Closet 101 Style

Reader Question: Splurging On Clothes Or Accessories

Today’s reader question is one that I definitely would love to hear all of your opinions on. I shared my own thoughts of course to the question posed by the lovely “C”, below.

Pretty Closet

Could you provide your thoughts on splurging on clothes? I can always spend lots on a purse or jewelry but when it comes to clothes I suddenly become “cheap”.  I guess I argue that I can use a bag many times in a month and year, but not clothes. I also feel they go out of fashion easily and am not confident about choosing non trendy items. Do you have a view on splurging more on accessories, over clothes?

 Here’s my personal view on C’s question…and then I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well.

When I think about the question and took a look at my closet, it also rings true for me that it seems way easier to splurge on accessories versus clothes. I boiled this down to a few reasons.

1. Past experience. If I look at the items that I’ve spent more than let’s say $1K on that I actually regret – most of them are clothes. Maybe it’s because I tend to go more risky with clothing choices versus accessories, where I’ll end up wanting to go with more plain/neutral/classic choices. I do know that I wish I had never spent serious money on dresses with any type of frill or cap sleeve (which took me years to realize is a cut which makes me look like a miniature linebacker).

2. Wearability. I don’t have the confidence to wear the same designer dress three times a week to work, plus I hate dry cleaning bills. But wearing the same tote every single day? Way easier and doable. It just seems to better justify a “cost per wear”.

3. Laziness. While I theoretically like the idea of discovering cool new shops where I’ll find the one perfect item from a brand nobody’s ever heard of, whenever I attempt this I always end up getting frustrated and everything looks like a tent. Plus, I have low shopping stamina. So I always just end up going to the same brands and stores which fit me..and just from past experience, I’ve found way more “go to” affordable clothing brands that I like, than accessories brands. I like comfortable clothes, and I can usually find something I like from Gap, or Vince. For accessories, I know I can always find something to drool over at Chanel or Bottega Veneta.

But I will say…when you do get a right with a clothing splurge, I don’t think anything else is really like it. When you find that perfect jacket or dress that just makes you feel amazing, the splurge is so worth it. The trick then becomes figuring out what those pieces are and when to open your pocketbook…something that I’m still working on perfecting! In the meantime, I’ve accepted that I will probably make some pricey purchases in the future that I might regret…but as long as it’s affordable from a broader view and I’m having fun, then in my opinion there isn’t a big problem!

Where do you all do your splurging?

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  • Groupthink7
    January 22, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Hello Katherine, I say that my biggest splurges varies. I splurge on handbags, coats, jewelry, fragrance, and shoes. With clothing, I am a little on the fence. I shop for practicality. I love natural fibers such as cashmere, wool, alpaca, cotton, silk, and leather. So I splurge on those items and I tend to scrimp on synthetics or stay away from them all together. My favorite brands are Ann Taylor, Vince, Theory, Helmut Lang, Rag and Bone, and AllSaints.

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 5:51 am

      Great point about the natural fibers. Another fan here, though for leggings and the like I still end up sticking with synthetics.

  • Whitney Farris
    January 22, 2015 at 8:45 am

    My big splurge, jewelry. I have some very serious pieces and have never regretted putting the dollars into them! When you buy classics that can be worn over and over, they end up not being so terribly expensive!

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 5:51 am

      I love jewelry too. You’re right that you can wear it everyday.

  • Emily
    January 22, 2015 at 9:05 am

    I work in Silicon Valley so everyone dresses pretty casually in my office. I hate spending a ton on casual clothes, since those are items I throw into the washer on a weekly basis and will wear out over time. Plus, it means that I’ll be able to refresh with fun, new items on a regular cadence without doing too much damage to my wallet.

    I find it easier to splurge on accessories, since a lot of them work well with casual outfits and stand the test of time. Plus, like you mentioned – no one will judge if you carry the same bag several times a week! If it’s clothing on the other hand, people might question how often you launder and if you’re emitting any odors. Eek.

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 5:52 am

      I’m very similar to you too – casual dress code 🙂

  • Maria
    January 22, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Shoes and bags always but, lately, I’ve added belts to the list – like those from Marant and that Saint Laurent you posted a while back. Did you ever get it? Do!

    I like to splurge on jackets that are luxurious but somehow “different” and not too basic. Like my silk embroidered IM baseball jacket and a Marni see-through plastic gold jacket. Before you think “Eww” – I saw Tomas Maier himself put this on a mannequin over a black Alaia skater dress over a decade ago. It was stunning. The king of chic. If he liked it…. 😉 I’ll have these 20 years from now. Your ruffled Valentino trench comes to mind here. (Love it!). Otherwise it’s Gap, Uniqlo, J Crew for the most part.

    Same with shoes. I splurge on ones outside the box that aren’t really “in” – so they tend to not ever look ‘out”. Certain Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens styles for ex. With the exception of plain pumps and boots, I buy basic shoe styles inexpensively.

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 6:05 am

      NO! Did you get that Saint Laurent belt? I still love it! Jackets and coats are my weakness too. I love a beautiful piece of outerwear!

  • Diane
    January 22, 2015 at 11:30 am

    My weight fluctuates. Bags and shoes always fit. Clothes…..well, that’s more challenging.

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Excellent point, especially as right now my pants are feeling especially tight as I’m eating my way through Europe.

  • Yumi
    January 22, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I pretty much only splurge on shoes (my weakness – especially boots) and coats and jackets.

    I’m extremely petite and find that the armholes on cheaper jackets and coats are cut too wide and give me batwings – plus armholes and sleeves can be really tricky to get right so paying extra money for people who pay attention to those details is really worth it (I know, armhole/sleeve obsession, so weird). I’m also one of those cold-fearing people so I willing to spend extra for thicker fabrics.

    Shoes… Now that one is completely irrational 🙂

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 6:56 am

      That is a good point – I have problems finding the perfect pants that fit, so I would definitely pay more. Finding the right clothes that make us feel and look best = def. splurgew orthy.

  • Falnangel
    January 22, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I tend to be cheap with clothes and am willing to spend more on hand bags and accessories. However, classic pieces such as a Burberry trench or a Chanel tweed jacket are classic pieces that I think worth splurging on. Ever since I had my baby, I pretty much live in gym clothes or super casual clothes. Couple of times a year, I go to the outlet and scoop up a bunch of James Perse tees/sweatshirts for the day to day. But I still love to pair them with nice accessories when I can.

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 6:56 am

      James Perse is still very nice, I love their tees!

  • Mica
    January 22, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    I may be at odds with most posters on this one. If you buy clothing too cheaply, it tends to fall apart and not wear well. I’d rather have 2 good quality cashmere sweaters that the whole “Scandal for the Limited” collection. So I say mid range, good quality clothes are a must have. Now assuming that’s the type of items you purchase, they will never be in the thousands of dollars range. So then you can focus the larger spend on a thick necklace that holds a pendant or a Cartier love bracelet which is timeless. Personally, I love pearls which can be classic or fashion forward depending on the configuration.

    • Katherine
      January 23, 2015 at 6:57 am

      Great point Mica…and especially on the jewelry!!

  • Whitney Farris
    January 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    I agree with you. Pearls are my thing, I have a lot of money tied up in them!!!! A girl after my own heart!

  • AD
    January 22, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    In general, bags hold more resale value than clothes. I agree with the other poster — my accessories will always fit unlike my clothes 😉

  • Anna
    January 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    I always spend good money on bags and shoes, but I found that expensive clothes make me feel so much more powerful than cheap brands. It’s not that anyone knows the labels I wear, it’s the cut and fit of quality pieces that make the difference.

    I used to feel bad about buying really extravagant pieces, but now I own my wardrobe as a reflection of what I’ve achieved and where I’m going in life. Also, I always splurge on outerwear. A great coat is a wardrobe staple, so buy it once but buy it well.

    I suppose it’s good I’m not an accessories girl (a great watch is a must though) – I’d be broke otherwise 😉

  • Ammu
    January 22, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I don’t like dry-clean only clothing or fast fashion so when I find something that is durable, well-designed and ethically-manufactured, I am usually happy to pay a decent sum for it. That said, with the exception of coats, most of my clothing is cheaper than my bags or jewelry – probably because leather bags and precious jewelry cost much more to begin with…you can find a cotton dress for a lot less than a leather bag, even in cheap stores.

  • Mel
    January 22, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I splurge on handbags only. I don’t think I’ve spent more than $200 on a piece of clothing ever, except for formal wear.

  • Kimi, twenty-something simple
    January 22, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    (Hi, I’m a new reader/follower!) What an interesting discussion! I’ve been struggling with this myself lately. My splurge threshold seems like it’s lower than everyone else’s since I’m in grad school and not making a whole lot of money. I’d say splurges for me are spending more than $100 on a single item. Most of my past splurges have been outerwear (a good down coat) and boots. I started buying leather boots and can’t see myself buying anything else if I want a pair of shoes to last. I have recently started spending more on clothing with nicer fabrics/construction (a cashmere sweater from Everlane, a Helmut Lang sweatshirt I’ve wanted for a year) and felt almost guilty for splurging on both shoes and clothing…I almost feel like I have to pick one or the other, if that makes sense. (Plus, I’ve been considering spending more on a nice bag.) Sometimes I feel like I need to “have it all” in regards to nice garments, but I need to stay mindful and [hopefully] not make any more impulse purchases, especially if more money is involved. Luckily, I’ve been good about really considering my splurge purchases.

    xo Kimi

  • Titti
    January 23, 2015 at 12:18 am

    I love bags and can pay almost any amount for a stylish bag. I like to buy bags, bracelets, scarves and shawls from LV and Hermes. When it comes to my clothes, however, that is more like a uniform. Many black trousers, tops and jackets are purchased through the years.
    But when I put a bag, a scarf or a shawl in nice colour to my black clothes it looks different and nice each day. But sometimes my husband ask me why I need a new pair of black trousers when I already have 15 pairs. And of course he is right :). Next time I think I need a pair in dark grey or blue, of course it will be as near black as possible ;).

  • ella
    January 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

    I splurge on coats, shoes, jewelry, and handbags. My clothing is all well-cut and none of it is cheap – I’m a lawyer and need to look presentable – but it’s all Jil Sander Navy or Max Mara, not Chanel or Prada. If I find a simple black or navy dress I like, I often buy several in duplicate. But I think if you have really good shoes and a good bag and a beautiful coat, you look polished even without super-high-end clothing. And I totally agree with you: mistakes are much more likely in the clothing department!

  • Jane
    January 23, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I just need to know whose closet that is in your picture?! WOW!

  • Luxuriously Frugal
    January 23, 2015 at 11:23 am

    I normally do not splurge on clothes, precisely for the reasons you listed. The only exception last year was a Pleats Pleats jacket. Well, it was really just a cloth of pleats. But it has this designer edge I like and enhances everything I wear with it. It is the best splurge ever!

  • Audrinajulia
    January 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Not a big spender though ( or the situation just ask me to 🙂 ) but if i have the chance, i always end up on accessories, bag, shoes, skincare and slight on jewelry. I find it easy buying clothing which i usually wear a basic type. But whenever there’s a chance i splurge on a good pair of jeans.


  • Abby
    January 24, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I’m with Mica. I got tired of having J.Crew t-shirts fall apart after a few wears, so shifted my price point up. Yes, I find that I do spend more overall, but I have fewer mistakes, probably because the higher price points make me evaluate potential purchases more stringently before pulling the trigger. I adore The Row, and that’s easily my biggest splurge.

  • Ava Lon
    January 24, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Dear Katherine,

    What a thought provoking post! I thought about this especially with consideration to my friends and colleagues and realized it came down to this:

    Those who preferred to splurge on apparel tended to be very confident in their sartorial choices and tended to heavily wear them year after year. The reason they preferred to choose clothing vs. accessories was they already had that ONE (yes, really, ONE nice) workhorse purse/work tote which they wore year after year (same for basic non-luxury but still good quality footwear) and already had other basic staples (pearl/diamond studs, classic watch etc.) which they wore year after year.

    Those who preferred to splurge on accessories tended to wear more basic (think black) apparel pieces and let their accessories be their fashion statement whether it was the newest “it” heels or latest iteration of the exotic skin HOP CDC, or cashmere shawl from any number of luxury purveyors.

    As for me, I guess I fall into the latter. My wardrobe is basically all black, few daubs of camel and navy here and there with things purchased in duplicate (a good fitting pair of trousers etc. on sale most of the time and sometimes on clearance) and I happen to have a few friends who work in the accessories business who are generous with me. I purchase one sale shoe from a major house when they have their sale (to maintain fiscal frugalness if you will – lol) and I will try to limit my purchasing of any footwear to something I can wear near daily if I am purchasing at full retail. In a funny twisted way, the good thing about H having such a long wait for items ordered is that it curbs any spending on purses…I am still waiting now over 1.5yrs for an item in a basic color then again, my favorite SA left, so that might have put my item at the very end of the list or deleted it completely which is fine since I’d be just fine without it. 😉

    Thanks for another great post, Katherine!


    • Katherine
      January 26, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      This was such an interesting and insightful comment, thank you Ava! Like you I fall into the latter camp as well..I’m boring with my clothes but wow how much I admire the women you describe in the former camp, the ones with very strong sartorial choices. I know if I attempted it though I’d just end up feeling deprived and making wrong choices on expensive clothing!

  • Sarah
    January 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I am very particular about my clothes. I like to buy from ethical brands such as: and or European made in England, Scotland or France labels. It’s not important to me that they are from name designetrs and I avoid anything with obvious branding. I do look for top notch materials though, such as good quality silk, organic cotton, british wool and scottish cashmere. These will cost more than the cheapo brands, but they are so much more comfortable to wear and look better.

  • In the world of Save. Spend. Splurge.
    March 27, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    […] Where do you splurge? Clothes or accessories? For me it’s clothes. […]