Don’t get caught in the trap of overspending on something you’ll only wear once. Here’s what’s worth the investment, and what you can get away with buying on the cheap.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com
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T-Shirts = Scrimp
With a host of specialty T-shirt lines out there that promise ultra-soft fabrics and effortlessly cool cuts, it’s tempting to spring for one of these souped-up staples. But since tees are a staple, they get a lot of use, and consequently a lot of washes. Translation? A short shelf-life and a good place to save money.
Jeans = Splurge
High-quality denim can be nearly indestructible, especially considering jeans don’t require washing after every wear. Since they’re such an everyday item, invest a little in a few styles from a brand that works really well for your particular shape. Denim micro-trends may come and go, but classic cuts that fit you flawlessly will last for years.
Tights and Hosiery = Scrimp
Much like t-shirts, tights are a staple that you’ll wear and wash regularly (at least during the winter months). And while this is a category where high cost does mean high quality, unless you’re willing to hand-wash your $60 tights after each wear, you’re better off stocking up on several cheap pairs for the season and cutting your losses should they happen to snag.
Bras = Splurge
Since bras are literally the foundation for your outfit, this is a good place to make an investment (and often a necessary one for larger-busted women). Make sure to get a bra fitting, and opt for colors you’ll get the most use out of, particularly a nude tone that matches your skin (and will disappear under white or sheer clothing).
Gym Clothes = Scrimp
Once upon a time, it was necessary to spend some serious dough on designer gym clothing, unless you were comfortable in your old college tees and stretched-out shorts as work-out gear. But with the rise of the athleisure trend, well-priced—and well-known—companies like Target, Forever 21, and Old Navy are getting into the game with functional activewear that’s also cute enough to make you want to hit the gym.
Black Pants = Splurge
Another staple that will get regular use, black trousers work around the clock. Wear them to the office with a crisp white button-down, or use them as a base for a silky blouse for more formal events. Properly cared for, a well-made pair in a classic straight cut will still look stylish and good-as-new years later.
Jackets and Blazers = Splurge
Not only are these types of pieces instant outfit makers, it’s an area where quality is really readily visible. Invest in a black blazer with an impeccable fit, and a great embellished jacket. You can throw on either over nearly any ensemble—from jeans and a white tee to your work-wardrobe go-tos—for an immediate upgrade.
Trends = Scrimp
Here’s the thing about trends: they’re fleeting. They last for a season before being replaced by the Next Big Thing. Amp up your wardrobe—and save yourself some money—by test-driving trends with options from lower-priced retailers. Should one prove to have sticking power (over-the-knee boots, anyone?) for future seasons, you’ll already know whether or not it’s something you’re willing to invest more money in.
Day and Work Dresses = Scrimp
Suiting = Splurge
Work Shoes = Splurge
Since you’ll wear them nearly every day, it’s a good idea to spend a little more money on shoes that you know you’ll be comfortable in. For a shoe selection that will work with any office outfit, keep one pair of black pumps and one pair of nude pumps on hand.
Evening Clothing = Scrimp
Whether it’s a formal dress, fancy shoes, or a bedazzled bag, these are all pieces you probably won’t wear frequently, so don’t pour too much money into this category. Pretty, lower-priced options are easy to find at on-trend stores like Zara, or try scouring vintage stores for special clutches and bags.