Building A Quality Wardrobe

July 25, 2017
Around this time last year I became intrigued with the notion of a capsule wardrobe. It was an obsession born out of necessity, I was moving a thousand miles from home and I didn’t budget for moving costs. One box alone was $60 to ship. I scoured the internet for any tips I could find for building a capsule wardrobe-- and essentially life. I succeeded for a while, and it allowed me to part ways with articles of clothing I didn’t even realize I was housing. Once I got my bearings in my new environment, I felt myself falling back into old habits. Something new lingered, though. Some fundamental part of what I’d taught myself during my capsule wardrobe phase persisted: quality.

Growing up I’d become accustomed to hear (note I didn't say “listen.”) to my parents and older brothers drone on and on about quality. I didn’t heed any of this because my if I could get so much for so little, why would I wanna do anything else? But I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I had bills and rent to pay, something no amount of preparation could have, well, prepared me for. Shopping was now, this is really cute, but it’s gonna start falling apart right away and there’s a reason they’re only charging $10 for it. That thing my family kept going on about finally made sense to me.

James Perse has been my go-to for basics for a while now.

I loved this navy tee so much, I bought a second identical one. Similar here

It’s an inconvenient truth if you’re on a tight budget like I am, but I promise there’s a silver lining. If you’re seeking quality, you’re probably gonna have to pay a little more for it up front, but you won’t have to replace it or keep spending your hard earned money on the same thing over and over again. This applies to just about anything you can think of. Here are some of the biggest rules I adhere to when expanding my wardrobe:

Knowing what to look for and knowing yourself are two of the most important things you need to know. Know your style. Know your fits. What items in your closet get the most attention? Why? What can you throw on and not even need a look in the mirror at because you just know you look good?

Knowing where to look is equally important. Even if your budget isn’t terribly tight, thrift stores are always solid choices. You’re bound to find a few wins anywhere you look. If not, give it some time and check again. Persistence and time are key. I know the idea of wearing used clothing doesn’t sit well with some people, but consider this: these pieces have a former life and are still going strong. How much of your wardrobe can stand the test of time like some of these have? Things to keep in mind when thrifting: 1. Really inspect a piece of clothing because questionable stains are definitely out there, and there’s no telling if they’ll come out. 2. Be weary of the return policy as most are final sale or exchange only.

Grey Suede Leather - Jeffrey Campbell, similar here // Brown Leather - Seychelles, similar here

Don’t feel like leaving the house, or have slim pickings in your area? I’ve been there, too. Luckily, I came across some pretty great alternatives to the brick and mortar version. eBay has a really great selection of vintage jewelry. I’m too scared (and lazy) to shop for clothing online because online returns are the worst, and so is paying return shipping. But accessories are just about always a safe bet. Just be sure you’re comfortable with the amount of information that the seller provides so you have a real idea of what you’ll be getting. Another less frequented (by me) alternative is Poshmark. I used this site/app quite a bit back in the day, but the platform underwent some changes and I eventually lost interest altogether. Still, if there’s something rare or discontinued, this is a good place to look! Finally, online thrift stores exist! A few google searches should yield something that piques your interest, but Shop Goodwill is my favorite, bar none.

Cambridge Satchel Co. Large Push Lock in Leather

Belt - Vintage

If there’s one thing I really love, it’s my niche brands. I’ve written previously about how living in the southeast has a silver lining because no one is really after the labels I drool over. A select few places house quite a few lesser-known, but well respected labels. Unless you’re around their home courts, they go widely unnoticed and therefore marked down further. Know your niche brands (if you’re into that sort of thing) and really be familiar with different labels and their reputation in terms of durability, etc. Spotting them will soon become second nature.

I haven't had to repurchase workout leggings since swearing off the cheap(er) stuff // Lululemon (pink), Fabletics (black)

My mom taught me at a young age that if you’re going to splurge on anything, it should be your shoes. “These directly impact your back,” she’d say, “so spend the money and do yourself a favor.” I have the most difficult feet to fit into shoes, and I learned the hard way that spending the time, money, and effort is the only way to really win in the end. I got smart and started buying for quality, but I spent far more on lesser footwear because the price was right and
well, if I wear them for only, like, 10 minutes and do minimal walking, they won’t hurt that much. Trust me, the pain of wearing bad shoes isn't worth it.

Story Time
I needed some plain flats for my wardrobe, but no one made any that fit me well. I finally was left with one option: take my mom’s advice. I hit up the *high end* part of town and hit the jackpot. I spent quite a bit on flats, but when I put them on, I almost cried. I’m serious. The shoes were perfect, the fit, the color, everything was absolutely perfect. I bought them in every color, which was luckily only in nude and black, because they were pricier. But you know what? It’s been almost five years and both pairs look brand new. They fit just like they did at the store that day, and I never had to buy another pair of flats again. This is a classic example of quality in action. They were pricey, but take into account the aggregated amount I’d already spent trying to replicate a low quality knockoff, and I broke even, easy.

I took this rule of thumb and applied it to my entire wardrobe. I always try to opt for vegan leather (or “pleather,” as I used to call it), but I’ll never pass up a good leather bag or belt if one crosses my bath. These things, along with shoes, take the brunt of the wear and tear, but will stick with you as long as you take care of them. I’ve been asked how I manage to both save money and shop so much. It’s simple: I look carefully, I take my time, and I’m totally fine with walking out of a store empty-handed. And when I do buy something, it’s going to be a long time before I have to replace it.

Perfume - Carolina Herrera // Watch - Invicta // Bracelet - Vintage