat, I’m willing to pay. But, for most other things, I try to thrift them and keep the cost down.
Just for the record, I’m nearly forty, unmarried and with no kids which results in quite a bit of disposable income, even with student loans.
Krista Alexander says
When i worked full time (marketing for a wealth management firm) I spent a lot of money on clothes and shoes. It wasn’t an option not to. I was expected to dress a certain way. Now that I do not work (due to an illness I’m now disabled) it’s a little easier and way more fun. I buy lots of things at Target and H&M (t-shirts, cotton dresses, every day jeans) but will splurge on shoes and bags. i no longer need a warm coat (I moved to Florida) and I don’t like them anyway so that’s ok. I do have a handmade shawl that is amazing and quite warm. It was a splurge and worth every penny. I also splurge on things like getting my nails done every few weeks. That is a guilty pleasure that makes me feel better. I still buy good makeup since my skin has gotten incredibly sensitive. I will splurge on something if I know I’ll wear it often and it’s well made. I still have a Fossil fetish when it comes to bags. Bras are a non-negotiable. at a 34G I need all the support I can get. Swimsuits, too. My new uniform is jeans and a loose fitting top or a maxi dress/skirt. And Chacos. They’re not cute shoes but they are unbelievably comfortable and when my foot joints swell, they still fit.
Facinating discussion, even if I don’t have much context on what you’re buying with US dollars…
Moving from New Zealand to England, it’s taken me quite a while to adjust to the new benchmarks of clothing prices over here. For example, when I visited England on holiday I snapped what what were (for the English) quite expensive shoes because they were quite cheap by New Zealand standards.
I used to think clothes were generally much cheaper in England than New Zealand, but I think actually that there’s more variation on price from super-cheap (and often crappy quality) to super-crazy expensive designer ready-to-wear. I started out buying the super-cheap stuff (partly because I had a lower salary then too) but now I’ve graduated to about the level I was at in New Zealand. I won’t bother telling you the numbers ‘cos it won’t mean much to you.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
There’s more international readers than you’d think! 🙂
Jennifer Brown says
I’m in my early 40s, WOH full time as an academic, two kids. I have what I think most people would consider a very minimal and unstylish wardrobe, and used to be able to say I never ever bought anything except on sale/ clearance. It is just this last year that I decided to spend a little more on clothes that actually fit and look nice, and start taking better care of them. I spent $100 on NYDJ jeans this year (I only own one pair though) and $65 (at the Nordstrom Anniversary sale) on dress slacks. In the $50-$60 range on blouses and sweaters. I spend more on shoes ($100-125) because I have foot issues and I really need good shoes, but I have very few pairs. $175 for Clarks boots. $65 for bras but cheap underwear, pajamas, workout gear. One handbag a year, usually Fossil or something like that, and beat the hell out of it. 🙂
I’m in my early 40’s with a teenage daughter and a single income household so I don’t have a lot of disposable income. I don’t have a set number, I rather look at the usefulness of the item that I’m buying. If the item is $150 and I know that I won’t wear it much (once every blue moon) then I’ll look for something that I’ll wear a little more. I’m full figured so I tend to shop the sales because my clothing cost can run really high. So I buy t-shirts, socks and workout clothes from Walmart and Target. Since I shop sales, I don’t spend over $60 for jeans. Winter coats, I’ll spend a little more for because I really hate being cold but I’ve learned to shop at the end of the season to get some great deals. I have to buy wide calf boots and since they’re expensive, I’ll wear them until they need to be replaced. I don’t buy a lot of trendy pieces because I usually don’t want to wear it once the trend is over, I stick with more classic pieces.
It is interesting, isn’t it? I don’t have much disposable income and because my work environment is casual, I don’t have to spend on suits or expensive separates. Also, I think age may come into play; the older I get the less I want to spend on “event” clothing. I’m very cheap with t-shirts because I’m not willing to hand wash and take great care of them. Jeans are always Gap and usually on sale. I keep winter coats for years and years, so the price is kind of minimized by the time. I will, however, never buy a cheap pair of shoes. They are my weakness and while I don’t have 50 pairs, the ones I do have are stylish, comfortable, and well made. I can’t imagine paying more than $100 for separates (skirts, pants) I will consider splurging on a really beautiful sweater because I think it makes more of a statement.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
I hear you on event clothing. I bought a sequined tank from J.Crew outlet two years ago thinking it was an awesome price ($9.99) for something I could wear for a night out… but two years later that top still has tags on it. I’ve stopped buying fun dresses because they often collect dust before being worn and i find many of my work staples can work for play if styled correctly.
Beth @ Turn2theSimple says
I’m a SAHM with three young children (ages 6, 4 & 2), and a very tight budget. Everything I wear has to be comfortable and washable! I will spend up to $30 on jeans and $15 on shirts. I will spend more on a nice and warm down winter coat (Central MN is cold!). I will also spend more on shoes just because I need something comfortable, but usually I am able to watch sales and clearance racks and find nice shoes for under $50. I have no fancy events to attend and even weddings tend to be a bit more casual here in MN. I do like to keep a careful eye out at my favorite thrift stores and consignment stores and have found some really nice things that I love that I would have never paid full price for. It helps to have a very good handle on my closet and style so that I only buy what I know I’m going to love and I’m not tempted by “impulse” purchases.
I’m married with one child and we have two full time incomes, in my 40’s. Most things I try to buy on sale, but will make an exception if it’s a hard to find item or not found at a place that does a lot of sales. But I do go for quality and am picky about fabrics/construction/fit.
I am pretty cheap with things that need to be replaced fairly often – panties, bras, workout gear. I get free panties at Victoria’s Secret through their Angel Card program and use coupons to get bras for around $30. Workout gear is from Kohl’s and TJ Maxx, so under $30 per item. I used to buy $30 running shoes on sale but have recently started getting better quality shoes at online sales for $65-$75. Worth it.
The jeans that fit me best are Levi’s, I can get those for around $50. However if this were not the case I would spend up to $150 for perfectly fitting jeans.
Coats, bags, shoes – my cap is $250, but I don’t always spend that much.
Work basics – dresses, skirts, blouses, pants – $100 at the most. Blazers up to $200 if it’s a really special, standout item otherwise just a basic piece can be found for $100 or less on sale.
Tees – $35 if it was really perfect and well made. Fun, fast fashion, trendy items, maybe $30.
Knitwear – depends – I’ve gone up to $100, but it has to be really well made and quality materials like cashmere/wool.
Biggest ever splurge was a Burberry trench – not sorry.
Great topic! It made me realize I never thought about this before. I’m 52, working full time in a NYC law office. Discount shops and outlets serve me well and I don’t really like to shop. I wish I did, my wardrobe would benefit greatly, but I don’t.
I’m cheap with:
Jeans (never over $50), tees (maybe $20?), everyday casual clothes, shoes. I find that I have to replace tees every season anyway so why pay a lot? Jeans last me forever. I have 2 pair and I don’t need more. I typically pay no more than $60 for slacks (usually Jones NY outlet or AT) and will go up to $100 for a blazer. I’m not a woman that’s “into” shoes so I have a few basic black pumps (most expensive pair was $60) I keep at the office and change into when I get in (always black, I think I’m in a rut).
I splurge with:
Handbags, bras, undergarments, boots. I don’t even care about the price tag when it comes to good foundation pieces, it’s important for me to be held in all the right places and not tugging at myself all day. I’m tough on my handbags so I don’t mind paying up to $300 for a good commuter bag that fits my criteria and doesn’t have logos all over it. Boots last a long time and they make me feel bad-ass so I’ll pay up to $200. And I would splurge on a good winter coat if I could find one that fits really well and looks good. Another thing I would splurge on is a dress for a special occasion (maybe up to $250) if it wowed me.
The only things I spend a lot (what I’d consider a lot) on are bras and shoes, in both cases because I’m a difficult size to fit, and when it’s good it’s really good but when it’s bad it’s completely useless. I have lucked out in the past and bought shoes on sale or at Payless that have turned out to be the most comfortable ever, but in general I’m willing to spend $200 on a pair of La Canadienne boots that are going into their fourth or fifth winter and I still love and look perfect, for instance. Bras in the size that really fits me are usually French, from the fancy bra store, and run about $80 – so I don’t have many.
At the other end of the scale, for jeans I like to spend about $40 and for a t-shirt, under $20. I prefer to buy slightly better brands on sale or discount (I love Marshall’s) but I have my fair share of Target and Old Navy stuff too.
I’m an SAHM without my own income, though, and with nowhere much to go, so I’ve neither the reason nor the means to spend a lot on clothes, much as I would love to. Sometimes I just need the quick buzz of a new thing, cheaply.
Great topic! I am in my mid-thirties (for a few more months!) and I am a reluctant SAHW/M. When I worked, the bulk of my money was spent on work clothes (suits, slacks, button downs, blazers, closed-toe shoes, etc.) and now that I don’t have an office, I spend the bulk of my clothing money on jeans and casual dresses. I still wear my work clothes sometimes for consulting jobs and church or charity functions, but I mostly live in shorts and maxi dresses in summer and leggings, jeans, and sweaters in the winter.
That said, I don’t spend more than about $20 on a white tee, but I have no problem buying multiples. The reason is that I have not mastered the art of preventing or removing the underarm stains that render my white tees useless after a season. I usually don’t spend more than $40-50 on jeans, but that is because I scour the racks at Nordstrom Rack, NMLC, Saks Off 5th and such to find JBrand, Joe’s, and Paige Denim for a steal. My favorite white JBrand jeans cost me $25+tax at NMLC during a 65% sale. I recently had to replace my favorite trench coat that I’d worn for about 6 years and I waited until Banana Republic had a 50% sale on their final sale items. My $225 trench coat, ended up costing me just under $100.
I do splurge on shoes and bags because I know that if I take care of them, they will last me for many years. I have one Chloe bag that I bought on eBay in 2008 and it still looks just as amazing today as it did 6 years ago and I have one Balenciaga bag that I found at a consignment store 4 years ago that also looks great and my one regret is that it is not in a neutral color that I can carry anywhere. My everyday purse is a Calvin Klein tote that I bought 3 years ago at Macy’s for just under $100 and is finally starting to show wear on the leather straps.
I don’t spend much on one-time use clothing such as evening gowns or even my wedding dress (I bought on eBay for $150), but my husband and I are part of multiple charity organizations that host gala events throughout the year and once I realized that I needed 5-8 evening gowns per year and we would be broke buying clothes each time, I started a “gala closet” with several other women in the same situation where we share our evening gowns and sometimes accessories with each other. I’ve found gowns at Nordstrom Rack for under $50 before and when I do, I always buy them because there will be an event to wear it to. Then we share with each other so each dress gets worn by multiple people (we have enough women that most sizes are represented) and once a dress has been “photographed” on too many people, we host a prom event for one of the more disadvantaged high schools in the area and donate our dresses to them. There are some dresses that I can’t bear to part with, but those are few and far between.
The Recap: Splurge on bags and shoes, Scrimp on everything else.
The answer for underarm stains in The Laundress stain bar. Use it EVERY time you wash, even from the beginning because the yellow is the sweat build up, so nip it in the bud. Works great for collared shirts too! My husband does most of the laundry and hysterically after buying those products he’s a huge fan of spending crazy amounts on specialized detergents.
I’ve never heard of this! But I am definitely going to try it out, because those stains are the bain of my existence. Thank you so much for the tip!
Little Red says
How would it work on ring around the collar and cuffs?
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
I am so buying some of this. I don’t seem to have the issue but K does!
This is a great topic! I don’t work outside my home, so most of my wardrobe is pretty casual. I prefer nice quality, but hardly ever pay full price for anything. I’m really good at finding great sales. Most of my jeans are under $100, w/ most in the $75 range. I have foot issues so most of my shoes are in the $100 range. I will spend on a a nice handbag since I tend to keep them for a long time. I think most of mine are $300 or under. I just bought my first pair of riding boots and only spent $150 because I’m not sure how much I will wear them. If I end up liking them, I will definitely splurge on a pair of Frye boots. I do have to attend quite a few corporate events with my husband and I will spend more for dresses for those. Cocktail dresses usually are in the $150-200 range. I don’t spend a lot on t-shirts. I like them to look fresh and prefer to replace them pretty often, especially the white ones. I often find great Eddie Bauer tees at Sam’s Club for under $10. I think all of my coats are $300 and under. My one weakness is David Yurman jewelry. My husband buys most of it as gifts, but that is one thing I would spend on. 🙂
Forgot to add that I’m 50ish, empty nest.
Oh gosh. That’s such a whopper of a question, friend!~
DINK, but looking to adopt within a few years…
A pair of jeans- The
most I HAVE spent is $80. The most I can see myself spending is $160? The $80 jeans are J Brand I got on sale. They do (well, did, I lost a pant size and now none of my jeans really fit, but that’s
another story) fit well, and I like them, but if I am being honest, they don’t
fit any better than Target high waisted denim. And Target jeans are about $30.
They are MUCH harder to find than J Brand though, so I can see just going where
I know I can get the J Brand and paying when I decide to go ahead and restock
in my ‘new’ size.
A winter coat – I live in Dallas, but I travel to NYC and Chicago for work, often in the winter
months. But I don’t think I’d pay more than $60 for a coat. I just got a SUPER
cute one at Forever XXI for $49. I just don’t wear them that often, and I don’t
mind layers. I will pay whatever they want for a thin down or down filled tech
jacket, though, like Patagonia or Mountain Hardware. I don’t even care how
stylish or not, because my Mountain Hardware jacket (that Nathan thrifted and
paid all of $6 for, but is worth $200) is SO COMFY, and my HUSBAND thinks it’s
cute, so who even cares?
A pair of tall boots – For a good fitting,
comfortable pair of THIGH HIGH leather boots, I could go $200. I have an ol
pair of Jeffery Campbell that are suede and a little tight on the feet and I
think I’d wear a comfy pair so much more. Thigh high boots are a hard fit, but
I’m pretty slim these days and just this side of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, so
now seems like the time. (ALLIE, I think this question just talked me into
putting aside $200 for thigh high boots, you punk!)
A handbag- Oh this is a
good one. OK, I used to think I would someday buy a Chanel 2.55. They run about
$5000. Now? Thinking about adoption and a child and retirement? I can’t even
imagine. Not if I won the lottery. I needed a nice, plain, professional leather
tote for work, and I didn’t want to spend more than $150. It took about 8
months, but I found the PERFECT one on Etsy for $60! $60! And I love it! And it
was handmade, in America, and the leather is high quality and that means so, so
much more to me than a label. That said, I cannot stand cheap handbags, When I
see someone with a cheap handbag, for me, it just drags their whole look down.
A dress to wear to a
wedding or gala event – HIGHLY dependent on the event. I spend about $100-$150
every year on NYE, but I get a dress I can re-wear. I can’t see spending much
more than that on a dress, and about $250 overall. I have a girlfriend who
sometimes takes me to events where everyone is wearing $2500 dresses and $3000
shoes, and I’m wearing Free People and vintage. I feel out of place, but not
out of place enough to go into debt over a dress.
Where do you scrimp and
where do you splurge- I scrimp on clothes and I splurge on accessories. I have
a very easy to fit body type, which means I can get away with Forever XXI,
Target, Zara and the like right off the rack, so affordable clothes are easy
access. But I don’t like cheap jewelry or fake leather, so I don’t mind
spending a bit of a custom piece of jewelry or a nice leather bag.
Erin @ Her Heartland Soul says
Great topic! I spend money on jeans and purses. Tops and accessories I tend to spend a lot less on.
I scrimp on things I won’t get my buck out of… like formal dresses and really really high heels. I will spend hundreds on a nice bag.
Do you have any tips for finding cheap formal dresses? It’s always so hard to spend less than $200!
TK Maxx! (Or TJ Maxx for you guys, I guess). I always buy my formal wear on a super discount as it does tend to get heavily knocked down at the end of whatever arbitrary season they designate.
eBay can also be good!
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
I know my friends swear by Rent the Runway but I haven’t used them yet or had a reason to get something that fancy. My main thing is hitting clearance racks off season; summer (right after prom) and winter (right after the holidays) and have something in reserve. I’ve found most any event I can carry off a simple black crepe, silk, or matte jersey dress and glam it up with accessories.
Kathy Frazier says
While I won’t pay more than, say, $20 for a white t-shirt (since it is just a layering piece), I do splurge on NYDJ brand jeans. They fit. They look good. And when washed on delicate (inside out) and hung up to dry, they do not fade – even after two years! I own two pairs of them, and if they ever wear out, I will buy the same ones again. I also splurge on good leather shoes (thanks to a foot injury 12 years ago) – paying up to $200 a pair to get ones that fit well and can be worn all day. Other than those two items, I definitely shop the sales.
Kathy Frazier says
I should have added that I am a 50-something retired health professional, so my wardrobe is mainly well-fitting jeans and nice (and interesting) shirts.
Grace Mitchell says
I tend towards moderation in most things, I think. I buy tanks and t-shirts at Target and ON and expect them to look bad after a season or two, but I’d spend more for something that would hold up better if I could find something in the right shape. For some reason, the discount retailers seem to be doing a better job with talls than a lot of the spendy ones are. Shoes I’ll pay more for, and I have to, because I’m a specialty size. My running shoes cost like $250, but that’s a health investment more than a wardrobe one. I have a couple of mid-nice bags (Fossil), and no longing for more. I’d spend more on a coat if I could find one I liked, but see about re; discounters doing a better job with talls. Basic clothes I tend to thrift, so they are way on the lower end of the budget. I do buy high end makeup, and that is honestly an aesthetic/experience preference as much as anything else.
I am early 30s, no kids, so I am lucky to have some disposable income. That being said, like a lot of people I am drowning in student loan debt so not living like a complete baller.
I spent on handbags. They last forever, most of my styles are very classic and they really polish an outfit. A cheap handbag looks…well, really cheap. And bras. I am a 36G. I need a really good bra. They run me about $100…I only own 3.
Clothes? Eh. I am wearing a $60 pair of black pants (probably the most expensive pair I own) and a shirt from the Gap Outlet today. That is pretty par for the course. I have a few spendier pieces (I own a black wrap dress that set me back $150, but it has been with me through many seasons and the same up and down of 15 lbs.) My black blazer was another big investment. But I tend to like some trendy clothes and I struggle with my weight. I cannot rationalize $200 shirts when I likely won’t wear them next season.
This is SUCH an interesting topic! I think you’re right – it really depends on lifestyle. So, for me: early 30s, usually work at a reasonably casual corporate office, and currently on maternity leave with my first baby (in Quebec, so maternity leave is a year). Typical outfit for my office is a simple black shirt/blouse with a pair of coloured pants (skinny cords, usually), boots or nice shoes, and a cute blazer. Suits come out for big corporate events; not that often. Outfits at home is usually skinny jeans and a henley or v-neck shirt, with a big comfy sweater if it’s cold out. Add booties and a jacket when going out, and scarves with everything.
So. Prices. Investment items: I’ll spend most on boots: I need wide-calf boots, and Duoboots rocks for those. 250-ish for knee-high boots because of that constraint. Otherwise, booties and shoes are 100$ or less, and I quite like shoemint for quality/price ratio at a 70-ish$ range. A GOOD coat or jacket can go up to 300 (long down jacket for -30 degree winter days, or my ONE mid-season jacket that’s gorgeous leather that I wear with everything in spring, cold summer, and fall days). Scarves can go from 15ish for a nice cotton scarf to 60ish for the silk and cashmere scarves I’ve bought on trips (and wear until they get holes in them). And I’ll spend 70$ or so on bras, because a good shape under a shirt makes a cheap t-shirt look SO much better, and Chantelle lace bras are miracles of lace and engineering.
Gap and Old Navy pants fit my tush really well, so typically I’ll pay 40-ish for jeans, 20-ish for everyday cords (though if I worked in a more formal office that would probably change). Long- and short-sleeved t-shirts tend to be 15-ish$, 20$ max. Underwear, socks, work-out wear, PJs, lounge wear, etc: cheap.
I’m curious to see what everyone else thinks!