Splurge or Save?

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How to Make the Most of your Style Budget

To splurge or to save, that is the question. As an image consultant, I am asked this all the time. Perhaps not quite as thought-provoking as Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be,” but important nonetheless. Most people wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time. When they come to me, they assume that I am going to tell them they have to spend thousands on even more clothes to look their best. Not true! It’s about knowing when to splurge and when to save.

Before I answer this pressing question, let me make something clear. Your personal image matters. Studies consistently show that 55 percent of other people’s perception of you is based on your personal appearance. Is this because we are all superficial, judgmental and cliquish people? No! It is because the human hypothalamus searches for symmetrical balance and color harmony. The goal is to make your appearance a natural extension of you.

How can you make that happen? First, you should purchase the highest quality items you can afford. Remember, quality and price don’t always go hand in hand, but price is an important part of our equation. When shopping for things to complete your look, the most important thing to consider is CPW, or cost per wear. When you look at things from this vantage point, you will find that you can get by with fewer things, but those things will last for a much longer time.

One of the most important things to splurge on is shoes. Your feet carry you around all day, and it’s hard to look confident and successful when you appear to be hobbling around on two bloody stumps. Investing in two pairs of quality leather shoes is your best bet for feeling comfortable and looking put together. Whether male or female, you should choose one pair of black and one pair of brown. Properly taken care of, they can last you for many years to come. Men should choose a pair of lace up shoes for the black pair and a loafer style for the brown. Ladies can go with a classic pump for both pairs for the most versatility and longevity.

Since we live in Michigan, it’s important to splurge on a good winter coat. If you only have one, it should be a dark colored three-quarter length wool coat. Whether dressed formally or casually, it will always be appropriate.

When you are considering clothing, look at the quality, fit, color and fabric. If you have a great pair of well fitting, black or dark colored wool gabardine slacks, you will be able to wear them once a week nine months of the year. If you pay $150 for them and they last for one year, what is the cost per wear? I’m waiting … I’m an image consultant, not a mathematician. It would be roughly $4.16 per wear. Now what if you spent $75 on a pair of plaid, rayon blend pants that you may be able to wear once a month for 6 months out of the year? Cost per wear is $12.50 — three times as much as the higher quality pair.

In a nutshell, splurge on items that can take you from season to season. Items that are timeless — if you would have worn them 10 years ago and can picture yourself wearing them 10 years from now — are worth the investment. Pieces of clothing in neutrals are good splurges since you will be able to mix and match them to create many different looks. Garments that compliment you physically are a much better buy than garments that you don’t feel good in. Natural fibers are a better choice than synthetic. They will look better, feel better, breathe better and last longer.

So where can you save? Those items that didn’t meet the criteria above are a great place to save. A great place for ladies to save is on the latest, funkiest fashion jewelry or the hottest color of the season. If it’s going to be a fashion “don’t” this time next year, don’t spend a fortune on it. For the men, you can save on blue jeans, undershirts and shirts, as well as the latest fashion trends and colors. Just like the ladies, if it’s going to be out of fashion this time next year, don’t break the bank to buy it.

You will get more bang for your buck by following the CPW formula. You’ll look better, feel better and getting dressed in the morning will be a snap. Remember, the devil is in the details, so make sure to pay attention to them!


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Shelley Davis Mielock

Shelley Davis Mielock is a certified business image coach and the founder of Mieshel Image Consulting, a Lansing-based firm that specializes in image development for individuals and businesses. She is also a co-host of In Her Shoes, a a weekly women’s talk radio show. To ask Shelley an image question, please e-mail her.

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