A few shopping rules I rely on:
1. Calculate the cost-per-wear (and its happier alternative).
2. If you know what to look for, you can find the good stuff anywhere.
3. Spend to your weakness.
That last piece of advice is the least well-known of my trio, shared with me long ago by a fashion insider, and one I’ve been thinking about this fall as I’ve freshened up my wardrobe for the season ahead. Her idea is that when it comes to getting dressed, most of us have weak spots—and she recommended allocating a little extra in your clothing budget for whatever part of your body is hard to fit, or that you’re self-conscious about, and allocating less to the areas that are easier for you.
I’m tall, and my arms are so long that my junior high friends called me Neanderthal Woman. (I can’t make this stuff up.) Tall pants are pretty easy to come by these days, but tall shirts are hard to find and rarely on sale. But I really like it when my long sleeves make it all the way to my wrists, so I plan on spending a little extra to buy “tall” tops. (If you need any, I recommend Banana Republic and Gap.)
But that’s nothing compared to shoe shopping. I have big feet and, worse, need an extra extra-wide shoe—a combination that’s difficult to find. I’m jealous of those who can run into DSW, grab a pair of heels off the sale rack, and go. I am not one of you.
I’ve learned which brands and styles work for me: my shoe rack holds an assortment of Tieks and a few pairs of naturally-wide boots (I like these and these). Sometimes I’ll get lucky—I’ll find some sale tees that run long in the arms, or find size 12 wide boots at Target (!!). But mostly, because I have such a hard time finding shoes (and because uncomfortable shoes can ruin your day, on repeat) this is where I splurge.
But a couple of months ago, when I mentioned I needed to replace some worn-out flats, a savvy shopper suggested I investigate less expensive options. It’s possible to find wide flats that aren’t Tieks. (Tieks aren’t available in wide width, but when I go up one size they fit my wide feet perfectly, especially from their classic collection.)
She sent me a few links to stylish 11W flats, all of which cost half—or less!—than the shoes I typically wear. I was optimistic. I placed my orders. (Curious? I tried these Lucky Brand flats, these Born flats, and these Madewell mules, because sometimes I hope for the best, even if wide isn’t available.)
And they all bombed. They were cute, but far from comfortable—and when it comes to shoes, that’s no bargain.
This old rule of thumb has helped me manage my budget—and my expectations—for the areas I know are challenging for me.
Maybe shoes are a breeze for you. (Be nice about it, okay?) Maybe you have your own challenges: you’re petite, or allergies limit your fabric choices, or you need a hard-to-find cup size. I’d love to hear what areas of your wardrobe require more of your attention, and how you work around those challenges, in comments.
Do you spend to your weakness? What do you give yourself permission to spend a little extra on?