Building a Designer Wardrobe on a Budget

I know what you’re thinking. First of all is the guilty crowd-watching, spotting a beautiful pair of Louboutins here & a Celine tote there. Next comes the aspirational thought – I could have that, all I’d have to do is save a little money. Then comes the Debbie Downer – but then I wouldn’t have any money to spend on anything else! Is it all worth it?

First of all, if you’ve read my post about why buying quality items is so much better in the long run than buying lots of items, you’d know that yes, it well & truly is worth it. (If you haven’t read it, check it out, it’ll definitely help you decide if quality or quantity is better for you). But how to begin building a designer wardrobe?

1. Budget

Probably not everyone’s favourite topic but, at the end of the day, if you’re wanting to buy designer pieces with their attached designer prices you’ll need to figure out how to fit them into the all-important budget. Figure out exactly how much you spend every fortnight/month on non-negotiables – things like travel, insurance, your morning coffee. Then figure out how much you have left. Generally speaking, I tend to spend 30% or so on non-negotiables, 30% on savings/paying off credit cards & 30% on spending. Now you’ll be better able to work out how & when you can afford your designer pieces.

2. Reality Check

If you think that you’ll be able to afford head-to-toe designer labels just by budgeting  & without a 7-figure yearly income then I’m sorry to say you’ll need a reality check. Sure, they’re made out of better quality materials but chances are, it’s just not going to be financially viable for you to spend all of your money making sure that every piece you buy is designer. This brings me to Step 3 which is…

3. Concentrate on the Building Blocks

Otherwise known as the best pieces to buy designer as opposed to high street. On a topline level, I would say shoes & bags. On a more in-depth level I would say workwear heels, versatile tote bags & classic pieces for your wardrobe – closet staples such as trench coats, leather jackets & perfectly fitting blazers, pencil skirts & pants. Pieces I don’t think are worth buying are also relatively obvious, things like trendy items that could go out of fashion quickly, jeans (I know! But seriously, Gap, Old Navy & H&M have it going on – why would you pay more?), simple top & shirts for work, day dresses that can be found by the dozen at places like Topshop & ASOS & knitwear.

A note on knits: When buying knitwear, if you want it to actually do its job & keep you warm, then you have to go for merino wool. Whilst I personally wouldn’t recommend buying designer knitwear, you can get 100% merino & cashmere sweater from places like J. Crew & Uniqlo at very competitive prices & at top quality construction & colours.

4. Work Out The Holes in Your Wardrobe

Now for the fun part. Figure out what you need. Once you’ve narrowed your designer shopping list down to the classics & the hard-working pieces in your wardrobe, find out what you don’t have. For me, at the moment, it’s a pair of heels for work & weekend, that aren’t black or nude. Easy, right? Actually pretty tricky to find. But, I don’t want to just buy a pair of cheaper heels. If I’m wearing them to work then I’ll want them to be a good-quality designer pair that will last & last. Another couple items I’m looking at are a trench coat, a classic black Chanel bag & a leather jacket.

5. New or Second-Hand?

I personally wouldn’t recommend buying designer shoes second hand, right off the bat. However, second hand bags & coats are always at a much friendlier price point & most second hand online suppliers now offer layaway services so you’re not on the hook for the full amount straight up. Once you’ve got your designer list, work out what you can get second hand & start doing some research. Different sites offer different price brackets but just be careful of the quality of the piece. Sometimes they’re brand new with tags, other times they might have a touch of irreversible damage on them – you don’t want those ones! My favourite sites to snoop around are: Vestiare Collective, Fashionphile, Tradesy & Portero.

6. Layaway Option?

This is where those second hand websites come in handy. Some of them offer a layaway option that can make your purchase that much simpler & easier if you’re on a tight budget. Some department stores also offer layaway options as well – I know for a fact that David Jones in Australia does allow for layaways which is absolutely fantastic!

7. Limit Your Other Fashion Spending

The news you didn’t really want to hear, right? But that’s the thing, you can’t really expect to enjoy a few high street shopping sprees a month whilst paying off that second hand Chanel you had your eye on for ages. The best way to combat this is to have a list. I always have a couple pieces on my list & any shopping I do outside of the list are pieces that are inexpensive, good quality & versatile (like merino sweaters from Uniqlo). But trust me, it’ll feel that much better when you’re holding your hard-won Chanel in your hot little hands!

8. Research, Research, Research!

Before making any designer purchase, make sure you’re getting the best deal. Look around to see what the pricepoint is at different shops &, most importantly, double check the shipping costs. A pair of Valentino Rockstuds might be $50 more on but they ship everything express to Australia free! These are the sorts of things you’ll need to weigh up. A pair of Salvatore Ferragamo’s might be $100 more expensive at David Jones but their layaway option means more to you than a measly hundred bucks at the end of it all. If, like me, you’re not all that good at putting money aside for a big purchase, then a layaway option is always the best way of doing things.

9. When You Get It, Enjoy It!

Once you’ve made your purchase & you have your brand new pair of Louboutins or a second hand, mint-condition Chanel crossbody at home make sure you actually enjoy it. Don’t leave it sitting in a dustbag for months on end. Take it out on your Saturday shopping trip. Wear it to a girls dinner. Pair your designer heels with a lovely dress for date night. But, just don’t let it sit in your wardrobe gathering dust. Beautiful designer pieces are supposed to be worn & enjoyed!

If you’re wondering what I’ve invested in, following this exact formula, I’ve got a pair of bright red patent Christian Louboutin pumps (probably really quite impractical but I wanted my first designer piece to be a little left of centre like I am!), patent black Christian Louboutin pumps, nude patent Jimmy Choo pumps, black suede Gianvito Rossi ankle boots & black suede & glitter Miu Miu platform heels (also technically impractical but I actually get tons of wear out of them!). Obviously at this point, I’m investing in good quality shoes but a gorgeous black handbag is most definitely on my list!

Do you have any tips for purchasing designer pieces on a budget? I’d love to know!