By Request: Quality Wardrobe- How much to Spend
This post comes by request from Shelley, who writes:
I know that quality over quantity is the way to a French woman's wardrobe. You read in loads of places about spending the most you can afford on various pieces. My question is, how do you decide how much you can afford? All your savings? What's left at the end of the month? A portion of your clothing allowance? How does one set the clothing allowance and how does one decide what proportion of it will go for a given piece? I think this is important info for a world gone mad with spending.
This is such an excellent question. Of course, everyone is different as we all have different budgets. I think the first thing to ask yourself is- what is your clothing allowance? If you’re not sure, it’s time to calculate one. So many of us (in the past, myself included) just spend here and there with a sort of wishy-washy idea of what our budget is. We roughly do the math in our head and then at the end of the month when the credit card or bank statement comes we think What?! How did I spend so much??
Tally up all of your monthly expenses: mortgage or rent, car payment, health insurance, bills, groceries, emergency fund, entertainment (such as books, films, plays) retirement savings etc., and generally whatever is left is discretionary and part of that can be your beauty and clothing allowance. For many of us this usually isn’t very much. The important thing here, however, is to be brutally honest with yourself. Is what’s left $30? Or $300? Either way, you can work with it.
Now that you have a capsule wardrobe, you won’t need to go shopping as much anyway. Gone are the days where you overspend on clothes and feed into the clutter of your closet. From now on your purchases will be well thought out and most everything you add into your space will be quality, investment pieces. So here is where Shelley’s question comes into play.
Let’s say your monthly wardrobe allowance calculates to $100. You have assessed your wardrobe and you come to the conclusion that you could really invest in a high quality trench coat. You don’t have one, have always wanted one and can see that there is a gap in your wardrobe for such a thing. You picture yourself in a gorgeous, camel colored trench- with the waist cinched in- belt artfully tied and collar jutting out just so, traipsing down a cobblestone street, or perhaps canoodling in a café... with Johnny Depp... in Paris! (OK this fantasy just keeps getting better).
But don't get carried away too quickly- first you need a trench coat. So what constitutes quality? Of course you would love a Burberry trench. There is no doubt about quality there- but that will run you around $1,000. And with your monthly $100 clothing allowance, you would have to save up for almost an entire year for that without buying anything else. If that is feasible for you, then make that your goal. If you can't see yourself saving for 10+ months, then set your sights on another quality item that is less expensive. Let’s say you find a chic, French minimalistic trench coat by A.P.C. (one of my favorite brands- and the make of my own trench coat). Their coats will run you around $400. You could realistically save your allowance for 4 months and purchase one. Or you could go the J. Crew avenue- where a nice trench will probably cost you around $250. The choice is yours. Either way, you are going to get a quality product as long as you take care of it.
What I wouldn’t suggest doing is buying a really cheap trench out of frustration (unless you’re desperate and are literally caught in the rain without a coat). While it is OK to get cheaper versions of most things, for something like a trench coat, you really do want quality (Remember coats, sunglasses, cocktail dresses, handbags, shoes and jewelry should always be quality- the rest can be less expensive). And if you end up buying a poorly made trench, you will probably have to replace it next season and in the end, spend more. So take your time to find just the right one and save up your money while you do so- you won't regret it.
In short, the final message is to scale your purchases to your budget to determine what quality means for you- ultimately allowing you to live a quality life- one within your means.
Shelley, thank you for your question. I hope I answered it for you!
If you have a question you'd like me to address on this blog, please leave a comment or email me @ jenncouture (at) gmail (dot) com
Above, pictured from my recent trip to the Getty Villa, are gold Italic necklaces dated between 500 - 400 B.C.
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