How to Tell Which Pieces You Should Save On (And Which Are Worth the Splurge)

The difference between a 'one year' piece and a 'fifteen year' piece.
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If you've been reading for long enough, you'll remember my shopping series 'Crave or Save.' In it, I'd select a trend (an embellished sweatshirt, lucite clutch, statement necklace), and offer my favorite affordable and designer versions of it. As much as I still love the thrill of finding an affordable alternative at Zara, I've also realized the value of splurging on select items that will last much longer. In thinking about my closet, I can divide it easily into "one year" pieces and "fifteen year" pieces. There are the fluffy golden slides from Zara (one year) next to timeless black Jenni Kayne slides (fifteen years). Similarly, I have tailored blazers (fifteen years) next to statement bombers (one year). Below, I've broken down each category into pieces I think are are worth investing in for the long haul, and those you can spend a little less on: 

tops
Left (save): Free People; Right (splurge): The Great

Left (save): Free People; Right (splurge): The Great

Save: Anything too delicate (like silk) will ultimately snag or tear, and you don't want to be heartbroken when that inevitably happens. (Pro tip: Searching for 'satin' instead of 'silk' will often find you more affordable pieces.)
Splurge: I prefer not to compromise quality when it comes to my basic pieces, since I wear them until they're quite literally too threadbare to walk out the door in. As a result, I purchase most of my t-shirts from The Great., and love both APL and Theory for reliable, flattering tank tops.

bottoms
Left (save): Three Dots; Right (splurge): Samantha Pleet Jeans (similar here)

Left (save): Three Dots; Right (splurge): Samantha Pleet Jeans (similar here)

Save: When I was in high school, my mom told me not to buy anything I had to constantly tug down in order to feel comfortable in. It was years before I actually listened to her advice, and I've spent more than I should admit on mini-skirts and dresses that were cute online but far from flattering or practical in practice. Lesson learned: Invest in bottoms that will look just as flattering in your forties as they do in your twenties—and save on those trendier, tougher-to-style pieces.
Splurge: Find the style that's most flattering on you and invest in it. For me, I know I look best in high-rise, wide-legged cropped, so I'm willing to spend more money on those than, say, a skinny jean I won't feel as confident in. 

sweaters
Left (save): Forever 21 (similar here); Right (splurge): Iro (similar here)

Left (save): Forever 21 (similar here); Right (splurge): Iro (similar here)

Save: It's never worth spending on a sweater that makes you even minimally uncomfortable. Sure, the fleece may be in the perfect color or an ideal cut, but you won't wear it if it makes your neck feel itchy. If you can't live without a lilac sweater this winter, buy the bargain version. 
Splurge: Every woman should own at least one gorgeous, high-quality cashmere sweater. I love the brands 360cashmere and IRO.

dresses
Left (save): Saloni, but rented from RTR; Right (splurge): Bec and Bridge (similar here)

Left (save): Saloni, but rented from RTR; Right (splurge): Bec and Bridge (similar here)

Save: Sure, you can purchase an expensive evening dress you look fantastic in, and keep it for the rest of your life—but the risk there is that it will be in all of your friend's wedding photos from that day forward. Often, it's worth renting a dress, or buying an inexpensive option once every few weddings. 
Splurge: On the other hand, I'm all for investing in a date night dress you feel like a million bucks in. I have one red dress that I only pull out for special occasions, but Geoffrey and I both love it, so anytime I wear it, it feels like a special evening—and I instantly feel beautiful, which you really can't put a price on.

heels
Left (save): Zara (similar here); Right (splurge): Prada

Left (save): Zara (similar here); Right (splurge): Prada

Save: Any shoe that's purely for a function—for a vacation or bridesmaid dress—isn't worth spending on. You may love it for the event, but chances you'll wear it again plummet once it's over. 
Splurge: I used to think it was irresponsible to splurge on a 'statement' or embellished heel or slide, reasoning that I wouldn't wear them as often as I do classic shoes. But the fact is: I generally wear neutral clothes, so I almost always need a statement slide to complete most of my outfits. Since then, I've invested in a statement shoe every season or so, and have curated a collection that makes my closet feel like a candy shop (most of my favorites are from Miu Miu and Prada, which I often wait till sales to buy). P.S., This is one of the reasons I designed staple shoes with eye-catching moments—to pull from the best of both worlds. Keep an eye out for them (very) soon. ;) 

sneakers
Left (save): Nike (similar here); Right (splurge): Golden Goose 

Left (save): Nike (similar here); Right (splurge): Golden Goose 

Save: Anything uncomfortable or too trendy or colorful. 
Splurge: If it's comfortable and offers good arch support, it's worth investing in. For me, Golden Goose sneakers strike the perfect combination between incredibly chic and completely comfortable. 

1
Left (save): L. Erickson; Right (splurge): Jennifer Behr

Left (save): L. Erickson; Right (splurge): Jennifer Behr

Save: The fact is, you can often get away without splurging on hair accessories these days—while using items that look just as luxe as the designer alternatives. I love the brand L. Erickson for top-knot headbands and velvet bows. J.Crew, Madewell, and Urban Outfitters all offer great clips at reasonable prices as well. 
Splurge: That being said, there are some hair accessories that feel so special, they're worth the investment. My favorite splurge-worthy brand is Jennifer Behr for her hand-made silk creations, like her outfit-making rosebud headbands

saves
splurge

What pieces are worth the splurge for you?