3.07.2011

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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11 comments:

Shelley said...

Thanks very much for responding to my question. I must admit that it's been many years since I spent ALL my disposable income on clothes (books are also a pretty high priority for me), but it was useful to read that you might save for as long as four months for a big purchase. In researching my question on the internet, at one point I found a suggestion that on average about 6% of a family's income goes for clothing. That would all depend, as you said, on what a person's other commitments were. I'll have to start playing with the idea of 'four months' of saving up and see where that takes me! Thanks again.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hi Shelley- I've amended the post because I can see what I wrote wasn't clear regarding discretionary funds. Entertainment (books, movies, etc.) is also another category to take into account and what's left after all of that would be discretionary. This doesn't necessarily mean that the entire discretionary amount goes towards clothes (and beauty products)- it all depends on your hobbies and how you spend your money. It's up to the individual to decide what portion of their discretionary funds should go towards clothing. This topic always fascinates me- probably because my father is an Economist so I've been brought up with the reminder of the importance of being responsible with one's money! Thanks again for asking a great question.

Rebekah said...

Good post. I would add that as your capsule wardrobe becomes more refined and you shop less, you are more inclined to save for longer periods of time for your dream items. So, if you are willing to save for a couple of years to get the Burberry trench (given the figures you outlined), then do it. You will have the trench for 25 years, and it will be worth the investment and delayed gratification. And always be on the lookout for ebay, consignment, and thrift stores.

zaznoba said...

I totally agree with your trench coat note. I wanted a red trench for a few years before I found the one I really wanted - Michael Kors. I was lucky enough to find it on deep discount at Macys for $80 (after all the coupons I added on to the purchase). I am so happy with it and have not seen one I liked better since.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Rebekah- Absolutely! I, personally, do not have the will power to save up and not shop for 10 or more months so I wouldn't buy the Burberry- I would find something more suitable to my budget where I wouldn't have to wait so long. But then again I do not have very much will power :) I'm sure people with more resolve could do so and hold out for their dream purchase. And you're absolutely right- with the capsule wardrobe you hopefully wouldn't need to shop that much either. I've also amended the post to include this as I don't want to dissuade people from saving for their dream purchases. My current dream purchase would be a quilted Chanel handbag with the chainlink strap. I'm going to have to save for quite some time for that one- but I know one day I'll get it. We live in such an instant gratification culture and so many people disregard their budget and just get what they want anyway and think they'll pay it off later- it's great to hear that most of you are on board with holding out for what you can afford. Thanks for your feedback! xx

Zaznoba- How wonderful- you are so lucky to find your ideal trench at such a discount. I love that it's red! Michael Kors has some great designs. He really knows classic American sportswear. I hope you enjoy it for many years to come...

steppingmywaytobliss said...

Nice post! It is a hard lesson to learn--that of saving for those "must-haves" (or even the "need-haves"). Our culture has been so brainwashed for so long to buy now, pay later that it's hard to break that cycle. Like you (and many others), I am trying to live free from debt and have now chosen to look at saving for a purchase as its own sweet reward--the double pleasure of getting what you want and not being in debt for it--even if it takes months to get there. xxBliss

Ms. M said...

When I set up my clothing budget (a fairly new concept for me!) a couple of years ago, I did some research to find out the "suggested amount" to spend on clothing. Most sources suggested 4-6% of income. Of course that would need to be adjusted depending on family size or other commitments, as Shelley mentioned.

I've found that it's helpful (well, actually, for me, it's absolutely necessary) to separate out the clothing funds as soon as I get paid. That way, the funds don't accidentally get spent on other things, and I'm also less likely to overspend.

Topaz said...

I've been following your "10 item" series and really enjoying it. Did I miss a posting where you showed the various elements together in separate outfits? That would really be helpful for the "imagination impaired" among us. Thanks for all your work.

Esprit de la Vie said...

Great post, I think knowing what you have in your wardrobe that works for you makes it a lot easier to hold out and save for those good quality items you can buy and truly covet! Sometimes those items do cost a lot more but the return on investment is well worth it in the long run!

featherfactor said...

Such an incredibly thoughtful post. I have been trying to trim down my closet in the past few years and only buy clothes I would consider useful in a "capsule collection" or that are fabulous but I always get tempted. I just found your blog, by the way- love it!

josephinetalepeddler said...

Hello, thanks for this post, lovely. Much food for thought. I do agree quality over quantity. I need to follow that rule a lot more. I still haven't got around to culling my wardrobe but I will after this edit. Hope all is well with your writing and your family. xx

 
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