How to Know When to Save or Splurge When Building a Capsule Wardrobe
Consider these factors before handing over your credit card.
Perhaps the idea of cleaning out your closet and creating your own capsule wardrobe — aka a few quality, versatile pieces you can mix and match all year long, as opposed to drawers full of stuff that doesn't really serve or suit you — sounds great in theory. But, if you're like us, there's always that one question that initially makes you pause instead taking the plunge: How the heck do you get started and find the right items?
The truth is, a capsule wardrobe won't happen overnight, and building one that's perfect for you, full of pieces you'll actually want to wear regularly, takes time — and so does easing up on the impulse to over-buy affordable options. Plus, while it's possible you already own so many of the items that will make up your personal capsule, you'll likely want to invest in a few key, splurge-worthy pieces. After all, one of the main goals here is to cut back on constant buying, waste, and over-shopping, and considering you'll be getting great use out of these clothes and accessories, it's fine to spend a bit more where you can, opting for an upmarket or even designer item instead of fast fashion.
But that also brings up another question: When is it actually worth it to splurge? That answer is likely different for everyone, but ahead, we've put together a guide for you to consider before you break our your credit card.
Think About What You'll Get the Most Use Out Of
A common misconception is that a capsule wardrobe has to be your typical "staples" — white T-shirts, black heels, etc. But if you don't usually gravitate toward those pieces, it won't make much sense to spend a lot of money on them.
Instead, think about the stuff you personally can't live without. In some cases, that might mean a pair of leopard pants, which will always add that 'pop' to your look, but at the same time, can work as a neutral. It's items like these that are surprisingly versatile and can be styled with multiple outfits, even though they might not be considered part of a traditional capsule wardrobe.
Keep Material in Mind
Some materials need special care, so when shopping for your capsule wardrobe, you'll want to think about what works for you. If you're the type to just throw something in the washing machine, regardless of care instructions, it's possible you'll end up ruining something you spent hard-earned money on (cashmere can easily shrink!). Before checking out, consider whether you'll actually go to the dry cleaner, or if that even makes sense for your budget.
If you're someone who regularly wears antiperspirant, you'll also want to remember that those chemicals have a habit of staining the armpit areas of white T-shirt, which can be hard to get out. If you're not willing to scrub, it may actually be smarter to spend less money on pieces like that (we love a Gildan find!), this way you can replace them later on.
How Long Will You Have It?
Trends come and go, so feel free to weigh the pros and cons and think about how often you'll actually wear that "It" item. Will you actually get your money's worth on that poufy, puff-sleeve dress? Of course, it's possible that the answer may even be 'yes,' especially if you're investing in something like a leather pair of Birkenstocks, which come back into rotation every few years and are a great throw-on-and-go shoe.
The best solution is to think about timelessness — ex: a sleek, solid overcoat or a structured black bag — or to simply forget what's 'cool' and buy based on your personal style and personal tastes. Are you someone who can't quit rocking lime green, or finds themselves constantly adding a leather jacket to every outfit? Then it's possible those big ticket purchases are worth it.
Check the Reviews
It's true that people often leave reviews on items they either really love or really hate, so definitely do a quick Google search (or even Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok search) to see what people have said about the specific piece you're buying. If the reviews on those leather shoes say they peeled immediately or never felt quite right on the wearer's foot, you'll at least be able to make an informed decision and determine if you're willing to risk it.
Can You Get It Secondhand and Save Money?
It's possible that someone, somewhere is reselling the exact splurge item you're after, so if you're hoping to shave off a few — maybe even hundreds! — of dollars from that price tag, check your local consignment shops or resale sites like The Real Real, Etsy, Depop, and more. But, once again, look at reviews. Not all of these sites are foolproof, and if you're buying from an individual seller, you'll want to be sure they have a good rating order to avoid any scams.
Try It On
Sure, there are certain items that have been in style for years, spotted on every celebrity, and recommended by every fashion magazine and site. But, if you consider it to be really expensive, you should probably check it out in person first before taking a chunk out of your bank account. After all, how many times have we seen something up close only to be disappointed and realize it's not worth the hype?
Plus, if your splurge item of choice is clothing, it doesn't hurt to try it on if you can. We're all built differently, and the last thing you'll want is to deal with is the hassle of returning something after you realize 'Wait — it doesn't look as good as it did online!' Yes, you can always get it altered (and, in fact, that's usually a stylist's number one tip for achieving the perfect fit), but that's another cost you'll have to consider and factor into your budget.