Everyone loves a good deal. Finding shoes for $20 or a fabulous winter coat for $50 can make you feel like a veritable discount design ninja. And when you’re comparing two items side-by-side, it can sometimes be hard to tell why one costs twice the price of the other.
But as satisfying as it is to score cheap fashion, the truth is that there are differences—sometimes big ones—in the way that items are constructed at different price points. A “splurge” doesn’t have to come from the priciest boutique or the most cutting-edge designer, though. It can be an item bought at a department store like Macy’s as opposed to from a big-box retailer like Walmart or a discount chain like Old Navy.
Cheap shoes are more likely to be held together with glue, not stitching. They’re more likely to be made of non-breathable synthetic materials, which don’t wear as well or look as nice. And they’re less likely to have any features that provide comfort. Since shoes take a lot of abuse (and since pinchy, uncomfortable ones are so hard to ignore), they’re worth investing in a bit, especially for heels. Shoes that are made well from quality leather will last longer, feel better, and look better. Feel free to go the inexpensive route for flip-flops, trendy sandals, or simple flats, but for most shoes, you will get more when you pay more.
Again, it’s all about fabrics and construction. When you pay a little more for a nice winter jacket, you get fabrics that wear well and designs that are crafted with attention to detail. You get soft, warm linings and flattering cuts.
Winter coats take abuse, too. They’re snowed on, rained on, shoved in closets, and worn just about every day. At the end of the season, damage to a quality coat can be repaired. Seams can be stitched, linings can be replaced, buttons can be re-sewn. Cheap coats are more likely to sustain damage in ways that can’t be fixed. (Think fabric wearing through at the elbows.)
There’s a huge difference in quality between the bras sold at stores like Wal-Mart and ones sold in department stores. Better materials, better construction. This is doubly true for anyone who’s especially large-busted. Spending a little extra for a good bra will pay off in the end, because a quality bra can last for years if it’s properly cared for (hand-washed and line-dried). Cheap bras, on the other hand, often fall apart much sooner. This goes for sports bras, too.
Hear me out on this—If you buy a suit or two every year and discard them at the end of the summer, feel free to buy inexpensive ones. But if swimsuit shopping is your idea of hell on earth and you only want to do it once per decade, buy a nice suit, not a cheap one. Here’s why: suits from designers and department stores tend to be made from more resilient material that retains its color, stretchiness, and shape. With all that chlorine and saltwater, this resiliency is important. Cheap suits will look good for a few wearings, but then they’ll stretch and sag, leaving you looking like you’re toting a pound of sand in your seat. For suits that last more than one season, spend a little more and invest in something nice that will look just as good in five years as it did on the day you bought it.