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To understand a good value vs. a good bargain, visit: Finding a Good Value (Part 1).

My mother’s Five Tips on Finding a Good Value has served me well over the years, but in addition I have come up with five of my own:

Shop with hands first. Touch the fabric. Does it feel nice? (Once upon a time Mr. Wonderful didn’t know what “nice” meant. Then I took him to a Prada store and he had an enlightened moment). To me this is half of the equation. It might seem silly, but wearing clothes is a sensory experience. If what you wear makes you feel good, most of the time you’ll look good, too.

Check out the armpit and the edges. If you’re buying a sleeved top or sweater, look for signs of pilling or fraying along the armpit and edges. Cheaper cottons and cashmere are more prone to pilling than higher quality ones, but sometimes it’s hard to find out which bucket your sweater will fall in until you’ve worn it a few times. Hence why the next tip is so crucial.

Rely on past experience. Most of the cotton/viscose clothing I have ever purchased from Forever 21 tend to fade in color after a few washings. Thus I’ve learned to stick to white and pale color purchases there to prolong wearability. The sweaters I have purchased from JCrew, however, have continued to maintain their vivid color year after year.

HOW does it fit? Not “Does it fit?” but “HOW does it fit?” You can have a beautifully constructed blouse made with a luxurious silk, but if it doesn’t fit or flatter you, then it has lost its value. (It took me awhile to convince Mr. Wonderful that an XL shirt on his size S body does not equal a “fit”). I’ve had to put many blouses back on the rack because the armpit area hung two inches lower on my frame than it should have (a common problem for women with skinny arms).

Love it.  The most important tip of all, is to love what you buy (unless it’s out of necessity, like for a work uniform). The Gucci bag that is 70% off but in a color you’re not fond of is not a good buy. When you purchase something you love, you’ll find yourself reaching for it time and time again, which increases its personal value over the years. I have a Forever21 top that seems to develop a new hole with every wash, but I love it so much I keep spending the time to patch it up. That’s love, I guess.

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I hope these tips were helpful! Do you have any to add?

Dress: Zara | Faux fur vest: Joe Fresh | Belt: Anthropologie | Shoes: Cole Haan

Photography by Brian M Lee