This is the question that I am asked most frequently, and one that I myself spend a lot of time thinking about where style is concerned: “Should I buy this? Is THIS item worth splurging on?” There are plenty of fashion trends that are not worth spending the money on, because they look dated and ‘over’ the following year (Dior jewelled sneakers, anyone?). Then, there are also trends which live much longer than anyone ever expects them to (skinny jeans, slogan tee shirts, and culottes). So how do you know when it is a good splurge, and when it is a regrettable splurge?
I recently read an interview with Sarah Harris, one of my favourite editors at British Vogue. She said ‘When I shop I won’t buy something unless it’s perfect. It has to be the best of whatever that thing is, whether it’s a tailored jacket or a T-shirt. I’m pretty fussy.’ I get that. I don’t always have the time and energy to search online and in stores trying to find the perfect blazer or T-shirt, but when I see things that are perfect for me (like the Malene Birger silver sequin skirt, or the Marks and Spencer robin’s egg blue coat from last year) I will move heaven and earth to get them, even if they are sold out like both the skirt and the blue coat were! So when is it worth splashing the cash, and when do you just buy the cheap and cheerful knockoff at Zara?
1. Sleep on it for several days. If you’re still obsessing about it after giving yourself a major cooling off period, it may be meant for you and worth the splurge. I did this recently with a Miu Miu faux-crocodile car coat that you’ll see on the blog soon. When I saw it, I honestly could not imagine my life without it. I knew I would wear the shit out of it, and the style just screamed my name. I gave it a couple of days, and looked at alternatives… but I had no choice, really. It was a splurge (a birthday one, actually) but I don’t feel a shred of regret. In fact, I’m gloating and purring.
2. Buy the cheaper version first, and upgrade to the perfect one if you really get a lot of use out of it. I did this with a black motorcycle jacket a few years ago. I didn’t really know if I was a motorcycle jacket kind of gal, but I bought one from Zara, and wore it with everything from jeans to dresses for over a year. It became so much a part of my personal style that I eventually upgraded and splurged on a wear-forever Balenciaga one.
3. Ensure that it fits in well with your style. There is no point in buying an expensive pink cashmere sweater in the sales if you are someone who mostly wears black and neutrals (raises hand). Don’t take up valuable real estate in your closet with regrettable purchases just because it is different from what you own or just because it is on sale. Because I wear a lot of different styles, this is the one rule I’m most likely to break on impulse.
4. If it is just a little bit out of budget, can you give up something in order to make up for the splurge? This is easy for me; if I want something badly enough, I will (and have!) practically given up eating in order to afford a pair of shoes. If you can give up your coffee-bar habit for a couple of months, or eat at home instead of at a restaurant for a while to fund your purchase, then you REALLY must need it.
5. Only buy it if you already have most of the rest of the outfit to go with it. For me, this means I don’t buy navy. ALL of my staples are in black; I really don’t feel like complicating my life with navy. If I bought a navy dress, I’d probably need navy shoes or tights or a bag to make it work. I just can’t be bothered. I’ll stick to my red, black, greys, cream, camel etc which all work and play nicely with each other and I don’t have to go buy another half an outfit to wear with my purchase. I made this mistake once with a pair of Rupert Sanderson red suede shoes (on sale, of course). I love them, but I really had nothing to wear with them, and reds are hard to mix and match. They sat in my closet for a few years before I finally found a red lace dress to go with them. Lesson learned.
6. My final self-imposed rule is this: only splurge if you can think of at least 10 times in the course of the next year that you’d wear it. Now, here is where everyone is so different. I would personally wear a pair of silver glitter cowboy boots or silver glitter Mary Jane shoes on repeat, but not everyone would. If you really suit the colours and mood of 1970s styling, then perhaps a fringe bag would be a ‘staple’ for you, whereas for me, I’d wear it twice and then regret buying it. Also, I wouldn’t spend the money on a Hermes scarf, because I look like Buffy von AirlineHostess in one, but they suit so many people so beautifully. Know your style, and stick to it on big purchases. Experiment all you like with fashion… that is the whole point of it of course, but not with big splurges.
If I stick to these six rules, I stay in savvy buying territory. What about you, do you have any big regrets? Do you have any rules to keep your buying clever?