Buy the Best Quality You Can Afford
It took me a while to be comfortable spending $150+ on a tshirt but let me tell you, I would rather have one great tee than five mediocre ones. This rule is relative to your situation. For me, it was moving away from spending $60 at Country Road to $150 at Karen Walker. For others it might be making the leap from spending $25 at Glassons to $60 at Country Road for one tee. It's about the best quality YOU can afford and what you feel 'safe' spending. It's not about brand snobbery, it's about deciding that you would rather spend more on less.
Understand Fabrics and Cuts
Planning to buy 'a merino jumper'? Well go to an outdoor store. Want a fashion garment that actually flatters you? Look for a jumper with 5% silk or cashmere in the merino fabric that's from a fashion retailer. Want to know why those black trousers cost $200 when you can buy a pair at another store for $99? Compare the fabrics. Take a close look at the seams. Check the lycra content. Will those $99 trousers still look good in a month? The message here is learn how clothes are cut and why specific fabrics are chosen to create certain garments.
Don't be Afraid to Try Different Brands
Sure, some brands are out of reach due to their pricing or sizing, but sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised. I remember a colleague some years ago telling me how she liked the way I dressed and could I tell her where I bought my clothes. When I said Country Road she said 'oh I could never afford Country Road'. That's when I introduced her to their loyalty scheme which is extremely generous and encouraged her to go in at sale time. She was surprised that she could pick up sale items for the same price as full-priced items in lower quality stores.
If you're nervous about big sweeping changes, focus on one item first. Have fun finding that one item and enjoy the hunt! For me this year, it's about a quality cashmere crew neck jumper. I wear crew neck merino jumpers all the time so I know I love this type of garment, but this year I want to take the plunge and switch to cashmere. This is a huge price leap so I am going to do my research and start with that one piece.
The Classics Really do Work
I'm sure you've all read those articles in fashion magazines which tell you to 'invest in the classics'. What this means is to buy the garments that have a track record of success. In other words, the items that don't date quickly, suit most women and can be worn with a number of different outfits. Here are some examples:
- Great pair of jeans
- Crisp white shirt
- Fitted jumper
- Wool coat
- Trenchcoat or parka
- Blazer or jacket
- Ballet flats
- Pair of black high heels
- Pair of plain white sandshoes
- Versatile scarf
- Elegant sunglasses
- Silk blouse
- Perfect black trousers
What is common to these items is that they're not only stylish but they're also incredibly practical. Your scarf should look good but it also needs to keep you warm. That trenchcoat looks chic but it also works hard in Spring and Autumn keeping you dry.
Take Your Shoes Shopping (aka Buy in Outfits)
Vital when replacing lots of items, or updating complete looks: take shoes and other items from your wardrobe with you when shopping. That way, you can create an outfit in the store and lower the risk of endiing up with an orphan. 'Orphans' are those items you buy because you
a) Adore them as an object, or
b) Assume they'll just go with everything, or
c) Think you'll eventually buy something that goes with them
You get them home and they match nothing, so they are literally orphans in your closet.
Have Fun (but Stick to the Rules!)
Whatever your journey, enjoy yourself! Stick to your budget, be confident but always be true to yourself: you know when something truly looks great and when it doesn't.