A Guide to Buying Wardrobe Essentials

When to save and when to spend.

  • Claire Sulmers

T-Shirt

Save or spend? Save.
Experts say: Save on tees because "you wear them close to your skin, so you wash them more, and they don't have that long of a shelf life," says Mary Lou Andre, a Boston-based wardrobe consultant and the author of Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe ($20, amazon.com). Plus, white ones usually lose the fight with underarm-perspiration marks. "Go for a good fit first and for fabric that doesn't look flimsy," says Kendall Farr, a stylist and the author of The Pocket Stylist: Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Look ($21, amazon.com). "Both of these criteria can be accomplished at good prices."

Jeans

Save or spend? Spend.
Experts say: Jeans might have been created for miners and manual laborers, but today you can wear them everywhere―in the backyard when you rake leaves, to work, and to dinner with friends. Splurge on one or two good pairs, suggests Farr. Premium denim has an attractive dark wash and the right amount of stretch and should fit better than a cheaper pair. Consider hemming one pair for flat shoes and another for heels, says Farr.