It’s a question many women ask themselves when faced with a large price tag. They see a garment, fall in love, look at the price tag, and do one of three things:
- Leave it at the store. They can’t afford it, so that’s that.
- Leave it for the time being, talk themselves into it later, then go back and buy it.
- Buy it on the spot.
But should you indulge on pricey items?
On your goals. Your job. Your plans for the future.
Because it’s not JUST about the garment or the expense.
It’s about the role you play in the world and the costumes you need to do it.
“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players” – William Shakespeare
Years ago I saw a Shakespeare in the park production of Coriolanus. It’s the story of a Roman general who, while good in battle, has little respect for the common man. When he retires from military service and runs for Consul, he easily wins the senate vote. But the people of Rome don’t want him, so they banish him from the city. Ticked, he secures allies and decides to wage war against Rome. His wife and mother persuade him not to, to negotiate peace instead. In the end, he’s killed by his allies for not attacking Rome.
I had never heard of the play before I saw it, but I’ve remembered it ever since.
Because the costume designer dressed everyone in contemporary clothing. Soldiers were in army fatigues. Senators were in suits. When Coriolanus is banished from Rome, he leaves incognito wearing a trench coat and sunglasses.
Now I know it sounds crazy putting Shakespearean actors spouting 17th Century English in contemporary clothing (Ralph Fiennes did the same thing in his 2011 movie adaptation of Coriolanus, below). But you know what? The audience knew in an instant which character was whom. They could focus on the story because the costuming made it easy to follow.
So what in the world does this have to do with you?
And expensive clothing?
If I saw you in your workplace, would I know at a glance what you do?
Or would it take me a while to figure it out?
I ask, because the biggest reason to wear expensive clothing is as a business tool. As a costume, of sorts, to help identify your position in a company. Like the characters in that production of Coriolanus, you want your audience to know in an instant where, exactly, you fit in the scheme of things.
A successful business owner or executive should wear expensive clothes, for example. So should a highly paid consultant or industry celebrity.
If you charge a lot for your goods or services, you should have some expensive pieces as well.
Because it’s what your clients expect – along with your top-of-the-line skills, of course.
The More You Spend, the Higher Caliber Clients You Attract
Tech guru Neil Patel started his company 10 years ago wearing t-shirts and jeans and living in a cheap apartment in the sketchy part of town. He spent long hours working at his office on his computer, so how he dressed and where he lived were of little interest to him.
Until he went to an industry event, that is.
That’s when he noticed that the biggest names in the industry dressed really well. So, for the next event, he upgraded his look…and attracted a fair number of clients. Then he added an expensive watch. Then a Gucci suit. Each time he upgraded to the next level, his client base upleveled as well.
So Neil did what any marketing/tech person would do: he tracked the results of his clothing. On a spreadsheet. He’d give a sales talk to one group wearing one set of clothes, then to a second group wearing a more expensive set of clothes. Same talk, same visuals, same everything – the only difference was the clothes. Then he tracked the results. Time and again the more expensive set of clothes closed more sales at a higher rate. There was no other explanation.
Today he spends six figures a year on clothes to close business deals approaching seven figures. What does he do with all that money? Frequently, he gives it to charity.
So should YOU buy more expensive clothes?
Again, it depends on your goals, your job, and your plans for the future.
When to Spend More…or Not
You should think about upgrading your wardrobe and buying expensive clothes if you:
- Have a high profile position
- Are frequently photographed
- Work with high income clients
- Charge a lot for your goods or services
- Anticipate having any of the above in the next 3-6 months
You should not spend a lot of money on clothes if you:
- Have a low income job
- Work with low income people
- Have an entry level position
- Work with chemicals
- Work with small children
- Have a physically demanding job
In other words, if your job doesn’t warrant expensive clothes, don’t wear them.
Because it sends a lot of wrong messages.
If you don’t make enough to afford expensive clothes, people will wonder why you’re buying them and assume you don’t know how to handle money. It will hurt your chances for promotion.
If you wear expensive clothes around low income people, it will cause resentment. It could also get you robbed.
If you wear expensive clothes around chemicals or small children, you’re just asking for trouble. Because accidents happen – usually to your most expensive pieces.
Now I know you work hard and like to reward yourself with little luxuries, just like everyone else. But think VERY carefully about rewarding yourself with expensive clothing and accessories that you wear to work, particularly if your income and position doesn’t warrant it.
Now I’m not saying don’t EVER buy luxury goods. I’m saying buy them strategically.
Be a Girl With a Plan
If luxury goods (or a luxury lifestyle) call to you like a siren from the sea, but you don’t have the income or position to warrant them, perhaps it’s time to change positions. Perhaps it’s time to become more visible in your company. Or your industry.
Maybe it’s time to…
- Publish some articles or give a few speeches.
- Seek office in your industry association.
- Volunteer in some high-profile charities in your community, the ones that put you in touch with the “movers and shakers” in your town (like the opera, symphony, or ballet).
Because all of those activities will upgrade your profile, which will then warrant upgrading your appearance. Which will then attract higher profile people to you.
So why can’t you just start wearing luxury goods NOW and have all that stuff happen?
Because it doesn’t work that way.
Again, if you don’t have the income or position to warrant spending a month’s rent on a dress or pair of shoes, it sends the wrong message. You don’t want that.
No, you need to follow a specific order:
- Upgrade your skills
- Upgrade your wardrobe
- Attract high-profile clients
Then, when you’re making lots of money, you can buy whatever you want.
So…should you buy luxury goods?
So long as your income and position warrant them.
Until then? No. Stay in budget and get your “ducks in a row” so you can move on to bigger things.