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When to splurge or save on style staples

TODAY style contributor Stacy London highlights which wardrobe pieces are worth the high price tag in this economy.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

In these difficult economic times, spending money on any clothing can seem frivolous. You want to look your best, but oftentimes you cannot spend a fortune to do so. But when is a "splurge" item actually a smarter investment than a "save" item? Are there pieces worth investing in, even with a heavy price tag, if they serve you better in your wardrobe? Here's some comparison shopping to show you what may actually be a better investment and how to get the most bang for your buck out of your wardrobe:Cost per wear (use-value)How often will you wear the item you buy? Think of it this way: If you wear an item only once, it equals the entire cost of the garment. But if you wear an outfit 10 times, divide the cost by 10 and so on. The more useful an item is to you, the more you wear it. The more you wear it, the greater its value becomes in relation to its price. Think about how appropriate an item is for your needs: Is it figure flattering? Is it appropriate for more than one event you may wear it to? Does it work for weather conditions etc.? Is it durable? Will it stand up to a lot of use?

Timeless vs. trendy (longevity)Pieces that are "modern classics" — clothes that can be worn over and over and season after season — can be basics with a twist. Look for a detail that makes them visually interesting and flattering, like a shirt with a flattering ruffle or pants with great stitching. Pieces like these have longevity in your wardrobe. In some cases, it is better to spend more to ensure you will have pieces like this for a longer time. Conversely, trendy pieces come and go. If you know you are only going to wear an item for one or two seasons, spend less as the item will probably have a much shorter life span for you.

Scarcity vs. supply (unique)Invest in pieces you love, that are special and well-made and hard to find. For everyday items, you will find oodles of options. The more options there are, the easier it is to buy pieces that cost significantly less and to find a variety of styles in those pieces.

Jeans (Verdict: save)A few years ago, specialty jeans started to skyrocket in price; designer-jean prices started escalating to the $100 mark, then $200, then $300. There are new cuts, new fabric technologies, new colors, new washes. But now companies have started utilizing the same technologies at much lower price points. When jeans are something you wear every day and there are so many cuts out there, this is an item that serves you well to spend less on.

Being able to buy jeans at significantly lower price points also allows you to buy different styles as well. This way, you can get a straight jean for casual wear, a more sophisticated style like a trouser jean, or something trendy like a skinny jean. When you do find a jean that looks great on you, buy two of the same pair and hem one to a flat shoe and one to a heel. That way your jeans look perfect, no matter what the outfit or occasion!

Splurge picksJacket: Hugo Boss @ Lord & Taylor $995, teal leather jacket available at Lord & Taylor department stores
Blouse: Ellie Tahari @ Macy's $248, Lilach blouse in cream ambition available at select Macy's department stores
Jeans: Ralph Lauren @ Saks Fifth Avenue $398, in midnight available at Saks Fifth Avenue department stores
Shoes: Dolce & Gabbana $325.80, booties in cognac Sku #7458972 available at

Earrings: Gerard Yosca Grey $80, stone drop earrings available by calling (212) 302.4349
Handbag: Nancy Gonzalez $3,725, crocodile and ostrich tote available to order at Bergdorf Goodman (212) 753-7300
Bracelet: Gerard Yosca $240, hammered gold cuff with purple and turquoise stones available by calling (212) 302.4349

Save picksSkinny: Wet Seal $24.50, Fashionista Regal Style #40357744 in black available at Wet Seal retail stores
Straight leg: Esprit $79.50, Tube Slimfit in dark vintage available at select Esprit retail stores and

Trouser: H&M $39.90, Trouser Jean available at select H& Mretail stores and

Winter formal wear (Verdict: splurge)
On an "Ask Stacy" last month, we found a dress with a significantly higher price tag than we would normally show, so we didn't use it. But we brought it back here to discuss its value. The Milly "Half Milano"dress is just under $500, but it is event and weather appropriate. It's unique because of the intricate embellishment and requires almost no extra accessorizing or layering to look formal or keep you warm. A dress like this does not go out of style — it's use-value outweighs its price tag.

By comparison, while all these other less expensive dresses are lovely, they require much more to make them event and season appropriate. You are then forced to buy the extra accessories needed to create the right tone and stay warm, which winds up being more expensive than the dress that has it all built in!

Splurge picksDress: Milly $499.50, beaded Half Milano dress in black available at
Tights: Wolford $78, satin deluxe tights available at Wolford retail stores
Shoes: Burberry $590, black patent pumps with cross-hatched heels available at Bloomingdale's NYC (212) 729-5900
Clutch: Franchi $155, Lucie box clutch in black available at Handbags in the City (410) 528.1443
Bangles: Alexis Bittar $275 and $160, medium and skinny hand-carved Lucite diamond dust bangle in black available at Alexis Bittar NYC (212) 625.8340 or (212) 727.1093, or go to
for online shopping and store locations

Save picks
Dress: Ann Taylor $148, tropical wool bateau-neck dress in black #225670 available at
Shoes: BCBG Girls @ Lord & Taylor $89, Ariel in black glitter available at Lord & Taylor department stores
Tights: Express $14.50, full tight, black opaque available at

Clutch: Inge Christopher $215, Eel print leather with chain trim available at
Necklace: Roxanne Assoulin for Lee Angel $370, faceted cut glass available at
and $320, flower-shaped faceted cut glass, multi chain nk. available at
Bracelet: RJ Graziano $165, crystal and jet multi and $135, jet beaded 2 tier available by calling (212) 685.1248

Dress: Morgan McFeeters @ Lord $ Taylor $160, green, black, white printed sweater dress available at Lord & Taylor department stores
Shoes: Tahari @ Lord & Taylor $98, LOLLY in black patent available at Lord & Taylor department stores
Tights: Hue @ Bloomingdale's $12, black opaque tights available at Bloomingdale's department stores
Clutch: Elliott Lucca $240, Pascale foldover clutch in black patent available at

Bracelet: Gerard Yosca $180, green stone hinge bracelet available by calling (212) 302.4349
Bracelets: RJ Graziano $125, jet stone bracelet with pewter hardware and $175, jet beaded bracelet available by calling (212) 685.1248

Cardigan: Sutton Cashmere $168, 100% cashmere cardigan in teal available at Bloomingdale's department stores
Dress: Moulinette @ Anthropologie $188, (style #15384662 color: 4130 blue, purple strapless printed dress)
Shoes: RSVP @ $88, Taran in silver Sku #7406480 available at

Clutch: Franchi $235, Lilly aqua satin available at Handbags in the City (410) 528.1443
Necklace: Gerard Yosca $340, Glass stone and Swarovski crystal necklace available by calling (212) 302.4349
Bracelets: Roxanne Assoulin for Lee Angel $75, $130, $160, oxidized silver stretch bracelets with crystal detail available at

Shoes (Verdict: save)There was a time when I used to say you should only invest in designer bags and shoes, but these days the shoe market has expanded tremendously in terms of choice, variety and fit. This season, ankle boots were very popular, and while I am crazy about Prada boots, they are $1,800 (at this stage, I would probably buy a car for that amount of money).

If you are like me and wear your shoes into the ground, then you want to be careful how much you invest on shoes to begin with! I would be horrified if I nicked the leather on those Prada babies! You look modern and relevant at any price point and as long as the shoes you buy are comfortable to wear, you can save lots of money on these items in your wardrobe:

Splurge picksPrada: $1,800, dark gray metallic booties available at Bergdorf Goodman NYC (212) 753-7300

Save picksAsh @ Tani NYC $148, Italia gray satin bootie available at Tani NYC or (212) 873-4361
Dolce Vita @ $145, Taylor gray oxford bootie available at

Seychelles $140, Under Construction platform-heel lace-up bootie in gray available at