Is Buying Expensive Clothing Worth It

Is Buying Expensive Clothing Worth It?Today’s post is from my awesome staff writer Jordann. Enjoy!

Like lots of people, I love clothing. I’m not a clothes horse per say, after all, I tend to have a minimalist wardrobe, but I definitely appreciate a piece of well crafted clothing that fits properly, is well made, and priced right.

I’m pretty careful about what I buy these days. Back when I was a starving student I would only buy the cheapest clothing.

I didn’t have a lot of money to spend and I just couldn’t justify dropping a huge portion of my piddly clothing budget on a single expensive piece of clothing with a credit card. The downside of this strategy was that my clothes didn’t last long before they shrunk, got holes, or were otherwise compromised.

Since I didn’t have much money to spend on clothing, I was usually very sad when something I bought only before fell apart, even if it WAS only $5.

Then, after I graduated from university and got my first real job, I found the wonderful world of brand name clothing. I did a complete 180 on my clothing philosophy.

I still wasn’t buying much for clothing, since I had a ton of debt to pay down, but now I was only buying expensive clothes that I thought were much higher quality and much more suited to a recent graduate. Of course, once I fully grasped the magnitude of how much debt I was in, that spending habit stopped.

So, is buying expensive clothing worth it? I’ve had the chance to buy both bottom of the barrel clothing and reasonably high quality clothing, and the two are very different.

The verdict? Sometimes.

Not the definitive answer you were looking for right? Unfortunately, that’s the truth. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend the extra money on well made clothing, and sometimes it’s just not. Here are my top instances where buying expensive clothing is worth it, and when it’s not:

 

Technical Clothing

I’m running a half marathon this Spring. To prepare for this, I’ve been running a lot. In fact, some of my runs are over two hours in duration. For these situations, I need high quality performance gear.

I’ve run in the expensive lululemon gear and the cheaper alternatives, and the expensive gear performs better every time. It’s worth it to get quality gear from RejuvaHealth rather than relying on cheap gear. While this might not make a huge difference for the weekend runner, for me it’s the difference between making it through a run unscathed or making it through with blisters the size of quarters.

 

Timeless Pieces

No, your Uggs don’t count. I’m not talking flash in the pan fashions that’ll be gone in a few years, I’m talking a simple grey winter coat that’ll stay in style and last for years. I’m talking about black dress pants or a suit.

These things will still be perfectly acceptable to wear in several years, so paying for a quality item that won’t fall apart is worth it.

 

Accessories

Personally, I don’t spend a ton of money on accessories. My reasoning for this is that I can easily update my wardrobe by purchasing a few accessories every year that are in style. Since those styles are apt to change in a few years, spending a huge wad of cash on those items wouldn’t really be worth it.

 

Rarely Worn Items

I’ve definitely spent more than a few minutes drooling over a party dress or bathing suit. The truth is though, when it comes to clothing I’m rarely going to wear, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on it.

My $15 bathing suit is three years old and looks brand new because I wear it about three times a year. An expensive one wouldn’t look much better at this point.

The same goes for that party dress, which, since I’m so frugal, wouldn’t be worn any more often than the bathing suit. For clothing that I don’t often wear, I tend to go for the more economical purchases.

When it comes to buying clothing, everyone is different. Some people might think I’m crazy to even be considering buying expensive clothes, while others are drawn to brand names like a magpie.

I try to balance spending as little as possible with buying enough quality items that I don’t have to head back to the store every month to replace clothing that’s no longer wearable. To me, that’s a good balance between frugality and fashion.

Do you swear by brand name items or do you shop exclusively at thrift stores?

 

Comments

  1. LekkerLevenMM says

    I'm still kind of deciding on this. I've had some really good years and bought designer shoes and designer clothing and these still last. Now, we've hit kind of a rough patch and I'm also looking at cheaper alternatives. However, I already had two pieces falling apart after just once or twice wearing them, and the only thing I am doing is sitting in an office… Those weren't the €5 kind, but more in the €30-50 range, so not ridiculously expensive, but also not that cheap that wearing them once or twice was enough.

    I am trying to find a balance, I love for example Hervé Leger skirts, but these are even on sale about €200-250 each. Instead, I buy the BCBG-versions, which are of the same material, just without the zipper, and more in the $60-70 area (I have to buy those in the US, so with shipping they are +- €70). French Connection has great dresses that resemble the bandage dresses, but at a fraction of the price. At €150-200 still a lot of money, but something entirely different than €600-700 (on sale).

    • Jordann says

      It sounds like you have expensive tastes! But I agree with you, it's SO disappointing when clothing starts to fall apart or bag out after only a few wears.

  2. myfijourney says

    In my experience, expense shoes are worth it. They last way longer than cheaper versions of the same shoe.

    I'm also a fan of spending a bit more for things like jackets that serve a particular function (keeping me warm).

    Otherwise, I try to buy nice looking clothes in timeless styles. I will admit that this is much easier for a guy to do. The standard button shirt hasn't changes in decades.
    My recent post Savings Rate is the Key to Achieving Financial Independence

    • Jordann says

      I don't often spend much on shoes, because I like to replace them year to year to update my style. I could definitely get on board with buying a more expensive pair of simple heels or something along those lines though.

  3. FrugalRules says

    It varies on what it is we're buying. Some items we lie to have the brand name on, like with jeans. I'll only buy Levi's for myself as I like the quality and how they fit. My wife has similar taste with some items. Beyond that, we aren't brand loyal and will shop second hand at times.
    My recent post Online Brokerages I Use: Scottrade Review

  4. DC@Young Adult Money says

    I definitely think it depends. While I don't usually buy clothes at thrift shops, I also don't always buy the newest clothes at Macy's. For the most part I like to scour the clearance racks and hope I find something good. My favorite pair of khaki's came from the Target clearance rack, and they look like I bought them at Express or some other more fashionable place (and look like they cost 10x what I paid!). So I'd say I shope for newer clothes that look and feel good, but try to get them at as low a price as possible.
    My recent post Organizing and Leveraging Resources is one of the Keys to Success in Business and Life

    • Jordann says

      The sale rack is definitely the first place I go too! I'm not the "average" sized person either so typically there is lots of stuff left in my size!

  5. Brian says

    I agree with the atheletic gear. I tend to stick with better brands for that since they seem to last longer and "work" better. This is especially true with a good pair of running shoes (just got my first real pair this year and boy does it make a difference).

    Other than that most of my clothes are purchased for me by my old lady, my sister or my mom, since they all know I will just wear something until it is falling apart and sometimes I will duct tape it back togeather (no really I have a pair of flip flops I did this too and they are still my favorites)

    • Jordann says

      My fiancé's running shoes are duct taped together, so I know where you're coming from. He generally wears hand me downs from his friends who are more fashion conscious. Hey, if you don't care, then it would be a waste of money for you to be fashionable.

  6. Alan@escapingmydebt says

    I think it depends on the item. I tend to buy cheaper products like jeans, shorts, t-shirts and knitted shirts from places like old navy. If the Gap or American Eagle type of stores are having a sale I will go there too. But if I am buying a sports jacket or a suit then I most likely will go a little above and beyond. I am not trying to show off but would prefer to make sure the item has some good quality and it is from a place that I have read good feedback from.
    My recent post Advice Needed

  7. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says

    I have a similar post in my queue, I like to buy quality items that will last but whatever the brand, am unable to have a pair of jeans last more than a year or two of intensive use. So brand isn't important, I go for mid range and know it won't last. A coat or pair of boots I try to put more and have something classic that will last a long time.
    My recent post Stay at home vs working mum: Factoring all the costs

    • Jordann says

      Weird, I'm the opposite! All of my jeans are three years older or more, and they aren't expensive. I must be a lot easier on my clothing than you.

  8. mrs1500 says

    I used to work for a high end designer, who gave me clothes to wear while working in the boutique. At the end of the season, they would bring all the workforce into the warehouse and let them each choose a few items to take home. I no longer have any of these items, because they are no longer in style, but they held up well, and looked brand new when I donated them to the thrift store.

    Now I am a stay at home mom, helping my husband work toward early retirement. I buy almost exclusively in thrift stores, because a pair of brand-name pants is $6 instead of $75 and they are only going to get stained anyway. (I love little spaghetti sauce handprints on my white pants, don't you?)

    I totally get the expensive workout clothes, though. The cheaper ones start to pill where they rub together (underarms and thighs) and generally just look worn very quickly.

    • Jordann says

      It's so true! I have a bunch of clothing that is just for around the house because I know it's going to get so much more wear than my office clothes!

  9. mytoughgirl says

    I've been buying cheap stuff all this time, so I'm trying to build a better wardrobe. Even so, some are worth the money and some aren't. I still buy cheap trendy accessories, but buy better quality jewelry to keep it classic and keep them for a very long time.
    My recent post My First Car

    • Jordann says

      It sounds like you know the best strategy for your accessories. I almost never wear jewellery, so buying some expensive stuff wouldn't be a good investment for me. Everyone is different. :)

  10. mycanuckbuck says

    It depends – good shoes are always a must – but clothes vary – I have spent a fair amount of money on some things, and some stuff is from thrift stores and has lasted/looked fine!
    My recent post Please check out Modest Money’s guide to starting a blog!

    • Jordann says

      Unfortunately it's hard to tell when something will last. I have cheap-y clothing that I bought three years ago that is holding up fine – but I've also gotten rid of a ton of clothing from three years ago because it's falling apart.

    • Jordann says

      Good quality running shoes are a must for me, otherwise I get injured. Plus, nice running shoes make it feel like you're running on clouds, which is lovely.

  11. anna says

    I completely agree when it comes to running clothes – socks for $15 or bras for $50 seem ridiculous, but such a great investment for long runs. Plus, the cost per use balances out over time since they don’t pill as easily, so it evens out in the long run (no pun intended).
    anna recently posted..March Debt Repayment and April GoalsMy Profile

  12. Catherine says

    Given my post earlier this week I think you know how I feel. I appreciate needed items like your running gear and work boots having to be a better quality but in my example $300 jeans will never make sense to me. Also, I ALWAYS check value village etc first, women especially with diet and fashion trend give away perfectly good cloths almost never worn. I've found really nice Gap and Banana Republic stuff for cheapy.
    My recent post All The Easter Fun, No Sugar Added: A Lesson in Dentistry

    • Jordann says

      $300 jeans make no sense to me either, especially because I have jeans from American Eagle that are easily five years old, and they're holding up just fine. Thanks for your post earlier in the week, it inspired this one.

  13. Jacob@CashCowCouple says

    I wish you would have addressed how you tied expense to quality. In my own experience, I don't find positive correlation between the two. Most clothes are produced in a foreign sweat-shop, so I have a tough time discerning quality. I have off-brand Old Navy / Walmart clothes that have lasted years upon years.

    Good thought provoking article!
    My recent post Why You Probably Can’t Afford a Dog

    • Jordann says

      that's definitely true. I have a lot of lower cost clothing that appears to be great quality, so it's not always as easy as saying "this is more expensive, therefore it's better quality".

  14. Vanessa says

    I buy cheap clothing and take good care of it and it lasts forever. So long, that I am actually having to declutter my closet because I still have clothes I wore in high school. If you learn how to wash and dry your clothes properly and to fix minor holes and tears then you can extend the life of your wardrobe.
    My recent post Why You Probably Can’t Afford a Dog

    • Jordann says

      Not drying clothing in the dryer is a great way to extend it's life, I agree. I'm in the process of tossing the last of my high school clothes, they are so worn out that they are literally starting to disintegrate, I'm probably not as careful with that clothing as you are though.

  15. Budget & the Beach says

    I'm a bit of a mix. I don't necessarily seek out brand names with the exception of some workout gear like you. There are certain brands I know and trust. But when it comes to regular clothes I'll often shop at discount stores like Target, Kohl's, TJ Maxx, etc. Mostly I don't spend a lot on trendy tops. Why spend $50 on a tank top when I can get one at Target for $10.
    My recent post When are you Happiest?

  16. Cece says

    Definitely not a thrift store shopper since I never find anything there. I don't have the eye. I only spent $16 bucks on my bikini as well. I can't even swim! What do I need with an expensive bikini?? I do spend on my designer jeans. Not all but just a few that I love. They always have the best fit for me. I went through an Express phase but now that I have a solid wardrobe base I want to stick with places like Target and F21.
    My recent post Movie Madness Rant

    • Jordann says

      I completely agree. If I can find what I'm looking for at a thrift store, by all means, I'll buy from there, it's finding it that's the problem!

  17. Diane says

    It depends on how often & how long I plan to wear the item. Classic items such as jeans, black slacks, dress sweaters, black dress, & shoes are items I pay more for~ not necessarily for style, but for comfort, fit & durability. I buy medium price t-shirts that fit well, because they're going to last 2 seasons at most, regardless of the price, before getting stained or faded. Trendy items & accessories I buy cheap, since styles will change & I'll buy something new next year. My capsule wardrobe of well-made basics lasts for years!

  18. Deacon says

    I have shopped at Thrift Stores before, but I have two other places that I like as well. The first place is Well Suited, a second hand designer consignment shop. The other is Macy's on Wednesday afternoons because that is when they put out new clearance items. I recently bought 4 name brand dress shirts for $30. Not too shabby.
    My recent post Broken Dryer – Craigslist to the Rescue

  19. The Norwegian Girl says

    i buy 99% of my clothes in Spain, as it`s A LOT CHEAPER than in Norway. I hate using $100 or more on one pair of pants. But I do agree that some expensive items of clothing are worth it, when it comes to quality jackets and shoes, I always spend extra, knowing the item will last for years.
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  20. Mo' Money Mo' Houses says

    At this point in my life I think spending a lot of money on clothing is silly, but I also don't have a dress code at work or make enough money to really buy any "designer pieces". Then again if I had the money I'd probably still shop the sales and online for deals.

  21. SavvyFinancialLatina says

    I don't buy cheap or super expensive clothes. I mostly shop for my clothes at Dillard's and buy them on sale. I'm petite so Dillard's has many brand that tend to fit my body shape. I haven't bought any clothes since February although I'm tempted. I do buy BRAND styles. My favorite brands include: Gianni Bini, Antonio Melani, BCBG,
    My recent post I Heart a Pottery Barn Sectional Couch

  22. Michelle says

    I tend to shop for both name brand times and thrift store finds. When I do buy higher end brands they tend to be thrift store finds! I recently bought a GAP black leather jacket from Goodwill. It was in excellent condition and fit like a dream! There is a ton of second hand athletic wear at the thrift stores here so I am able to get good quality gear as well (NIKE,etc)

  23. live,love, and debt free says

    Here in the Bay Area there is a shop called CrossRoads and they have new and used clothing and some locations have great name brand clothing items that are new and softly used. Great place I love to shop at and get great deals every few months.
    I agree when buying higher end clothing items are well made. I have started sewing and making my own clothing and I know the quality is great and will last long.

  24. @SumoCoupon says

    Quality clothing IS worth the extra money. If I am ever going to spend extra money on clothing, I usually try the piece on in the retail store and walk out, head home, and find an online coupon or promo code to save money and purchase it online!

  25. brickbybrickinvesting2012 says

    I rarely buy new clothes, my wife has made many attempts to throw away a hoodie of mine that has holes in it. When I do shop I prefer to shop at outlet stores.

  26. @LifeDollarSense says

    I try to be as thrifty with clothes as possible. I agree that certain items are worth a splurge. For instance, I refuse to wear dress shoes to work that kill my feet, so I will splurge on quality, nice leather shoes. I don't buy crazy expensive designer shoes. But comfortable feet during a long day at the office is key to me.
    My recent post When Life Gets You Down..

    • Jordann says

      I totally agree, I hate being uncomfortable and it's totally worth the extra money to have quality clothing that you can work all day in.

  27. Rob @FinancialSprout says

    I have noticed a HUGE distance between cheap and expensive jeans, well actually name brand and generic jeans. I like to buy generic jeans, because they're always around $20, but I can also buy name brand jeans for around the same price (on a mega sale). I usually buy them around the same time, and my name brand jeans outlast the generic jeans by at least a year. It seems crazy, but I bought a pair of name brand jeans 3 years ago and they just started to get a hole in the knee. I got a pair of generic jeans about a year or two ago, and they're torn to shreds. I think that the more expensive clothes are well worth it, as long as you get them on sale.
    My recent post Best TurboTax Discount Codes and Coupons

  28. Anne - Unique Gifter says

    I agree with you – it completely depends. My brand name gym clothes have definitely outlasted my cheaper alternatives (example: old navy yoga pants didn't fare very well).
    I get most of my clothing consignment or as gifts, so I'm not too fussed about what it is really. My spouse has had a lot of success lately with buying very good quality clothing.

  29. AWB says

    Good clothing does not have to be expensive. For example, discontinued lines of clothing or apparel that are still in stock offer alternative savings when they are marked down substantially despite not being marked as clearance.

    Also, if an item is on a clearance rack, discounts are 'stackable' when store rewards programs and/or coupon mailers allow use with clearance items.

    Carefully evaluating the clearance price or percentage with a good idea about market prices on particular clothes helps determine if it is good value. Moreover, just because an item is on a clearance shelf doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't marked up before the discount.
    My recent post 5 money changes to make this year

  30. Lyn says

    My mother was a seamstress so I learned a lot about clothes from her. Most of it is paying attention to good fabric, straight seams, stitching, how it's put together. Ask someone who is knowledgeable to help you; once you know what to look for then it doesn't matter if it's brand or not.

  31. Wendy says

    I think it's a given in this day and age that most high-end clothes in the market is about paying for the label and little to do with quality. I never rely on the price of clothes as direct reference to the quality. I've purchased cheap clothing that is high quality and has out lasted other similar items that were 3 times the price. A prime example is a linen t-shirt I bought from Zara 3 years ago and a similar one by Isabel Marant. Both are made in eastern europe, both are 100% linen. I've worn and washed them both in equal parts but the Tory Burch one disintegrated more rapidly. By now they are both gone but the Zara one lasted longer. The price difference was enormous. I could of bought 7 of the same Zara shirt for the one Tory Burch. I think 90% of designer brands out there varies greatly in quality. My motto for buying quality clothes is – the less popular brands, the least amount of marketing used to promote their company, the more likely the higher of quality. So far, this works.

  32. The Phroogal Jason says

    I was a brand name shopper until I decided to sell my stuff and explore the world. Since coming back I’ve realized the purpose of clothing is to cloth. I chase comfort and style not the brand. But, I have to admit I haven’t bought any new clothes for the past 18 months and I am quite ok with it.

  33. Jeffrey says

    Some clothes are worth it and some you are paying for just the brand name. Like designer shirts, I have walked into Sak’s and seen shirts for like $350 each. Now that is nuts. But you can find similar type shirts if you look in the right places online. Like at Verzari.com, they make similar designer shirts like Robert Graham but way less expensive.

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