That being said, I love my shoes, but I love my savings account much more; accordingly, there are some things on which I simply can't bring myself to spend much of the M-Word even if I'm technically able. Plus, These Difficult Times being what they are, I'm thinking more about where to cut back.
This is a frequently visited issue, but given the times & how I'm sure you're sitting around, wondering "What would Pretty do?", I figured this was a good time to re-visit it. Here is what I've come up with so far on my personal splurge vs. save list:
***DISCLAIMER*** To each your own as far as what is a "splurge" vs. "save"; one person's Prada is another's Payless, and all of the above is equally fine by me. We all have our price points we're comfortable with - if in fact we're able to shop at all nowadays - and I pass no judgment on that here. The only judgment I'll be passing is if you spend any amount of money on a jumpsuit.
SPLURGE-WORTHY: (Theme: "If your accessories are good, you can cheat with the rest.")
Everyday Bag: Remember back when I found this summer tote on-sale? I tend to carry the same bag throughout a season, and I ask a lot of it - in addition to the usual practical matters, mine usually has a few work files, a book, ten mystery receipts, and a few snacks floating around in it. I also expect to use the same bag for seasons to come, so I take it to my leather repair shop for fixings as soon as I notice damage & store it carefully.
Everyday Watch: I have one classic, work-appropriate tank-style watch I wear most days for work and play; any trendy watches, like the white ones we discussed here, I'll only buy at a bargain.
A Pair of Good Work/Play Neutral Shoes: For us women, this generally means one good pair of black or navy heels in a classic style that can look professional on the job, but get spruced up with the right cocktail attire outfit in a pinch.
Coats [both (1) winter and (2) trench]: A good coat not only has to endure weather - or I imagine it does, for you Yankees who actually have things like rain and snow - but also a number of seasons. I'm still wearing J Crew coats purchased in college, in a classic cut and good quality that still work today.
One Good Cocktail Dress: A timeless cut in an occasion-neutral color (ie, not black or white) can see you through a nice dinner or wedding season. Although I generally advocate the "Price Per Wear Test", one quality frock in which you feel amazing is key for those special occasions.
One Good Suit: All of us, even those like me who don't work in a business-formal office, still need one of these, in the most classic & best material you can swing. You don't want to be caught unprepared for an interview or other occasional "I need to look like an adult" occasion.
One Pair of Good Jeans: For those of us who don't view "good jeans" as an oxymoron, one pair in a flattering rinse & fit will get you through date night or casual day at the office.
[Edited to Add: You genius readers made some vitally important suggestions to this "Splurge" list; I hereby add them as follows . . . ]
Work Jewelry "Staples": The darling Brunch at Saks - one of my new favorite style reads, by the way - reminded me that there are a few jewelry items beyond a work-appropriate watch worth the investment. This depends on your profession, naturally, but in my (v. conservative) one, a pair of pearl studs, diamond studs in a non-flashy size and cut, and a strand of pearls are the basics.
I emphasize that this is a "buy the best that you can actually afford" item; excellent fakes will do the job & have for me. The trick is that they cannot look fake (at least, they can't in my work world); if you, like many of us, can't swing the real deal, take time to find the best knock-off out there. Inspect the real version at a quality jeweler, and then head to a decent costume jewelry department (Nordstrom is good for this) while the original is still fresh in your mind.
The LBD: As the ever-chic Kristin mentioned, a little black dress of course will do a girl's dress-up wardrobe wonders. If you're stretching a budget, I'd put this behind the "neutral" cocktail dress, which in theory could be worn both to most weddings & to dressy occasions, but it is nonetheless a staple if in a classic, non-trendy cut.
Undergarments: New and delightful reader BoB raises an excellent question - what about the bras (I'm adding in a good strapless here) & panties (I'm adding necessary foundation items like Spanx for us 30+ types)?
To a certain extent, this is personal preference. I have had short-term luck stocking up on Target sale items here, especially in the undies section. However, in my long-run experience (which is where the "Price Per Wear" test really factors in), I find that you get what you pay for, particularly when you're expecting your bras to perform Feats of Fradulent Boobitude as I am.
One Good Swimsuit: Speaking of fraudulent, what sort of California girl am I to leave out one proper swimsuit? Thankfully, the charming Princess Freckles is here to right my fashion wrong.
Like a "suit" suit, this is one that even if you don't need it now, you'll be thrilled to have one in a flattering cut and color in case of emergency - because there is little worse than the prospect of emergency swimsuit shopping, is there? You can cheat with any additional swimsuits - Target usually has a good selection - but there's no argument that one quality one will do wonders for your swimsuit peace of mind (and will generally last longer than the cheapies).
SAVE WHERE YOU CAN:
Evening Bag / Shoes / Formal Dresses: Because these only get trotted out every so often, these usually fail my "Price Per Wear" test. Ironically, they also tend to be more expensive than the everyday stuff. Nonetheless, I'll spend more time hunting for bargains here, especially for materials that can look expensive if done well (ie, metallics).
T-Shirts & Casual Jackets/Cardigans: These do pass the PPW, but I just haven't seen a difference appearance or quality-wise between my Target & the pricey versions.
Casual Dresses: By this I mean "cotton dress able to withstand the scorching, Hell-death heat that is Texas summer". As much as I admire & occasionally
often fall victim to pricey frocks, there are usually good budget alternatives out there.
Casual Flats/ Sandals: With the advent of the Target & Payless upping the quality here, plus the online sales at the moment, bargains abound in this area. I do have my Revas as well, but for everyday, I shop the sales for these.
Non-Work Jewelry: That woman hiding behind the big sunglasses, trying not to be seen as she rifles through Claire's or Forever 21 for costume baubles? That's likely me. On the higher end, Nordstrom usually has a good costume selection, but I don't see much point in spending on what is usually a trendy buy.
What am I missing? Any suggestions for the list, which I will edit & update as we go?
Thanks to this Shop It to Me post (Full Disclosure: I have a cross-promotional, unpaid thingy with Shop It to Me, although they didn't ask me to or in any way suggest that I write this) for inspiring this post in part.