When compiling your perfect wardrobe, you’ll get a lot of advice about getting ‘investment pieces.’ These are the staples of your closet that will form the building blocks for your personal style for – hopefully – years to come.
The thing to remember when you’re on a budget is that not everything you buy needs to be an investment piece. In fact, there are some things that do not make good investment pieces.
So what is it worth spending as much as you can possibly scrape together on? What’s a waste to spend big bucks on? Here are my choices.
Good shoes. Say what you will, your feet are important. Taking good care of them is important to your legs and spine as well. Never wear shoes that don’t fit properly. Don’t spend a lot of time in shoes that don’t offer good support. A good classic pair of boots, a classic pair of pumps or flats (both if you can afford them), a solid pair of athletic shoes appropriate for the activity of your choice, and a pair of sandals that actually support your foot properly should cover you for all the basics. Keep the styles on these classic and simple. Stick to colors you know will never look inappropriate. These are worth spending good money on because they will be with you for as long as you can make them last.
A really good winter coat. Again, keep it fairly classic in both color and style because you’ll be wearing it a long, long time if all goes to plan. Make sure it’s well constructed and adequate to the conditions of the winters in your area. For instance, my winter coat is also my fall and spring coat because there’s only a few degrees difference around here between those seasons. It’s more a case of how often it gets worn.
A business ready skirt, pair of trousers, and jacket. Even if you don’t work in an office, these can be useful separates in your life. Get the best quality you can afford, check the seams and hems for good construction, make sure they’re properly lined. Again, keep them classic.
At least three quality bras. You need something to support you properly, and enough of them that you can always have at least one in wearable shape every day.
A fairly simple dress in a neutral color that can go to the office, a nice dinner out, a wedding, or a funeral in a pinch. Most women cover this with the infamous ‘little black dress’ but we all know how I feel about that. If black works for you (in which case I’m going to beg you not to wear it to weddings), go for it. For the rest of us, consider brown, beige, navy, forest green, or any other relatively neutral color that appeals to and flatters you.
A couple statement accessories. Whether your thing is hats, rings, brooches, earrings, scarves, or bracelets, get one or two that will last you forever. Ignore classic or trendy in this and go for what speaks truly to your heart. These will be your style calling card, and you want it to say your name loud and clear.
Sure to be short-lived trends. Sure ruffles and metallics are big right now, but what about two or three seasons from now? Other things that you can guarantee will go by the wayside very quickly when they appear: lime green, neon, extreme platform shoes, open-toed boots, very long or very short skirts, puffed sleeves, harem pants, short shorts, gladiator sandals, and very large or very small glasses frames.
These are things where if you choose to follow the trend, it’s better to go cheap and cheerful. After all, by the next time they come around, either they won’t fit anymore or you probably won’t be into the trend anymore. Me? I have loved gladiator sandals all along and probably will until the day I die (don’t tell Plummy!), but I’ve seen the trend come around and disappear often enough not to bother investing big money in it.
A quick word about classic cuts and colors. When I say classic cut I don’t mean that everyone needs the same one. When I say classic color, I don’t mean you’re limited to black, beige, grey, and brown. What I mean is something that isn’t an extreme trend. For your perfect coat, you may choose cherry red. It’s not boring, certainly, but it’s a color that will never make you look like a fashion victim. My jacket happens to be burnt orange. It’s not always a popular color, but it’s one that comes around pretty often and always makes me look my best.
As for cut, you may find a more fitted or a more flowing style is better for you. Just don’t make those office trousers palazzos or jeggings. Whether your most flattering skirt is a pencil, and a-line, or a dirndl, get the best one you can afford. Handkerchief hems and car wash panels? Don’t bother spending too much.