Save or Splurge: Universal Thread vs. Madewell

Target has done it again. It wasn’t enough that they were taking all our money with their Hearth and Hand collection or their Joy Lab althleisure brand we were loving last fall. Now with their newest line, Universal Thread they are diversifying their fashion with a denim focused line that we are loving. Looking through the collection, I knew I liked pieces and that some looked oddly familiar. And then I realized why I like it so much; because they look just like my second favorite store, Madewell. So similar in fact, many of the pieces are almost exact replicas. We’ve rounded up our favorite Madewell inspired looks from the Universal Thread collection and ask should we save or splurge?

My general rule of thumb is if it’s a staple—jeans, outerwear, everyday jewelry—spend the extra money and get a quality item. And if it’s trendy or you’re unsure you want to rock the look, go inexpensive.

universal thread round up

1. White V-neck Short Sleeve Tee

A white v-neck is a must have in any wardrobe. But no matter how hard I try, I ALWAYS end up with those pesky holes right where my jeans hit. Since the Universal Thread and Madewell versions are so similar (and you’re going to ruin it anyway), skip Madwell and pick up the $8 Target version and then you can pitch them when they get worn out.

2. Short Sleeve White Button Up

A white button up is classic, you can wear it to meetings at work or dress it down with jeans or shorts. Since this is one you’ll go to over and over again, it’s worth it to spend a little more and get the Madewell version which is higher quality than the Universal Thread alternative.

3. Olive Utility Jumpsuit

Since this is such a trendy piece, definitely save with the Universal Thread version. The Madewell option looks to be of thicker material so if you find you love this piece, go back and invest in the Madewell version afterwards.

4. Olive Military Jacket

For jackets or outerwear in general, I try to invest in solid pieces. The Madewell version is the winner for being a little longer, having additional pockets and a more modern collar. The Universal Thread version seems to be missing the lower pockets. Where are you supposed to put all your things?

5. Mixed Metal Studs

I already know Michelle, as a self admitted cheap jewelry wearer, will disagree with me but I think you have to go with the Madewell option over the Universal Thread. They have a more slim and elegant profile and being so simple, you need the higher quality since you’ll be wearing them again and again.

6. Neckerchiefs

Neckerchiefs are making a come back but no where more than at Madewell. Seeing that Universal Thread has included some in their collection cemented the fact that this whole line is a play off of the Madewell aesthetic. While the Madewell pattern is more my style, this is such a trendy accessory, try the cheaper Universal Thread version to see if it’s your style and then dive into a more expensive Madewell version.

7. Black Strappy Heels

If the Madewell heels weren’t on sale for $69.99, regularly $148, this would be a much harder decision. But while these are on sale, definitely scoop up the higher end option. If you’ll only wear these once to a wedding or party, then maybe opt for the Universal Thread option.

8. Small Black Tote

With all leather, I think you have to go for quality since these will last you for years if they are quality products. I’ve had great experiences with Madewell bags, they age and wear well and I can easily carry a bag of theirs for a full year (and I have). Because of that there is no competition, in my opinion, with the Universal Thread version.

9. Small Leather Backpack

See 8. above. Go for the quality.

10. Large Leather Backpack

Seriously, quality, quality, quality.

What is your save vs. splurge rules? Do you go for the cheaper option or always quality?

If you spotted Hannah’s review of her Lo & Son’s Pearl handbag, you’ll be happy to know Universal Thread has a knockoff of the Pearl as well. But like points 8-10 say, whenever possible, stick with the quality version over these.

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universal thread roundup


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