Worth The Splurge: According to Jerker, there's really nothing quite like a 100 percent cotton tee. "It looks great, feels so comfortable on the skin and lasts almost a lifetime." If that's not an option, a blend can work just as well. Still, because it's so breathable, it's important to have at least some natural material in your undershirt.
Quality Check: Always go for the softest possible style. That means there's a higher thread count, and that it will last longer (and be more comfortable, of course!). You'll find some great options in Goldstein's QVC line, LOGO.
Care Secrets: So long as the item's been pre-shrunk, you should be fine with any wash setting. And don't stress if it starts to stretch out a bit! "I love stretched-out, worn-in tee shirts," Goldstein told me. "I think we have to stop thinking of clothes being so precious!"
The Downside: It absorbs moisture very quickly, including all your sweat. You need to wash cotton constantly during the summer!
Worth The Splurge: Underwear, since it sits so close to your skin. Also, Jerker recommends that every lady own a lace dress. "It makes you feel so special!"
Quality Check: Lace, Carr explained to me, is actually a knit. That means the most important factor to consider is its gauge, or number of loops per inch. "The higher the gauge, the better the quality."
Care Secrets: Jerker says to treat stains and wash by hand with a mild detergent. Also: "Avoid vigorous scrubbing, as it will distort the fibers."
The Downside: It's much too delicate to throw in the laundry.
Worth The Splurge: A versatile blouse, always.
Quality Check: Mulberry silk is the very best silk out there, says Jerker. "It is made from silkworms that are raised in captivity under specific conditions—but it is also the most expensive type of silk."
Care Secrets: If dry cleaning isn't an option (or you simply don't have time), hand wash it in very cold water with mild detergent. Rather than wringing it dry, press the moisure out with a towel and let it hang for a while. Later, use a high-quality iron (Jerker recommends Laurastar's) to smooth out the wrinkles.
The Downside: Anything made from 100 percent silk costs a lot, and is tricky to care for.
Worth The Splurge: A snuggly sweater. "It's an investment," admits Jerker. "But you can expect to wear it for a decade or more if it's well taken care of."
Quality Check: Do the stretch test: well-made knits won't let much light through. Gerald: "Even though high-quality cashmere is made from the finest hair, it has a density to it."
Care Secrets: Hand wash it with lukewarm water and gentle detergent, let it dry flat, and never, ever wring or twist it! That will completely destroy the original shape.
The Downside: It's pricey. For a more affordable option Lori suggests trying a cashmere/cotton blend. It's also especially nice for warmer weather when you want that all softness without overheating.
Worth The Splurge: A winter coat or sweater—it'll be much warmer than any synthetic fiber.
Quality Check: "The length of any individual hair is a key indicator for high-quality wool," Jerker told me. "Hair which is long is also much softer."
Care Secrets: Although you can wash wool in a machine, you should do it infrequently, and on the delicate cycle. But instead of using the dryer, just lay it out flat.
The Downside: Wool can be itchy, and tends to absorb odors.
Worth The Splurge: One perfect biker jacket you'll have forever.
Quality Check: According to Carr, the very best leather has a high luster and an "almost squeaky" feel to it. Over time, wear and tear should give it a cool, beat-up patina rather than ruin it.
Care Secrets: As opposed to immersing the entire product in water, Goldstein suggests spot treating stains or—if it's truly dirty—consulting pro cleaners. It also helps to take preemptive measures at home with protective sprays and polishes.
The Downside: Great leather doesn't come cheap. It you can't afford a full piece, look for items with small kidskin accents instead.
Worth The Splurge: You really should never spend a lot on man-made fabrics. Because they're so affordable to make, there are tons of inexpensive options out there.
Quality Check: Despite its bum rap, the experts agree that polyester isn't all bad. "Polyester today is very different from 150 years ago," said Carr. "Because the tech of drying and spinning have a come a long way, they can get a better texture." Even still, rather than going with a completely synthetic style, you should always opt for a poly-blend.
Care Secrets: The beauty of this kind of cloth is that it's incredibly easy to clean. Washing and drying it at home will not mess it up.
The Downside: It's not nearly as breathable as natural fibers, so don't wear it on extremely hot days (or under a bunch of heavy layers during the winter).
Worth The Splurge: Lightweight trousers for the summer—they'll keep you feeling cool in a way regular pants can't.
Quality Check: Preminum linen is soft and creases easily. When there's lots of movement, you know it's the good stuff.
Care Secrets: According to Jerker, most linen can be washed on a gentle cycle, but you should still double-check the tag. Hang dry them after that, "and avoid folding them as they crease easily."
The Downside: You'll need to iron it out after every wash.
Worth The Splurge: Great jeans, obviously!
Quality Check: Heavy denim holds its shape better and lasts longer.
Care Secrets: Don't wash your jeans too often. If you must, though, Jerker says to turn them inside out and use a bleach-free detergent.
The Downside: None, so long as you find a quality pair that fits. You're going to wear them constantly, so don't be afraid to invest!