splurge vs. steal || ruffle-sleeve top

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i’ve received a few questions about my recent splurge vs. steal test with madewell and target’s versions of a simple ruffle-sleeve tee (i actually wore my target tee yesterday -see below). so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, i thought i’d share my thoughts here just in case you missed it on my instagram stories -and more importantly, in case you’ve been contemplating purchasing one versus the other.

photo above: target version on the left, madewell on the right.



let’s start with the madewell version -because honestly that’s where i myself started (which should come as no surprise to you). a ruffle-detail connoisseur, i spotted this tee immediately after it hit the brand’s website. in addition to the dove grey (pictured above), the tee also comes in black, mustard, and white, as well as a red and white striped version and a black and white striped version. it’s priced at $32 which isn’t outrageous but for essentially a glorified t-shirt, it’s not super budgetary either. to be honest, i’m willing to spend a little more on good basics if i know the fit is flattering and the quality seems as though it will survive many trips through the washing machine. my biggest concern with this tee was its length since madewell (and retailers in general) tends to be cutting their tops a lot shorter these days (why must everything have a cropped hem?). since i wasn’t 100% certain i’d love the tee, i refrained from ordering it online and stopped by our local store (which is conveniently on my way home) to do a quick in person try-on instead. as suspected, the tee’s hemline was definitely shorter than madewell’s normal basic tees. given the fact that 90% of my pants boast a high-rise waistline, i probably could have still evaded a peek-a-boo mid drift situation, but still, the tee didn’t win me over upon first blush. one thing i did appreciate was the color selection -especially the mustard and black and white striped options (of course).

keep in mind that i have a longer torso, so i often favor a longer hemline to accommodate my body length. if you’re on the petite side, the hemline of the madewell version might be more appropriate for your shape. i’m usually between an x-small and small in madewell tops and i opted for the small (especially given its cropped silhouette). at the end of the day, i couldn’t justify the $32 for a tee i wasn’t 1000% in love with, especially when my friend natalie alerted me of a very similar option from target’s universal thread brand.

which leads me to the “steal” option…

if you haven’t perused universal thread for target, i highly suggest that you do. the brand within the brand boasts many similar styles to my beloved madewell -at a fraction of the price. sure, you often get what you pay for, but if this challenge taught me anything, it’s that sometimes a less expensive version doesn’t automatically equate to sub-par fit or quality. i tracked down target’s version of the ruffle-sleeve tee on the same afternoon so the pros and cons of the madewell option were still fresh in my mind. having never really tried on anything from universal thread, i guessed on the sizing and opted for a small mostly because i tend to like my tees on the looser side (also if memory serves me correctly, i don’t think the x-small was available in the store). besides the lack of size options, i also noticed that unlike madewell, universal thread only offered two colors of the ruffle-sleeve tee –a dark grey and burgundy and white stripe. i could tell from the length of the garment on the hanger that the target version offered a more generous hem length and it was affirmed once i slipped it on. i also noticed that the sleeve length was a little longer which i actually preferred. overall, the tee offered the kind of comfort i look for in my basics and an effortlessness that would garner me reaching for it time and time again. while i wasn’t as keen on the darker grey color (which almost has an acid-wash feel if that makes sense), it wasn’t completely off-putting and offset by the fact that it was half the cost of the madewell style at just $17.99.

ultimately between the splurge and the steal, i chose the latter. i’m actually a bit shocked i ended up with the less expensive version not because i prefer spending more money (obviously not) but because in my experience, the real deal is often worth the added expense for quality and fit alone. however, in this particular instance, it was quite the contrary. just goes to show you that sometimes it’s better to shop around and consider all of your options before making your final decision. not only can a simple comparison such as this one save you money, it ensures that you’re getting the best possible version of the garment in question. with fall around the corner, i have no doubt that there will be many intimations of the same piece produced at an array of price points so i plan on doing this exercise again! in the meantime, let me know if you purchase one versus the other, i’d love to know your feedback!

p.s. here are three more ways to style the target ruffle-sleeve tee

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  • Catherine
    August 16, 2018

    I bought the target version not long after you posted about it and I love it! I wore it the other day with a madewell striped skirt and got so many compliments- and it was a great way to combine a splurge and steal! Thanks for posting and can’t wait to see more like it!

    • srivera
      August 17, 2018

      Hi Catherine! This makes me so happy, I’m so glad you love the top as much as I do. I plan on doing a lot more in the coming weeks so stay tuned!


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