Reader Mail: How much do you spend on clothes?

Reader S wrote in, wondering whether she’s spending too much or too little on clothes…

Given some of the comments re: the price of the interesting Tahari dress/suit last week, I thought it might be worth doing a poll on actual price ranges that people think are appropriate for certain items. Sometimes I would like to know where I “stand” amongst women in how I budget my clothing purchases. For example, I try to keep my shoe purchases around $100 or less, even though I COULD spend more, because they get ruined so fast from walking around the city, esp in the winter. But I would spend more on other things. Am I totally normal, or a total cheapskate? How many people buy bags that are over $1K?

There really are no right answers here, but it does strike us as an interesting discussion. There are two kinds of price points to talk about, though — one is what folks expect things to cost (a good pair of work pants), the other is what folks will pay.  As we’ve mentioned, we like the sales — but we don’t buy things because they cost “$X,” we buy them because we like them and we think they’re of an acceptable quality for the office.  For example — an $8 t-shirt isn’t something, generally, that we would say is acceptable for the office.  But we’re happy to buy a $34 t-shirt at $8.  So, that said, we’ve listed below (after the jump) the price points that we would generally expect to pay for something for the office.  For almost every price we’ve listed here, we would absolutely consider something marked at a higher price, but a) only if they look amazing on, b) we’re acquiring a “name” to add to the closet that we’ve lusted after, or c) … c) would be if we had a specific event to go to and knew that in order to run with the chicks who were there we’d need to put our best fashionista shoe forward.  (For example, just for kicks, let’s say we were to have a meeting with Erin Callan or some other CFO who is notorious for wearing amazing stiletto shoes.  You can bet we’d be there with our best newly-purchased shoes on.)  By the same token, we probably would consider things in a lower price range, also, but only as “need them now” splurges or “I don’t quite know why but this cheap dress looks amazing on me.”) (But we wouldn’t wear them to a meeting with a fashionista.)   Pictured: Does “sale” mean lower prices or does it mean “get outta here”?, originally uploaded to Flickr by sylvar.

UPDATE: We’ve been busy with this whole “job” thing but we are told you guys miiiight be misreading the post. All prices we list are the 100 percent price — we don’t actually pay that — in keeping with the example above, it’s the $34 price — not the $8 price. And so while a lot of bags are in the $600-$800 range, we actually pay more like $200….

  • Pants – For basic khakis or whatnot, a cotton/lycra blend should probably cost around $50-$100.  (Although, man, we just had a flashback to an amazing pair of basic DKNY pants we owned that were originally like $225 like ten years ago.  God, we loved those pants.)  A pant in a wool or a crepe or something like that, we would expect to cost upwards of $100, probably up to $350.
  • Skirts – This depends on the brand and the design. Most basic skirts we own cost around $80-$300; if it’s more of a designery design (like a Trina Turk print) we’d expect it to cost more like $125-$400.  (Particularly with patterned skirts — more expensive ones have seams that line the pattern up far better than lower-priced ones.)
  • Blouses/Tops – This is probably the widest variety for us. We try to avoid buying cheap shirts for the office, but we’ve worn shirts that cost us anywhere from $30 to something like a $225 blouse from Thomas Pink.
  • Sweaters – We will almost always buy a black silk sweater on sale — but otherwise we try to focus our sweater purchases on lux fabrics like cashmere, wool, etc.  We generally shoot for sweaters originally marked in the $150-$500 range — if we’re buying in person and can feel the fabric against our skin we might go lower (or higher).
  • Dresses – If it’s a basic sheath dress, we would expect it to be marked around $125-$350.  For a dress with a print or a more intricate design, we’d expect it to cost anywhere from $350-$850.
  • Suits – Again: totally depends on the brand and the design. Most of our “good” suits probably cost in the $300-$600 range.  We know a lot of women who swear by the Theory suit (which does not do favors to our curvy frame), and regularly pay $800+ for a suit.
  • Bags – For whatever reason, our price point seems to be around $600 (give or take $300) for a handbag/purse, although yes, we have bought bags that cost more than $1K.  For a tote we tend to consider anything from $50-$200. Again, if we’re buying something in person and can assess the leather and the stitching, we’ll go lower.
  • Jewelry – We do our best to avoid buying cheap jewelry — if it isn’t real gold or silver we generally won’t look at it. A “spur of the moment” purchase on jewelry could be anywhere from $350 downwards (this is the sale price we’re talking about — sometimes jewelry prices are so inflated, and it sounds laughable to say that we’d buy an $800 necklace on the spur of the moment); we’ve spent a lot more than that on planned jewelry purchases. (Tip: if it’s worth more than $1500, get a separate insurance policy for it — your home owner’s or renter’s insurance generally only covers up to $1500 per item for jewelry.)

Obviously,  we’re generally content to wait for sales on quality clothes rather than have a constant stream of lesser-quality clothes coming into our closet. This is for environmental reasons (we’ve read that better fibers and fabrics break down better), a general dislike of knock-offs (for a variety of intellectual property and sociological reasons), as well as for closet concerns — we live in NYC and our closet is tiny. But we’re curious — how does it break down for you guys? What do you like to pay? Perhaps we should follow this up with a post we’ve been wanting to write for a while — a discussion about when to splurge.  (Stay tuned!)

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  1. Woo dog. Ya’ll must not have many other expenses or some kind of amazing salary to pump think kind of money into clothing.

    Even without sales, those figures seem about doubly high; however, I’m not in a *big city* and I know there is a much different mentality between people working in smaller cities/towns vs. those living in metropolitan areas.
    Suits – I’ll pay $200 – $400, but have found many a suit for $100 or less.
    Skirts – $20-$50
    Shirts – $15-40
    Pants – cotton $40 (Dockers has some very nice pants that hold up well, wear nicely, and are under $40); slacks $40-70
    Dresses – $30-75
    Sweater – $20-100
    Bags – $40-300

    I rarely purchase anything full price. But, I’ve had tremendous success with $20 shirts from Kohls (look just fine under a sweater or jacket). I just have a very difficult time justifying spending $100 or better on a shirt. Sure, it may be beautiful, but, I’m afraid I’ve got plenty of things I can use the other money on. And, honestly, I’d rather have more money going into my savings plans than into my wardrobe.

  2. I think the most I’ve ever paid for an item of clothing (in my entire life) was a suit for $99 at an outlet. It was marked down from $400, but even at $99 I had to think twice about it.

    I regularly wear $6 Target tees to the office under my $15 blazers from the JCPenny clearance rack, with my $15 clearance rack Gap pants and my $80 Sofft shoes, with my $14.99 Avon earring and necklace set while toting my $100 Coach bag from the outlet.

    I live in a Big City and have worked at Big Law making Big Bucks, but spending a lot of money for clothes isn’t fun for me. I like buying a lot, so I have to spend less, and higher-end clothes just do not fit me or look good on me. I have a suit from Target, for example, that fits perfectly and I wear it to court. My clothes are cheap, but I don’t ever feel under-dressed or unprofessional.

  3. Wow! I have only recently considered spending more than $100 for a good bag for court. The most I ever spent on a pair of slacks was $200. In general, the clothes at Macy’s (Michael Kors or INC) and Banana Republic are the best value for the money. You must make a fortune.

    • or maybe Corporette isn’t saddled with $100k of student loan debt. Or since Corporette just got married, maybe she married well?

      INC clothes are really cute – but they all pill up where my body parts rub together! Under my arms and in the thigh area. Very disappointing.

      • Anonymous :

        Wow, that comment seems pretty harsh. Judgmental much?

        • oh dear, I didn’t mean to seem judgmental at all, I’m so sorry if it came across that way. I’m very ashamed now, that was not at all my intention and I am sorry for offending.

        • I don’t think that was judgmental at all; just a very astute note that personal circumstances have everything to do with what one’s salary will actually buy.

          I’d be able to spend those amounts too, but my student loans are $3000/month and I also help my parents with $$. So half my monthly salary is gone before I even pay rent. Even half my monthly student loan payment would be a HUGE clothing allowance and enough to buy at the above-listed price points.

      • Don’t forget that for a lot of the categories, the prices listed are what they expect it to be first marked. (ie “We generally shoot for sweaters originally marked in the $150-$500 “). Corporette has made a huge effort to feature TPS and other items that are on sale or marked down by huge percentages and I think the guidelines here take into account that you can almost always find it with at least a 30% discount or more.

  4. When it comes to jewelry, I’ve had a real change of heart. I grew up in the era in which you only wore “good” jewelry – real pearls, real diamond earrings, real rubies and sapphires and emeralds. However, there are so many great pieces of costume jewelry in boutiques for a steal. For example, for a business casual look tomorrow, I’m wearing a camel cashmere turtleneck with black pants and boots, very simple, but a necklace that consists of camel, gold, gray and black beads on a black ribbon, with earrings that coordinate. This necklace could be worn all the way with a dressy dress or with jeans, and it’s not even $50. I find myself leaving the “good” stuff in the jewelry box, to be honest.

    In terms of value for the money, the most value I ever received was from charcoal gray flannel pants purchased at the Gap a few years ago. They wash beautifully, look brand new, travel nicely and I would wear them in front of any client without reservations. For this season, I’m getting a lot of value from a $99 black boiled-wool jacket with a tie at the waist, that I’m wearing over colorful turtlenecks with nice pants, or over long-sleeved tees with jeans.

    As for handbags, I would rather have more, cheaper, fun handbags but that’s just me. I actually rotate them at the start of every month. Right now, in November, I’m carrying a pumpkin-colored leather bag. December starts a JPTod classic black leather bag, and January starts a Coach fabric bag with fur trim that looks great in cold weather.

    • @Sharon, I so agree with you about not wearing my “good” jewelry anymore.

    • Sharon, I mostly agree with you, in that I no longer think it’s important that jewelry be expensive. What’s important is that it look substantial and that it complement the outfit in a way that looks powerful – not too girly or delicate. Something like a beaded necklace sounds perfect for pulling the outfit together. When I am lucky enough to find something like that to go with an outfit, I’ll wear it and feel great. When I was in my “real jewelry” phase I mostly bought smaller and more delicate pieces, which were great for looking pretty and feminine but aren’t substantial enough. I’ve been studying pictures of powerful women in business lately, and they almost always have large jewelry.

      That said, I still don’t like things that are trying to look like something they’re not. I have a few basic pieces (earrings, necklace, watch) in classic styles in real gold and silver that are large enough to be “statement” pieces but hopefully not blingy. These go with everything and can be worn when I don’t have nice costume jewelry to go with my outfit.

  5. Hmm. As a 10 year lawyer, most of my baby partner friends pullling down $300K+ look GREAT and buy suits at Macy’s (Jones New York and carry 9 West bags. They also pay $40K+/year for private school for their kids and $12K/month on mortgage.. I guess it’s where you choose to spend your money.

    I find Corporette’s “no cheap jewelry that isn’t real gold or silver” shocking. How do you accessorize without cute bangles, long fake pearls, stone, fake pieces, and CZ? Most of the “statement” necklaces you everywhere could only be worn by the likes of Cindy McCain or Oprah if they were 100% genuine gold/silver/platinum/diamonds/pearls :o)

    • I also don’t accessorize with costume jewelry, just because I would rather have a few choice pieces of fine jewelry that I wear all the time. But then again, I accessorize with scarves and shawls :)

      • @Anonymous – I used to be anti-costume jewelery too for a LONG time. It seemed so fussy and clankety and too TOO. I was very austere – diamond studs, gold necklace, nondescript watch, no bracelets. Now I’m a total convert to cheap jewelry accessories after working with some store clerks who have helped me with my wardrobe… Also, I adore and am inspired by Michelle Obama and her creative use of belts and stylish jewelry accessories (especially necklaces and bracelets and broaches) .

  6. I don’t have a minimum price – sure, some things look obviously “cheap” and I avoid them, but I couldn’t care less what they originally were priced.

    Otherwise, I make a reasonably good salary but have very high student loan payments and live in a high COL area. I’ve also only been out of law school for two years. So I don’t have a ton of spare cash. I’ll pay up to, oh, $75 for shoes or a bag, and up to $200 for a suit. Otherwise, it’s rare that I’ll spend more than $50 on something (I tend to pay a bit more for dresses because I figure they count as skirts and a top in one).

    • Actually, I’m speaking theoretically on the bag. I paid $20 for one from H&M and then inherited a nicer one from a friend who didn’t want it anymore. I could imagine paying up to $75.

  7. Interesting post!

    I make ~200K, no kids, live in a big city. I probably spend an average of $200 a month on clothes/shoes, with an occasional splurge. I prefer quality over quantity and don’t have the time to hunt the sales. I typically pay the following.

    Suits: $200-$600 (usually J Crew, Elie Tahari, etc – I love a J. Crew sale. Also have my eye on a Hugo Boss suit for sometime in the next year)
    Pants alone: $75-$200 (J. Crew, Banana, BCBG)
    Jackets alone: $150-400
    Skirts alone: $50-200
    Shirts: $50-100 (J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, etc)
    Sweaters: $50-200
    Dresses: I rarely buy dresses, but I’ll spend $150-350
    Bags: $200-500 (Coach and similar)
    Shoes: $75-300 (only rarely near $300, and then only for shoes I will wear for a long time and will make a special effort to keep clean)
    Jewelry: $20-100 for everyday stuff (usually the racks at Nordstrom)

    • Ditto, almost to the dollar.
      I will spend a great deal of money on suits. I do this because I try to buy the jacket, pants, and the skirt. $800 not on sale is about average. Buying all three pieces means that I can take more advantage of the expensive jacket.

      • My guidelines are close to Kate’s. I tend to go less expensive on the tops (Ann Taylor and even Target) that go under suit jackets. When I go cheaper on other things, such as skirts, they never seems to fit as well and wear out quickly. I only buy one good handbag, not in black or brown but a color that looks good with both, and use it for about 4 or 5 years. I can’t take the time to move my things from one bag to another on a daily or even a weekly basis. Sharon’s post has made me consider having two or three bags (gasp) and changing them seasonally.

  8. BTW, no offense intended, Corporette, about your spending ranges for clothes and jewelry. When stock options ruled the tech world in the San Fran Bay area, the favorite “status” splurges were 5-star trips to Maui…. (and yes, I did partake!). But boy, how the recession has changed my mind on all of that…

    • divaliscious11 :

      Now I love Maui…but I’d have spent Maui money on a bag and gone to Jamaica, instead (warmer water)… and would still be carrying my bag longer after the sun tan faded. Ah well, different strokes…

  9. I have to say, I invest the most in shoes. I’m on my feet most of the day, whether it’s running to meetings or standing around places, etc. I’ve found that bad shoes are really hard on my feet and my knees, so I’ll spend $300 on a pair of shoes that I know will keep my comfy all day. I really like the cole haan nike air kind, which I’ve found are really worth their weight in gold. If I can find them at the outlet, I’ll get them, but if not I’ll happily pay full price.

    Like many of the commenters, I try to find things on sale. I work in government (read: not so much money), but I’m often on camera or around cameras or in front of people, so I try to look as nice as possible.
    Suits: $120 – $350
    skirts: $30 – 100
    shirts: $20 – 70

  10. Especially right now (I’m back in school), I have a really hard time paying more than $80 for a shirt/sweater/khakis/twill pants, $100 for a skirt, $125 for dress pants, and around $100 for shoes (maybe $150 for boots); ideally I’d pay a lot less! I’d probably go up to $200 for a suit (and maybe more because I find it REALLY hard to find suits to fit me). Bags are super hard for me – I can’t bring myself to spend more than about $150, but I can’t find anything I like in that price range. So sometimes I just buy vinyl stuff from Target for cheap.

    But like I said, I’m currently a student. And before I was a student, I was a teacher, so I wasn’t exactly buying the kind of stuff usually featured here.

  11. Thank you for this post! I just started law school after several years in a much more casual profession, so I’ve been thinking about how drastically my professional clothing budget will need to change after school. It’s great to see the range of answers here, even while I’m still in the $300-400 for One Really Good Interview Suit and then NO MORE SHOPPING phase.

  12. I now feel that I’m a terrible spendthrift! I have zero debt + no college loans (have worked for 12 years now) and live in a country that (unlike you lucky folks in the US) has ZERO sales on anything but items that would pill as soon as you touch them!

    I don’t own any suits for work as we’re a business casual office. For the rest, I would spend upto………
    $75-100: jeans, pants, blouses & dress shirts (exception being DvF blouses at $200)
    $400: DvF/ Anne Klein/DKNY dresses at full price (but I own just a dozen that I can wear to work and when I go out as well)…but try to get them for maybe $300-350 (that’s the lowest they’re priced on sale where I live)

    My splurges are shoes (upto $400) as I have flat feet and really need comfy ones that I can wear all day and bags (over $1k) – BUT I own a total of 3 bags.

    Jewellery – I forego costume jewellery entirely but spend big bucks on 1 piece of really great jewellery each year.

    • These are about my ranges too – although I do have to wear suits so factor in about $500-800 per suit (with alterations, and at the upper range only if it includes a skirt as well as pants). Lately I’ve been experimenting with cheaper custom-made suits, which means I could spend up to $1200 or so for the suit.

      I also splurge on shoes, because I find that when I buy cheaper ones I often find after I get them home that they are uncomfortable in some way that didn’t manifest itself at at the store, and/or I can’t break them in. My feet are an unusual size, and now I also have started to develop bunions so I have to be very specific about heel height and shape of the toe box as well. My favorites are Varda (around $300) and Cole Haan (around $200), but I also love the two pairs of splurge heels (Jimmy Choo and Taryn Rose) in basic colors and simple styles that I splurged on. They took no time to break in, and they always look fantastic. I keep them at the office as much as possible, so I expect to wear them for years.

      I also am trying to build a wardrobe of real jewelry gradually, spending $500-3000 on each piece. My goal is to have chunky earrings and a chunky necklace in silver and gold, plus a few other nice pieces that complement specific colors.

      The one thing I don’t splurge on is bags – I have been able to find bags that I think are nice leather and that look professional for around $200-300. I just don’t see a point in spending more – the more expensive bags don’t really seem nicer or more functional. I would be willing to spend more if I were convinced it would upgrade my professional look, but I’m not.

  13. I work in local government making a decent salary, but law school debt does cut back on the cash I’m able to spend on clothes. I try to hit the sales to get the best quality for my money. It helps that my office is business casual and that I don’t have to be in court very often. I’m working on building a good quality wardrobe, but am doing it slowly. At the moment, I can’t see myself spending more than $100 on any single piece of clothing or $150 for a suit. And at $100 for a single article of clothing, it would have to be something I was in love with — I usually try to keep myself within the $30-$50 range for any single item. I have mostly costume jewelry but am slowly building a collection of nicer pieces. As far as shoes and purses go, I have had good luck finding higher-end brand names second hand. (This doesn’t work as well for clothes for me because there’s not a lot out there in my size. I’ll occasionally make a good find, though.) I wear a lot of Ann Taylor and Jones New York and then supplement with stuff from Target or Kohl’s.

  14. I’m surprised at how much people spend on dresses! I get nice ones at Loehman’s, Cache, Nordstroms, even Saks, (onsale) and wouldn’t dream of spending more than $200. Even David Meister (whom I love!) goes down to $200.

  15. No matter my income, I’ve always enjoyed the treasure hunt of finding clothes that look fabulous and fit well at discount stores like Ross and Marshalls. Not only do I treasure finding pieces that I love for practically nothing, I feel free to wear them all the time, because I won’t be devastated if they’re ruined by a stain or a tear…after all, I’ll surely find something just as amazing and inexpensive to replace it!

  16. divaliscious11 :

    Hmm… I have broad ranges on everything except for shoes and bags…

    My caveat is that I very rarely pay full full price for anything except some of my bags, because, for example, Louis Vuitton does not go on sale, period (Although if you travel to Europe during SALE, pretty much everything else will be on sale – I miss the deals in the currencies prior to the euro!). I am a shopper though, so I am pretty good at finding good deals! I shop at outlet malls, but only in certain stores, as too many of the stores in the outlet malls sell inferior clothes that they’d never sell in the regular store. Barney’s, Sak’s Off Fifth, NM etc… Depending on the location, Nordstrom Rack etc…. but you have to know what you are buying. I have a beautiful Burberry cashmere coat that was $1900 that I got for $650, for example. Timely classic that my daughter will probably be able to wear in 10 years.

    I will not wear cheap shoes! I have one pair of feet and I am not screwing them up in Cheap shoes. I have paid as much as $800, but that is a rare splurge, as I an usually find the $700+ shoes in the $250 range. I’d rather have less, than lots of cheap!

    Sweaters – typically range in the $75 -$200 – but I mostly only buy cashmere, just in different weights, and I usually stock up on tee style sweaters as Saks or Neiman’s outlets (Neiman’s is also great for shoes) at the end of the season, as classics are perfectly fine for years

    Pants, dresses, skirts, shirts – whole range – I have great pants from H&M for $12.99 to Prada dress trousers that were $600, and I’ve worn a top from Target with said Prada trousers

    Bags…so here is my weakness, although I haven’t bought a new one this year and I am putting my dollars together because I want a Birkin. The first bag I bought for myself was a Coach bag I bought 20+ years ago when I was 16, and I still have and use it today.

    Suits – I tend to pay a bit more for suits, but I have few of them since I have been in different business casual environments for the last 5 years or so… but I am planning (long range) to get a couple of pant suits custom made now that I am in a colder climate so I’d say $300-$600.

    Jewelry – I LOVE jewelry, but I never actually wear it, other than my wedding rings, a pair of diamond studs. I have 2 watches, and I want a man’s style Rolex. (I’m 6 ft tall so can carry a man size watch) I do have some cute broaches/pins but the rest ends up being a waste of money in terms of actual usage.

    I also love good consignment shops and used to have a great store that bought out high end department stores and boutiques were I could get very good deals on really good stuff….they closed, and then I moved, so I am still looking for a good shopping spot!

    I spend my money on top quality classic pieces, and make them fun with trendy stuffy from H&M, Target etc….

    • I’m also addicted to bags and just got my Birkin in January! Keep saving for it, you won’t regret it!

    • Dress pants from H&M and Prada are long enough for you?

      • divaliscious11 :

        Yes, I am not “all legs” like most people my height. the designer pants I actually had to get shortened. the H&M I wear with flats.

  17. I think yikes! and I would get along well. I’m a first year lawyer with the government and am frequently on TV (not speaking, necessarily, but shown). I try to buy quality pieces but nearly all my shopping is done on the internet because I live in a small market, so I tend to rely on tried and true brands.

    Suits – I’ll pay up to $400, but try to always buy on sale. My favorite skirt suit was a full price find at Talbots, but my next favorite was $50 for the set on clearance at Boston Store.
    Skirts – up to $70. Skirts are so easy to find on clearance!
    Shirts – $50 is my limit. I am partial to the no-iron ones from Land’s End and try to wait until they go on sale.
    Pants – $100. I only pay that if I’m desperate for a new pair, otherwise I try to stock up on sale.
    Dresses – $100. I just bought two full price that I am hoping will work, but most of my work dresses come from the Banana Republic outlet for around $30.
    Sweater – up to $70. I buy cashmere classics on sale at the end of the season.
    Bags – $300 is my absolute limit. My nice bags are all from the Coach Outlet or clearance sales.
    Shoes – up to $200. I only wear leather shoes. I haven’t had a problem finding stylish and comfortable work pairs in this range. In fact, most of my shoes were under $50, but that’s because I sold them for so long that I got employee discounts and now just keep repairing them.

    I tend to dress conservative or preppy with a twist at work, so just about everything I wear can be purchased when it’s clearing out for the season. I can live comfortably on my salary by waiting for sales, and I live in a small enough city that even when purchased on clearance from the outlets or a mall store, it’s still in fashion here.

  18. Wow, these price ranges are steep. I’m happy to see other commenters feel the same way. I like this blog because it gives me ideas, but I’ve always been intimidated by the cost of the clothes, particularly some of the things featured in the TPS report. Now I know I’m not the only one not shelling out $300 for a sweater on a regular basis.

    With the exception of a suits, I could probably count on one hand the number of items in my closet that cost more than $100. I’ll buy full price at Banana Republic or something similar if I love the item, so I’d say their prices are probably my upper range.

    Generally though, I try to spend less than that.

    I am willing to spend $300-$400 on a suit, though. When I was a poor law student, I had a job that required I wear a suit nearly every day and stocked up on the $150 and under suit sets at Filene’s Basement. They all fell apart after a few months. So, it’s just not worth it. I don’t find such a noticeable difference in quality when comparing, say a NY & Co blouse to a J. Crew one, so I’m generally willing to go cheaper on tops, skirts, sweaters, etc.

  19. Thanks for the post, C. I think my spending is about the same as what you’ve described. I make just under $200k and feel like the amounts you listed are pretty crazy to be spending on clothes, but I definitely feel that for me it is necessary to get the right look for the office. That said, I don’t have much creativity, fashion sense, or time. I know that I can pull a bunch of items from the Theory rack at Bloomingdales (where I know my size and what styles I look good in), mix and match them and look great every day. I also bank on the fact that my Theory suits look crisp and non-wrinkly at the end of a long day, no matter what I was doing, and that most of those pieces don’t really go out of style.

    I think if I had time go to many stores to try on lots of clothing and if I also had some fashion sense to coordinate outfits, I could probably get by on much less. For instance, I happened to get a cute black skirt at H&M once and it has become a great addition to my wardrobe. I also picked up several pairs of flats to keep at my desk from Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.

  20. Love, love LOVE this post. I’m definitely showing Corporette’s numbers to my husband to prove to him what a marvelous wife I am for combing Ross, TJ Maxx and (yikes) Good Will for work wear. That said, as soon as I have a decent post-JD salary, my price points will go up, probably to the bottom end of the Corporette range on just about everything.
    (It must be pure accident that that price list didn’t include a shoe price-range with which I might blow my husband’s mind…err…I mean budget!)

  21. I very rarely spend $100 on anything. My good work bag cost $100, as did a couple of my Cole Haan Air Shoes (bought on clearance; the rest I buy on eBay for about $50). I did invest in a Theory suit (dress, pants, skirt and jacket) and 3 additional Theory sheath dresses when I just started working after law school. All of these pieces totaled about $1500 at the Theory Outlet.

    I’d be really interested in doing a SAVING poll with Corporette readers…if people are spending this much, is there anything left at the end of the month for savings and fun? I make a good salary, but I cannot imagine spending $200+ on a single item of clothing more than 1-2x a year.

    • divaliscious11 :

      That’s an excellent point! I max my 401K, invest in 2 separate non-retirement accounts as well in cash savings from each check! I treat saving and investing like a bill and its all on auto-deduct. I am married so I don’t cover all of the household expenses etc… alone, but shopping comes after bill paying/saving!

    • divaliscious11 :

      For those trying to figure out how to save, there will never be anything left at the “end of the month” for saving….saving needs to happen at the “beginning of the month” so to speak……

  22. I spend about $1500 a year on clothing and shoes… that’s $100-150 a month at Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic and Nordstrom Rack. I used to spend more at JCrew, but they have disappointed me in quality and choices in the last couple of years.

    I buy most of my shoes at Nordstrom Rack, and never pay more than $60 for a pair of heels or flats. Granted, I wear Steve Madden, Mia, BCBG, Michael Kors and the occasional pair of Cole Haans. I don’t own a Coach bag or Jimmy Choos. :) I would feel crazy amounts of guilt spending $1000 on a handbag…it doesn’t really matter how much money I make! $100-300 is enough to buy a high quality leather bag.

    I’m on the saving train though. I max out all retirement account contributions and have extra stashes for investing and saving.

  23. this is a fascinating post on a topic i’ve wondered about before. i tend to splurge on clothes — i don’t have very many vices, and having spent ten years paying off my student loans, i feel entitled. sadly, we’ve just paid our first college tuition bill, so my glory days may be over, lol.

    i find myself pretty much in agreement with corporette on most items.

    Suits: most of mine are lafayette, at $700-$800. they’re easy to wear, and look great. and, after years of wardrobe building, i have all the basics and only need to buy maybe a suit a year. i also work in some theory pieces.
    Pants alone: theory works well for me, although i sometimes buy eileen fisher pieces for casual wear, so somewhere in the $125-$350 range.
    Jackets alone: i won’t buy a jacket if it isn’t part of a suit, unless it’s on sale.
    Skirts alone: $100-350
    Shirts: the lafayette underpinings are outrageously expensive — around $200 for a simple sweater. but, they’re easy and they look good. everytime i buy one, i swear to look around for something less expensive and just as easy to wear, but since they come from the same personal shopper who does my suits they’re easy (and time is money)
    Sweaters: $100-400. i like cashmere.
    Dresses: I rarely buy dresses–i’d like to buy a couple of black ones, but no clue about a price.
    Bags: i generally only buy one to two bags a season. i had a love of kate spade when she was fresh and new, and felt very splurgy paying $400 for a bag. now you can get kate on sale, but i think with the exception of one vuitton bag, i’ve never spent more than that. i’d rather have just a couple of good things.
    Shoes: $150-400. i’m a trial lawyer — i live on my feet, even when i’m not in the courtroom. and, i don’t live in the north, so the wearing is easier. i love thierry raboutin for their comfort, and wear pliner, cole haan nike sole shoes and a good bit of anny liu or other brands that cost a little bit more but add some comfort in.

    Jewelry: i have the same prohibition against costume, and won’t buy it unless it’s 14k. i shop indie designers, people like dana kelin, and a small local boutique with good stuff. i’ll spend a couple hundred dollars on earrings, and a bit more on a necklace, but have found some great indie stuff at good prices too. maybe once a year i’ll splurge on a major statement piece.

  24. Just noticed that Corporette spends far more on separates than “suits.” Seems somewhat incongruous to spend $125-$400 on a single skirt yet $300-600 on a suit (that should include the skirt). And why spend $500+ on a sweater? A sweater?!! I have a beautiful Catherine Malandrino cashmere sweater that cost $200 on sale. Don’t mean to sound critical, but am I missing something…. ?

    • divaliscious11 :

      But what was the full price on the Malandrino? I think most people put where their price points begin at full price, whether they actually pay that is different.

      • @divalicious I think the Malandrino sweater was $400 full price. You do make a good point. But C said she’ll pay MORE than the upper ranges on items if they are killer or she has a meeting with someone who’s a fashionista. But fashionista CFOs make $50M+ a year. I’m like the other poster: “Woo dog!” I can’t hang…

  25. I think it greatly depends on what exactly you’re doing, what your branch of work is, etc. At least over here, government doesn’t dress anywhere near as fancy as corporate, even though the job itself may be similar – you can be a lawyer and work for the government here just as well. On the other hand, government doesn’t pay nearly as well either (but my mom had 52 vacation days a year when she worked for them a few years back, free dental, free public transportation… top that!)

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