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How I Prioritize My Big Purchases

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What Shopping Means for Grown-Up Me

Remember the carefree days when shopping for new clothes meant going to the mall after your allowance (or, in my case, cash-under-the-table payment from a suburban outpost of the chain ice cream store where I scooped worked) came through and spending whatever your wallet would allow in the name of instant gratification?

I don’t shop like that anymore. Instead of shopping for clothes, I “build my wardrobe,” carefully considering how an item will work with everything else I already own and how long it’ll last me. And recently, I’ve fallen into a very specific way of wardrobe building: by doing it one category at a time.

It started in the fall of 2015, when I realized that I was seriously underprepared for the cold New York City temperatures ahead of me. So I decided that for the fall/winter season, I’d put a serious emphasis on buying coats — especially if they were on sale. In addition to the Veda x Pamela Love collab I had my eye on for literally years and finally bought at the leather jacket brand’s sample sale for several hundred dollars off retail, I added a Mackage puffer with a fur-trim hood, purchased at that brand’s sample sale, to my arsenal. Also Everlane’s wool trench, bought from the company’s name-your-price sale the day after Christmas, and a little fancy bitch-style white and gray coat from AYR’s first-ever sample sale (plus a couple others).

Coats weren’t the only thing I bought in that roughly six-month span, I’m sure, but sitting in front of my keyboard right now, trying to remember what else I might have acquired during this time, nothing comes to mind. What I can recall vividly is the sense of satisfaction I had opening my closet to multiple quality outerwear options for the first time in my adult life. By prioritizing my purchases to a singular category, I had a whole new set of choices in just a few months.

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I didn’t implement this shopping strategy for spring/summer 2016, at least not consciously — I did pick up a lot of lightweight statement jumpsuits I’m still wild about and can’t wait to break out again — but I brought it back with a vengeance this past fall to revive my sad excuse for a shoe selection.

My new footwear now includes 3.1 Phillip Lim suede slides that are truly perfect, the Nike x Bandier rose gold sneakers I scrambled to order the day after they came out, white New Balance sneakers exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman, Rebecca Minkoff’s blue velvet booties that are kind of impractically tall but definitely sparked joy when I found them on sale on Black Friday, and my first-ever Loeffler Randalls, a red block lace-up heel that I only added to my holiday wish list once I saw them go to 50% off. I went hard in the paint on this one, but I’m so happy I did (despite the unintended storage consequences) — because I’ve got options now, baby.

I’m not saying this is the “right” way to shop, but it is a method that’s helped me cut through the millions of products that brands put forth on a ceaseless basis and focus on what I should put my limited clothing budget toward for the biggest payoff. Because while teenage Laura was satisfied — nay, thrilled — with picking up a new whatever from Express just because she had the money to do so, and new Racked hire Laura would buy just about anything so long as it came from a sample sale, current Laura wants a healthy selection of well-made, very me things that will last for a long while.

If you want to try this for yourself, start with one big category (let’s use jackets as an example here) and then come up with sub-categories (a jacket to stand up to heavy winds, a solid leather jacket, a non-black jacket, and so on) to further refine what you and your wardrobe need. Pinterest might come in handy here, if you’re that sort of person. I’m still undecided about what I’m going to center on for spring — the broad strokes of “tops” and “pants” have been flirted with thus far — but whatever I settle on, expect me to go HAM. Laura Gurfein, deputy managing editor

Feature
What Celebrities Wear Under Those Red Carpet Dresses
Jennifer Lopez at the Grammys.

Side boobs! Upper thighs! Top butts! Red carpet fashion is completely insane these days, but the fact that everything (mostly) stays put amid the slits, slices, and serious deep Vs seems to require a hefty mix of black magic and miracles.

How, exactly, do the good women of Tinseltown show their bits without going full Britney? First, you get yourself a good stylist, and second, you let me interrogate her or him about what lies beneath every panel, plunge, and reliable stick-on pasty.

I nearly tore a nipple off vis-à-vis a sticky front-clasp bra last year, so you can imagine my surprise when everyone rolled up to the Golden Globe Awards with their very own pert set on display. Hollywood is a strange town filled with surgeons, sure, but even that couldn’t explain the phenomenon of women collectively parading a display of indefatigably perky boobs. Real human women who have birthed real human children were walking around with A-plus racks, boasting both lift and cleavage in plunging gowns. How did they do it?! The answer: a mix of seamstresses, body shaping, and so, so much tape.

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Menswear
What Jeans to Buy If You Already Have a Million Levi’s
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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a pair of Levi’s in your closet — they’re great! — until you realize all you have in your closet are several pairs of Levi’s and nothing else. They’re fantastic, but every man reaches a point in his life when he wonders what else is out there.

Buying a pair of Levi’s is like beating a video game on the easiest difficulty level. Levi’s are universally regarded as a solid pair of jeans and come in every wash, style, fit, and color imaginable. And that’s why almost every person you know owns a pair (or two or three).

Levi’s are foundational to any good wardrobe, but there’s a whole new world out there of jeans to buy! To make finding them a little easier, we’ve pulled out 10 brands across five different categories, broken down by what they can offer you.

See the full list here >>
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Just One Thing
I Like All My Shoes, But I Love My Gucci Loafers

Gucci Horsebit-Detailed Loafers, $630

In 1999, a character in a very important movie shared an extremely profound idea: “There’s a difference between like and love. Because I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.”

I’ve always understood the sentiment of inanimate objects having a hierarchy, and while I currently own neither Skechers nor a Prada backpack, I can now fully relate to the idea because I’m a new owner of a pair of Gucci Horsebit-Detailed Loafers.

I deliberated over buying these for months and went through all of the conflicting emotions, from “Should a pair of loafers really cost this much money?” to “Maybe I’ll buy them as a graduation present to myself.” I even did my due diligence and asked the Racked shopping editors to help me find an equally cute but less expensive pair.

Our EIC Britt eventually talked me into buying them — I’m pretty sure “You deserve them!” is what ultimately convinced me — and I finally took the plunge.

Let me just say that I’m not here to tell you these shoes are worth the investment. How to spend your well-earned money is for you to decide. What I am here to say is that these loafers are the difference between like and love. They’re delicate but sturdy and are way more comfortable than I thought they’d be. The leather is buttery soft and smells great, too (I performed a very dramatic unboxing at my desk when they arrived and made everyone around me smell them). Quite simply, they put every other pair of loafers — and flats, frankly — to shame.

When I first bought them, I vowed to only wear them indoors and keep them for special occasions to fully maintain their transcendence. I quickly realized that was ridiculous, and have since taken them outside and worn them casually. But I still cringe at the prospect of folding down the backs of the shoes and converting them into slippers, as Net-a-Porter suggests I do, because that just ain’t right.

The flip side here, though, is that I still can’t get past the sheepish feeling of saying “Gucci” when people ask who makes my shoes (most of my family and friends don’t recognize the buckle, and honestly, I love them for it). Also, I’m still not proud of how much I spent on them, or that the same brand that makes them also sells paper fans for $450. —Chavie Lieber, senior reporter 

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