Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Style Question Wednesday: Investment Dressing

Okay, this is a topic I know VERY little about.

There are tales of women who save their pennies and then buy the one or two perfect pieces for a season that are classy and look lovely.

They are the INVESTORS.  Cue dramatic music.  Now, in our best A&E announcer voice: ARE THEY REAL OR SIMPLY MYTH?

I assume they are content with buying a few cheap items each season, whilst saving their pennies for that one special thing.

Typically, that one thing is a great pair of shoes (just one!) or a lovely bag or a nice coat.  I think of Dani and her ongoing love affair with her Smythson bag here or Tabs and the infamous Hermes boots here that turned out to be less than comfortable.

Ah, but here is the question: how do you know what the right piece is?

I do have some expensive pieces in my wardrobe.  Not many, but a few. Two very nice Italian winter coats. A couple of lovely Aquatalia winter boots.  A nice Christopher Kane boho bag.  The rest of the items in my wardrobe would be mid to lower priced.



Mostly in my life, I have chosen quantity over quality, lulled by the siren call of the new, the colourful, the trend.

But that is slowly changing, as I want/need fewer and fewer items in my wardrobe.  Since Christmas I have bought 3 dresses, 2 pairs of shoes, a casual jacket, 3 blouses, one blazer, one knock-off faux leather moto jacket, three cardigans, four pairs of pants, a new bathing suit and one purse/one clutch.  I have spent about $1200 on all of this.  This seems like a lot in nearly six months, but it was over the winter/spring/summer season and compared to last year and the year before, it seems almost like famine.  Now isn't THAT a crazy statement to make?  All that seems like famine?  You don't have to say it: I already slapped myself in the side of the head!  I continue to winnow down to what the basics are or should be in my wardrobe.  And really - I didn't need three dresses.  Honestly, did NOT need three dresses.

But then I ask myself: what if I had only bought two or three items?  Two or three REALLY good items.  Would I notice a huge difference if the dress was $500 versus only $150?  I mean, am I going to love the Stella McCartney that much more than the J Crew skirt?   If the shoes were $400 not $100-$200?  Is there a point in investment shopping in day to day clothes?

I ask myself this a lot as my style evolves and is more casual-chic, as opposed to the the formal work wear I used to wear. One can't get over the habit of being a little girl all at once, according to Anne Shirley, but I think that, as well, One can't get over the habit of buying more things than one really needs, according to WMM.  And does the more expensive or really good quality item really take away the desire for more things?  I am certainly doing better, but our consumer society, coupled with my love of clothing, makes it hard!

I would love your thoughts on this, as well as what kinds of things you would or are saving for and that you think are worth spending the extra dollars on.

What do you think - would love to know!

As always - stay safe out there!

114 comments:

  1. My fashion path is like yours ... trying to get there. I've thought about investment pieces but I always think, what if a larva eats my $750 (or whatever price) cashmere jacket?

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    1. that's what I always think: what if I spill something???

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  2. Interesting post, Wendy.
    I spent a good couple of decades or more buying 'investment' pieces, but in the past 3 or 4 years, I've been buying more mid-range stuff - J Crew in particular!
    I used to buy one pair of shoes or boots per year (or 2 years), and perhaps a skirt or jacket or coat per season, and a couple of knits/posh tops
    I've always bought cheaper summer stuff, but have a lot of quite $$ bits and pieces from my investment dressing years. I love the fact that I can mix and match my old Prada, Mui Mui and Comme des Garcons with my new, cheaper purchases!
    The interesting thing, though, is that I probably spend more or less the same amount per year on clothes as I did when I was buying high end things, but now I have more stuff!!!

    I think ideally, I prefer to buy very good quality and beautiful basic pieces (coats, boots, tailoring) and mid-range or cheap tops and summer stuff.

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    1. HI Ruth - interesting concept of cheaper summer duds compared with more expensive winter items. I did invest in better winter trousers after A Well Styled Life recommended getting the best I could buy and found them comfortable, but in the past, not sure if I thought it was worth spending $700 for a theory suit over a $250 j crew one. Maybe I didn't go high end enough!

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  3. I fall somewhere in the middle Wendy. I'm not sure that spending several thousand for one item makes it that much more enjoyable for me. Like Tiffany says, what if a larva...Shopping was once my hobby, then my proffession. That sort of took some of the fun out if it. By spending other people's money I learned to lean more in the direction of quality over quantity. I also noticed that my "quantity" purchases offered very short term appreciation.
    I guess it's like enjoying a lovely meal vs fast food for me. I see you making great choices for your changing lifestyle.

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    1. thanks - is an interesting topic to me. Agree on the fast food concept - I find that if I have only spent $30 on something i am okay to let it go, but I have found that is sometimes the same with the slightly more expensive as well, unfortunately. That is why I am trying to be much more thoughtful about what I buy..

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  4. What a great topic! I tend to buy quality, well made pieces in natural finers, regardless of price point or brand (mid to low, though). I have som h&m pieces that have lasted years vs higher end that have disintegrated in the wash. I look for items with good fit, soft fabric and even stitching/finishing. When I was building my wardrobe, I was all about quantity, but a lot of those pieces did not pay for themselves in cpw. I am much better now, more selective. I have a small closet and a small wardrobe, and it makes things easier. I don't really have any "investment" pieces, I think class is making something inexpensive look like a million bucks. Now, don't get me wrong, if I had unlimited funds, I may indulge but as it stands I save my pennies to build my savings.

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    1. Hi Anthro Blogger - I do tend to do that as well, but of course, many of my nicer pieces are now fancier work items and they are getting no wear at all these days. SO it does feel like starting over a bit. I do find if something is comfortable and fits well, I will wear it constantly and that is making me pickier and pickier. I also find myself still choosing fancier items that aren't required by my day to day life right now, so am really having to rethink it all!

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  5. Hi Wendy,
    This is a very interesting post... From my point of view we have to make the distinction between quality and high price. While I think there are less chances that cheap will last, I also think that expensive does not always mean quality. I do think that many high street brand sell stuff for high prices that are low in quality. I was very much in the quantity over quality until about a year ago when I started to realise that unfortunately I cannot afford anymore buying things that don't last. I agree that the consumerism society in which we are living does not help to stay moderate. But I also realised that in the end, the middle class to which I belong is paying the high price for this model. I mean we are buying loads of stuff that make our houses overcrowded and often we feel overwhelm with all our belongings and on top of this we do not gain any benefit from this model and very few people in our close surroundings benefit from it as most of what we buy is manufactured in the far east... So now I am very careful to buy things that I love, that fits, that are well made with durable material and help our economy... I buy less of them (still way too much) but I definitely think I buy better. What helps me also to keep focus is that I have chosen to limit myself in the number of pieces of clothing I own. Meaning that (most of the time) if I buy something new, something else has to leave the house, for a short time I even had a 1 for 2 ratio... It makes me more conscientious when shopping and much more picky... I have couple of investment pieces that have been most of the time presents... All those pieces have been carefully chosen regarding criteria that included where they have been manufactured, which material have been used, and what is the philosophy of the company that make them... Again, this is a very interesting post Wendy, and very close to me, thanks for bringing it.

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    1. Thanks Steph - I do agree with you and have been following the one in, one out rule lately myself. Some of this is a wardrobe in transition, some of this is wondering if there really is a difference. The best purchases of this year have been my Nougat London pieces and the j crew lightweight merino sweater, which I have worn tons and really love.

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    2. Steph you make great points as always and I agree that I have felt I can no longer afford to buy things that won't last!

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    3. Thank you for challenging the equation of "high price = quality" or "quality = high price". Quality is quality, in and of itself, and found at all price points. Many people are not able to evaluate quality across all product types and use price as the marker. I cannot determine quality of every fiber, every gem, every type of leather. Sometimes knowing the manufacturer helps, sometimes not. But price alone is not determinative.

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    4. Margaret - you are so right! I have some things that were expensive that just fell apart!

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  6. QUALITY STREET What a great thread this morning. I am with FunkySteph that quality does not necessarily equate to price. Ruth used a fast food analogy, I'm going to go with a travel one, the road trip versus the grand tour. One is not better than the other and they both have their place in a happy life. But one can be spontaneous and the other, for most of us, must be saved and planned for. Another friend I know uses a 70-30 rule, first part investments and basics replacement, remainder to fun splurges and what I think JulieStyles calls the "nosh".

    Think it's important that you're actually buying the quality not just the allure of the brand/ label or the special shopping experience itself.

    When it comes to suits and coats I definitely see the value in saving for and buying more "premium" items. Theory and Smythe are hardly "designer" but my pieces from them have lasted years of wear and travel.

    I didn't used to be a fan of premium, Japanese etc. denim. But now I wear jeans more, not just as a kick around, I am starting to see some value in this.

    Good shoes and boots are worth saving for (generally more comfortable and can be re-soled etc. to stay in closet for years). I really do think top notch footwear, a quality bag and a great coat or jacket can really polish an otherwise basic or inexpensive outfit.

    It all has to be relative to individual budget, priorities and lifestyle. But what I am trying to do going forward is shop more like most of the men in my life. Around here that equates to two pairs of shoes, one suit or jacket, replacing any worn shirts and essentials and then some more fun/ casual items when it is time for a vacation etc. I don't want to be as basic as your average bloke. But I like that their items last and that shopping is not non-stop entertainment. Personally, now I have a pretty decent wardrobe I want to take back that "frittering" time and money for other things.

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    1. I think you know it's right if you love it long enough to save for it, you wear it all the time, it fills a gap in your personal wardrobe, and it makes you happy, contributes to your sense of personal style. Tall order!

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    2. Life is like a box of chocolates, GF! I think you make excellent points, though have to say that for the price, Theory and Smythe are designer around here! I am with you - I have a very good basic wardrobe now, but I am continuing to go through it all to determine why I do or do not wear somethings. Some are just mistakes, others it is because my lifestyle has changed so much in the past year.

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    3. Hah, you two got me! Also WMM think it is easier to find Smythe and Theory end of season, sample etc. sale around here (i.e. Holt's Last Call) so I don't think of them as that uber pricey, compared to let's say all JC Collection these days.

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    4. I know - we never find a theory suit for less than $700 down here - the two local shops that carry them never include them in the sale items, sadly! I personally find the J Crew collection items too trendy most of the time - how many sequin skirts does one actually need? And this is coming from me - who loves her sequins!

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  7. I try to be democratic in my purchases but the things I have bought in Primark - not sure if you know the brand but it is cheap as chips and one used to buy a dress for less than 10 pounds...But those just don't last and it ends up being a false economy. I have drastically changed my attire in the last decade but I must say I still wear my investment pieces where something like banana republic only wears for maximum a few years and it gets tossed or in the charity pile. But I also think people can get carried away with investment pieces as well and sometimes an item can seem like it was a great idea but actually it becomes an expensive mistake!

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    1. Hi coulda shoulda woulda (love that name!) - agree on the cheap, trendy items. If you get them really cheap, they can be fun, but typically, they leave the house much sooner than other items. My worst mistakes in the last few years have been buying shoes I cannot walk in - GF has benefited from those errors or that were slightly too big, but I had to have them...

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    2. Thanks WMM, your shoe-y ways have been the source of much happiness up here! I have made same mistake, usually buying 7s when I really need a 6.5 and then walking out of them after a couple of wears.

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    3. That has been my problem - they fit in store, I stupidly wear them on street and discover horrifying truth, try to alter with inserts, etc, to no avail and then sadly pass on! Now I bring home and wear around the house!

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  8. yep for a year I bought nothing to buy those boots in brown then two years later I wanted the black so spent another year saving, same with all of my Manolos, and in my younger days in my 20's when I liked LV I would save for a year to buy a bag and make do with not much in between.
    Now I'm more middle ground, I loathe Louis Vuitton bags so my 5 were nothing but a waste of money, not an investment at all, we all change or at least I do.

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    1. Tabs - you are making me feel better. I do feel that my style and habits are changing, just not entirely sure what they are changing in to....

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    2. Wow, Tabs, that kind of self-control in 20s impressive. Funny how we all swing in roundabouts.

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    3. So true about the real lasting value of almost any item. I once ages ago bought an Armani suit-- wonderful crisp navy tweed--but it's the wrong cut now and I haven't worn it in ages.( Don't know how to sell it!). I do have a few Theory things I love,esp jacket. An RL jacket. I have fewer meetings now so will get by with the biz clothes I have for awhile. It's nice there's no pressure here to wear a certain level, but I like to know I'm not in junk.

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    4. Lane - I think you and I are in the same boat - I have a really nice Elie Tahari suit and a nice J Crew suit for summer, along with various dresses, skirts and cardigans if I do go to the odd meeting, which I think I will be doing more of as the months go by, but I don't need the corporate "uniform" anymore. I am struggling to determine how much to hold on to versus how much to give away, as I know that at some point, they will go out of style and be useful to no one! But I like to look polished as well and do not want to find myself looking too casual, if you know what I mean!

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    5. The only board I want to be on now is something like Maine Farmland Trust; I think you have to have a Patagonia vest for that.

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    6. Great post. Collectively there is such a range of experiences here and great advice. I don't subscribe to one shopping philosophy other than I don't have patience for clothing that develops holes and hems falling down or uncomfortable fabrics. I am a sale shopper and will wait and search to find the best quality pieces I can afford but I mix high and low priced fashion. Like Tabitha and Lane I have investment pieces that no longer fit my life style and have sat unloved for years (old Luis Vuitton Bag, Azzedine Alaia, Gaultier, Lanvin). Then there are my investment successes, old Comme des Garcon and Issey Miyake pieces that still look current and modern because of their simplicity. I think that the style I am wearing in my early 50's will be different than what I will be wearing in 7 years so I would not invest in anything too short or identifiably trendy. This winter I purchased a Brora coat on sale that I plan on wearing for years and will probably buy one of their basic cashmere sweater on sale in the future. I know that I will be wearing a simple shift style dress in ten years but I'm not quite certain how much Liberty Print I will be sporting so I always keep that in the back of my mind when making any new purchases.

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    7. AMW Good for you - planning ahead! I am always unsure if thinking of "older" wearability is cop-out in my case (sticking to basic/ black) or good thing (preventing Liberty riot, no "g-ma" florals.)

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    8. Awakening my Wardrobe - those are excellent points and ones I think of constantly, as I really need to think how I want to dress in my 50s - I do find the simple pieces that fit well are the key, and so elusive!!! GF - keep waiting for your Hermes scarf story! How will you know (apart from the $) that it is time? I look now and then, and think: Hmm - how much would this match what I have? Maybe we could get on MaiTai's giveaway list?

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  9. Investment dressing is more of an art than an exact science. It's very personal to one's style and resources. For me, it was a myth I had created. I have tired and let go of so many items I thought were investment pieces: Bellas, Lexingtons, designer bags, etc. because my style and priorities have changed. Right now, I would rather splurge on a great vacation than add more things to my closet.

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    1. Marie - it is funny you should say that! Everytime I am looking at clothing these days I am thinking: hey that could be a weekend in Ogunquit!

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    2. "Investment dressing"-- MLane would ask, what's the dividend that's paying? Oh, zero, you say?
      Travel seems more appealing. But, I still want a good bag.
      Plus, you can stay here and drive to Ogunquit.

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    3. oh that's right! What play are we going to see this summer, Lane? Do you have your tickets yet?

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    4. We should check what's coming. I'm a sucker for that Carson guy form Queer Eye.

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    5. I know - he is Ogunquit's new Sally Struthers!

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    6. ROI Lane, Mr. L. so reminds me of my DH and pater! Although, the hubs is impressed I still have and wear daily my first pair of Tiffany earrings, bought with my first serious paycheque, something like two decades ago.

      And hate to inform you I have already connived, begged and hinted with everyone's honourary aunt, third cousin twice removed etc. etc. for a vintage Kelly. And I've been up close, so I know it's a lasting want. Heck, I would hound Victoria Beckham's housekeeper if I could find her. Maybe Janet from TGC can accompany me to her estate/ charity sale in my dotage?!

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    7. I think if anyone can find a vintage Kelly bag, it's Janet!

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  10. Interesting topic! My idea of an investment piece is probably someone else's idea of fast fashion. While I love the idea of Aquitalia boots, I can't take the plunge. I just don't need them or even want them that much. My idea of investment boots are my LL Bean wellies or my Uggs lol. Not to pick on Aquitalia in particular, just that they are too fancy and just too nice for my lifestyle. If I wore them, or probably most of what you would consider investment pieces, I would stick out like a sore thumb. Most people where I live don't spend that kind of money on wardrobe. The exception to that could be people I know who work in a corporate setting, but even those mostly don't buy high-end investment clothing. Now I am not in the corporate world. When I was, I wore horrifically inexpensive clothing. Now that I have better taste in clothing, I have no place to wear it :) But with no need for a formal work wardrobe, I don't need or want investment pieces.

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    1. Hi Cate - I think you make some interesting points - is pretty similar here where I live. My good friend bought a Coach bag, but only she and I knew it was an expensive coach bag - high end brands are not common around here and people don't dress like that at all, so there are no places to find those kinds of things and only yourself to appreciate them if you do (on the other hand, onlt YOU should care about what you are, eh?)

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    2. Actually Coach is one brand I do see here, but that's about as high-end as I've noticed.

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  11. One more thought... if I spend a lot of money on something, I feel like I need to be very careful when I wear it. And then I don't have that much fun when I'm wearing the clothes/shoes because I would be appalled if I ruined them, kwim? I'd rather have cheaper clothes and not worry about harming them :)

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    1. Cate - I think you fall into the Tiffany Rose/Wendy category. I have gotten rid of expensive items that were too small that broke my heart to do, but it doesn't bother me as much with the less expensive items.

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  12. Great post WMM. Thanks for mentioning my Smythson bag! My handbags are a good example of investment dressing working out... between my Smythson and my dark brown LV bag I definitely don't care about any other handbags. I think I've sold 8 or 9 JCrew bags in the last year (which has contributed quite a bit towards those purchases). I like having less and I like always having a nice handbag. They are easy to carry and don't kill my neck.
    I've definitely made a decision to only keep things that I really love and have nice linings etc, these items end up not being the cheap things, but instead things from Brora or older JCrew stuff, or JCrew stuff I've rehabilitated with new linings.
    I do think it's worth it to have a few nicer things that are really wearable, it curbs the desire for new stuff. I'm definitely spending less this year, I'm just not buying stuff like I used to. Mostly because I'm off the crewlade, speaking of which did you see the new arrivals? They have Beetlejuice pants!

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    1. You are our inspiration. I LOVE that dark brown LV bag you have; who needs another? Somewhere I must have an aunt who wants to leave me a Birkin.

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    2. Funny you both should say that - I am looking for an aunt to leave me a Kelly bag....

      Dani - I am thinking I may just hand over all of my wardrobe purchases to you - you do so well and I do see you winnowing down to your essentials and your exact style. I am slowly working to my new style with this new life and it is hard! I think getting off the crewlade helps! And I saw the Beetlejuice pants - I almost gasped! I am sure my 21 year old daughter will think they are cute though!

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  13. Saving for best shouldn't always mean costliest. It could just mean waiting until you find the perfect item you need, that fits and flatters. I always mentally gauge how much a purchase of those crazy expensive shoes, bags, scarves would buy at Tiffanys. And that can put an item in perspective for me. I usually keep my eye out for great sales at Saks or TB for any greatly desired items, and have never paid full price. I admire the style of some costly things, but can not bring myself to buy things over a certain thresh hold.

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    1. Knityarns - that is an interesting scale - the Tiffany Scale! I wish we could get better delivery here in Canada - we are so limited and the delivery and return charges are just so darn high! As for a threshold, I think we all have one, but I broke mine on my winter coat last year and always felt quite glamorous in it! Of course, those were the days before I left job to pursue other dreams!

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  14. WMM, I just remembered, I bought a few J. Crew suits back in my corporate working days. I thought they would be an investment. 1) I outgrew some of the pieces and 2) the styles got outdated. And this reminds me how vanity sized everything is now. I outgrew the same size I wear now in J. Crew! So anyway those suits were not the investment I thought they would be. Gosh that was back in the late 80s/very early 90s.

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    1. I think that there is where the rubber hits the road: I think that only boots, scarves and purses and jewelry tend to stay timeless don't they? Maybe a chanel suit. But so many other things date after a few years..

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    2. I think you are right!

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    3. That's what I want from my OTHER aunt, just the jacket is fine.

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    4. That would be a couple of nice aunts!

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    5. This is exactly my issue with spending a substantial amount (of course it's all relative ....) on any one clothing item. I wear suits with some frequency for work and find that I definitely have to get new ones every so often because 1) the last several years were childbearing years and my size has gone up and down and shifted around and 2) styles really change. Jackets are shorter and more fitted, I like 2 button jackets better now on my frame than I do 1 or 3 button jackets, I like skirts to be a bit longer now than I did previously etc. Most of my suits come from Ann Taylor because I know they will in general fit me properly and look professional and I can usually get one from between $150-$300. My husband's suits cost over 5x what mine do, but he is a harder size to fit and men's styles change significantly less. In truth, also, as I have earned more money over the years, my notion of what constitutes an "investment" has also fluctuated a great deal.

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    6. Michelle - it is funny, isn't it? I have also figured that men spend more because they know that overall, men spend significantly less than women on clothes and they have to make their profit when they can!

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  15. Hah, I thought iwas the only one who looked at junk purchases and thought wouldn't I rather have a nice gold chain or Elsa Peretti earrings? After all, very few of us gain weight on the earlobes!

    I do stalk sales, I find that there will usually be at least one Drooly Must-Have in each season's Ralph Lauren Blue Label, Black Label or Collection offerings. This is not to say I always win in the 80% off lottery, but I have bagged some lovely leather jackets which will be classic forever pieces, unless shoulder pads return.

    At this point in my life, I simply don't need any more: pink sweaters, striped tees, striped sweaters, cheesy-tweedy jackets, plaid shirts. I will, however, always look at nice silk blouses and Chie Mihara shoes. oops, I wasn't going to mention the shoes.

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    1. Fred - you kill me! I do need to start stalking the RL sales - we only have Lauren Ralph Lauren around here - but the other stuff is to die for!

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  16. I personally think the investment clothes are a myth we create for ourselves to justify spending more that we would otherwise. At least that has been my experience for none of my 'investment' pieces have lived to the expectations. Sure in a first year or two i would wear it a lot but with time i would get bored. That is not to say that i dont have pieces that i have worn for years but they are not necessarily the ones i bet on and they are in different price ranges, some of them being super cheap. I concluded there is no way to tell so i just forget the whole idea.
    In 2013 i only bought 6 items so far, 2 cheap ones, 3 medium priced and one expensive Emerson top but i would hardly consider it investment. I find that the key to me and having no regrets is to buy based ony own feeling of need rather than on what is being offered by retailers. So i have bought a pair of white jeans and a biker jacket because i wished i had them multiple times when i was getting dressed. I bought a pair of shoes and punk top floral top as this season trend refresher. I bought an LBD because i was always on a lookout for a good one. And i bought the Emerson top with a gift card as a splurge on something i love.
    Frankly, i dont expect any of these to last longer than couple of years and i am OK with that. But you know it may be the cheap moto jacket that will still be worn 10 years from now...

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    1. AJC - me thinks thou hast said a mouthful! I can never tell what will have my heart singing, but I like the idea of "the thing you wish you had when you were getting dressed" - that is a good place to start!!!

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  17. Hello! Hope you've been well :)

    This is a great topic. I have thought about this, and have come to similar conclusions as others have discussed.

    Firstly, we all know that investment clothing is nearly always a misnomer. It is rare the item that will actually appreciate in value. I know that people know this and use the term anyway because it's convenient, but I think it also plays a quiet psychological trick on us. Don't get me started on diamond rings (there's a fabulous old Atlantic article about the diamond industry and how diamonds almost never appreciate, for anyone who is interested).

    Anyway, about my own habits. I think that some of the nicer items that I have do last longer, but then I sometimes think that I keep them just because they are "nice." It is often hard to pinpoint what will have staying power.

    I honestly suspect that a fair number of people who say they buy nice brands as "investments" are really shopping-decluttering-donating just as much as those buying mid-range or lower, but they have more disposable income.

    I do spend more easily on high quality outdoor gear, because I think that quality matters a lot there, and I wish that I could find day to day clothing that was as hardy as my outdoor clothing. I don't necessarily think spending more will get me there, but I am considering starting to spend a bit more on certain types of items.

    Then, there is of course the question of changing tastes and shape.

    I have had good luck buying high quality brands second hand. That requires some work and flexibility, but there are treasures to be found. In addition, you can easily tell which items have passed the durability test, regardless of initial price point.

    I think that setting a budget that respects your other financial goals, and having a strong sense of personal style, will eventually lead one to the "right" purchases, whether they be higher end or not.

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    1. Abby - great comments! You make some really good points! I think buying what we love and is flattering, is often the key to a lovely wardrobe. My challenge is curbing the desire for the flash - I am slowly getting over that, but as you know, it is a work in progress! You are right about the hardiness of outdoor clothing - my husband has biking pants that are 15 years old which still look new!

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    2. Welcome back Abby! And yes, I wish my daily clothes would endure like the "everlasting" outdoor stuff from Patagonia, North Face etc. Maybe I'll have to move back to Rockies where that counts as "dressing"? (no brrrrr)

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    3. Hi Wendy and GF!

      Yes, the outdoor stuff lasts. Not only that, but it also performs. It keeps you warm or cool enough, dry enough, etc., and it fits and moves with your body. It's extremely functional. I wish that I could find city clothes like that. I have started looking into some of the brands that are trying to bridge that gap, like Outlier, but I'm not convinced yet.

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    4. I have outdoor base layers from Patagonia that I bought in the early 90s that I still wear every time I ski. It is such good quality and it shows absolutely no wear (which is incredible because I have worn it so much). Patagonia is really an excellent brand. I still have my ski pants from that era too, although they are high-waisted so I consider them out of style now, but I've worn them so much too and they have never, ever let water through. Still have a Patagonia heavy pullover fleece from the 1980s too. These things have made it through many closet purges.

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    5. Cate, same, my ski pants from them were a big bite of budget in 2003, but I still have and wear them, along with their vests, thermals etc.

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    6. Abby, Cate and GetFresh, I agree with you on spending more on quality outdoor gear that performs a function. I had the same experience with Patagonia, also purchasing it in the 80's. Ski wear and fleece pullovers still like new! My husband even passed his Patagonia ski wear and fleece down to my sons and they are also enjoying them. My Solumbra sun protective clothing was also an "investment" and has stood the test of time in my closet. I'm fair and hike a lot and I'm a bit neurotic about not getting not getting too much sun.

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    7. Thank you for correcting the terminology, which I think is derived from marketing and adopted by consumers: "investment" dressing or buying. Of course, it is never really an investment to buy expensive clothing and accessories. (OK ignore for one moment, a Birkin or something). If we are talking cost per wear, the some items may have a better "return" for cost. But the items aren't increasing in value at all, we are just getting more use out of them. In any event, the term irks me so much and gets tossed about a lot in the fashion blogosphere. I agree with the other commenter above who notes that many people who buy "investment" pieces ie expensive clothes and accessories are also in the same position as others (shop, get rid of things, etc.) but at a different income level or with more disposable income.

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    8. Margaret - great comment! Clothing is wonderful, but not an investment unless it is an investment in one's sense of self!

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  18. I'm at the other end of the spectrum, trying to by quality rather than quantity although I've spent my share on the latter, especially when I went a little crazy at J.Crew one year. I regularly buy quite a few less-expensive items at Lacoste but they are good quality, hold up well and I never tire of them. With a lot of my J.Crew items I felt like such a sucker as I put them into the donation boxes. Cheap-looking, trendy, unflattering, poor quality, etc. Not a single Lacoste item was donated. Not ever, actually.

    I find that when I buy quality I end up wearing the things for years and loving them every time so yes, they are an investment. But then I try to buy fairly classic looks and I don't tire of them. Classic is my style and I don't feel the need to change it up for the latest trends. I've dropped some serious coin on Hermes, RV, Gucci, Burberry and Armani over the years and I still use all of the items. Most of my wardrobe is mid-range like Chie Mihara, Acne, R&B, DVF, Fluevog, etc. but I also wear the designer items day-to-day.

    I love clothes and I enjoy getting dressed but I want it to be easy and a pleasure. To me that means not worrying about what is "in" and whether I can put together a good-looking outfit from a closet full of random items. Maybe planning is a better word than investing.

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    1. xoxo planning/ selection definitely a better term.

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    2. I agree, and when we look at what we spend on clothes it really should be treated like an investment. Invest thoughtful time choosing the best-for-us things, those that will not let us down with wardrobe malfunctions or sloppy looks and that give us great pleasure.

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    3. It would be sad if the people who do such fine workmanship were to die out-- I think it is important on that level too.

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    4. Agree - I have to try and order from Lacoste, xoxo - I think they have some nice casual-chic items that could work for me!

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  19. WMM, popping back in to note a couple of things. I have the coin stashed but none of their designs in last online collection appealed to me as "the one", and I have no one right here that would appreciate the in-person choice process (you/ DBP have to come visit.)

    Also, I think flash can work if you temper it and make it part of a signature look. Think of Carolina Herrera with all her vividly patterned summer, sequined, bow-belted etc. "fancy" skirts. But they are always fit just so, paired with a simple but excellent white shirt, one of a few pairs of impeccable pumps, and pea-sized stud or graceful dangle earrings that bring glow to her face. When she deviates from this it's for great wool or safari trousers, a similar shirt and a scarf, done. Uniform but beautiful with a bit of quirk, and works for her.

    Quality over quantity and true love over passing infatuation can't be bad places to start. You go!

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    1. GetFresh - I cannot WAIT till you are ready to buy - it will so much fun!

      I love Carolina Herrera! Hmmm - this could be an interesting look for me....I need to go through and see if I see a pattern and then just replicate what I love...

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  20. I am loving these post comments I keep coming back to check. Okay I'm also procrastinating doing my work but nevermind!
    Something that has occurred to me is that it is difficult to buy something like a dress or suit and expect it to last 10 years, Wendy didn't that book we read talk about this? In 5 years cuts and styles change and things look dated. Unless something is really classic it may not have longevity. I think that's less true for a classic handbag or Tabs Hermes boots, or Hermes scarves for that matter, they just never go out of style.
    I have a dress from JCrew that is 6 years old, navy blue with a linen top, sleeveless, a silk skirt, little belt and lined in cotton. That dress is excellent and I just increased its wearability by buying a navy Brora vneck cropped cardigan for it (with long sleeves). I bought that dress on sale for $100 in 2007 but it has ended up being an investment because the wear has been incredible. Of course the Brora cardigan addition wasn't cheap but those sweaters are part of my longer term wardrobe plan.
    One mistake I have made is to buy much of my Brora on sale, the basic colours like navy and black don't go to sale and those are the ones that get the most wear. It's a bigger purchase but really is an investment in creating outfits.

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    1. Dani, I just saw this comment after commenting further upthread. I completely agree on both points --
      1) for suits I think it simply isn't worth dropping a huge sum because women's suit styles really do change quite a bit. My suits from 5 years ago look relatively dated and my suits from 10 years ago look *ridiculous.*
      2) I really agree as well regarding sales/sale colors. I wear my cropped navy and black cashmere cardigans to work constantly. They were not sale buys. I kept waiting and waiting for them to go on sale and finally they sold out in my size. When they eventually popped back, I went ahead and bought because it was clear by then that this was something I would get a lot of wear per dollar use out of and should just go ahead and purchase. I have not been sorry.

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    2. Dani, it's funny, many of the things I wear most often 9 months of year (outside of summer) date back to around 2008/ 2009. Maybe the "golden" era of not-so-trendy JC, when I first got onto Theory, Paul Smith, the whole RL range (as WFF notes) in person on biz trips.

      Like AMW noted earlier, maybe it makes sense to include "will I still want towear it in X years" as a criteria for major/ key purchases?

      Agreed on sweaters, the grey, navy, black etc. get worn most.

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    3. Totally agree Dani. Most things that look fresh now, will by definition look dated 5 years from now. Even handbags can look dated, depending how popular they were. It is like with the baby names...
      When I purchase most things, I calculate about 2 years worth of wear in the price. For classic coats, handbags and more timeless items (like navy Brora cardigan) I would expect 5 years. Anything more is an added bonus. I still wear few things from 20 years ago but I could not predict it and some sat in the closet for years in between.
      I also think it is totally OK to splurge sometimes on something trendy or with ridiculous cpw, as long as we have the budget for it. Otherwise, by the same logic, we would never go out for a nice dinner in the restaurant...

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    4. Oh you guys are really making me think today! Dani - you are right on the whole colour issue - my next (2nd Brora) cardigan will be black and then navy and they are so timeless. The trendy colours look nice and in fact the jewel tones look great on me, but they are harder to match with things (hmmm, unless I follow the whole Carolina Herrara option...must find nice shirt...)

      One thing I realized is that I love the whole cigarette pants look and between the few JC pants or the ponte knit paige, have been well worn and loved by me - they always feel good. The pencil skirts have proven to be a bust this year, and not just because I am not in regular meetings - they just aren't my loves right now...

      And AJC - God - I WISHED i calculated wear into things - I never do that and that could be a lot of the problem!

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  21. Ooh, such a great topic, and one I consider frequently! I wish I had time to compose a thoughtful post, but I'll just say that I apppreciate the dilemma and look forward to reading all the comments.

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    Replies
    1. Well, you have that lovely frock in your picture to fall back on when the going gets tough...

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  22. Very interesting comments today!
    I think for me i like both-the investent pieces,but also the fun stuff.
    In the last two`years i bought three invstment bags,two chloe bags and a LV speedy.For me it works,because i dont like to change bags that often,plus i like to make a statement.
    Clotheswise i like to mix,mostly Jcrew,but also some other brands. I dont think there is "one" way,it is different for every person/lifesituation and budget.

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    1. Ina - you are right - and depends on one's style and personality and personal circumstances at the moment.

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  23. I am a bit torn on this topic because the definition of "investment" combined with a consumable is moving target for each person. I do spend more on good, comfortable, well-made shoes and boots, and have for years. I'm hard on my shoes but I take care of them and they last for many seasons. I recently purged several pairs of shoes and all but one had been worn beyond repair. I've also spent (for me) a lot on great handbags. I need a good one that goes with everything because I don't change my bag to match outfits-only for travel or evening. When I'm bored of my current bag, I take forever to find the next "perfect" one and I have most of my old bags, revisiting them from time to time. I will be taking some to consignment soon, though as I know I'll never use them again.
    I have made mistakes and have overspent for pieces (mostly evening or event items) that rarely seen the light of day. That being said, I prefer quality - I can't help it. I don't like things that I perceive as cheap or poorly made, regardless of the price. My budget constraints require that I either save, shop on promo or sale to get the things I really want which takes time but saves money. Ultimately my best cost per wear pieces have been mid-priced Lucky jeans-worn weekly for years and my Margaret O'leary sweaters. They hold up great and though they cost more, the value is worth it. That "must have" wool coat I got as a holiday gift from DH years ago will last forever because I have very little need for it, whereas my casual North Face down jacket goes is perfect for cold and windy baseball games.
    I guess it continues to be a learning process for me.

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    Replies
    1. Julie - me too!! Now I have never heard of Margaret O'Leary - am going to have to go look that up!

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  24. I am all for getting the best quality you can/are willing to afford. So for me, that means buying Kate Spade shoes on sale, older high quality pieces from J.Crew and the like on eBay and at consignment. Not buying a full price Kate Spade bag (I know KS isn't even high end, I don't go there) or whatever. I guess the word I am looking for is value... get the best value you can, on the higher end items. Why limit yourself by buying full price? (This is what I assume the investment shoppers do.) I mean really, most of us don't have to have any new clothes. So may as well wait for a sale on the one expensive thing you really want, if you can be OK with missing it. I hope that makes sense.

    Honestly, I think by reading so many different blogs, on how people are buying less, doing closet cleanouts, shopping their closet, project 333, whatever, we feel like we have to do it too and we get self conscious. I think it's great, and I have gotten rid of tons and bought less, but at the same time, it is not going to stop be from buying an item here or there that I don't necessarily need, and I will certainly never be a one or two exorbitantly expensive items per season type of gal. I think you have to be rich to do that... right?

    Shopping is supposed to be fun, and fashion is supposed to be fun. I have read your blog from its inception, and I think you have done an amazing job of figuring out what works for you, what you want your personal style to be, and that you can only have so many pairs of fancy capris (or can you?)... keep doing what you're doing, girl!

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    1. J Crew JD - you made me laugh out loud - I think I may be at the fancy pant saturation point, but I can make no promises!

      I am at point where I don't REALLY need anything as well - now I am just trying to pair things down and only wear what I love. I am truly brutal now - if I put it on and go meh - I immediately remove it from the closet and see what I think in a couple of weeks!

      I think there must be a life cycle of blogs - you are buying/working on a blog, you buy more because you see more on the other blogs (it turns out I CANNOT dress like our dear Dani - it is not pretty when I try to - but I can get inspiration from her!)and then realize you may have bought too much or drunk too much of a certain brand's "styling" and you tone down. It is a circle of life moment!

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    2. JCrewJD (always smile at your particular avatar shoes), think it's very valid to do and buy what works for you and your life, individually. The bad part of the retail/ blog/ media etc. cycle is when it influences you to try and be someone that's not authentic, to either "binge or purge" to keep up somehow. That's part of why this convo today has been so great I think. Also really like that you mentioned consignment, EBay (and the whole slew of other options at various price points - swaps, donating, thrifting...) I think it's really important to realise important and possible to be stylish and comfortable at any price (self-esteem, hire-ability, image means a lot in our world).

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    3. WMM, I am doing that too. I am wearing a dress today that is really gorgeous, old school J.Crew, but it is a wrap dress, and today I realized it's too low cut, so I will not be putting it back in the closet, and will buy no more wrap dresses. Sometimes ruthlessness is good when it comes to clothes... no wavering on things that aren't exactly right!

      GF, binge and purge is right. Yikes! One of my favorite blogs is Lynne's. I found it because we are in the same field and was intrigued by her ability to always look professional but spend hardly any money.

      And it all comes down to being comfortable and stylish! Hire-ability too, tell me about it, I agonized for over a week on what to wear to a job interview. That was a waste of time, because clearly as long as I wear a suit that fits, I think no one will notice what color my blouse is or whether I wore pearls or not! So easy to get caught up in it... but yes we all just need to be true to our selves.

      Oh, and glad you enjoy my Penelopes, they are my all time favorite J.Crew shoe :)

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    4. GF - you are so right - I am convinced that there is a way for every person to be stylish at every price point. I think of some of the great deals I have gotten on Ebay or at Joe Fresh (hanging head in only semi-mock-shame) and at the Crew on sale! I just wish our Janet wasn't away as she is my Queen of Thrifting! I can only imagine what she will bring back from Jolly Old England and the marche puce!

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    5. J Crew JD - our comments passed each on the ethernet! I was going to say - so few people really look at each other's clothes is my experience. Except all of us! But my SIL wouldn't have a clue or care and she is fairly typical of folks around here!

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  25. Great topic to discuss and think about on a J.crew new arrivals launch day. Angel on the right shoulder and Devil on the left...Thanks WMM- you never cease to amaze.

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    1. Oh - I am looking at some of those things myself! I really only need some black capris for summer, but the colour - the parrot - the agony!

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  26. Oooh I hope there isn't a fancy pants limit. I have purchased so much clothing in the last year, more than ever before. There are several reasons. The bad: blogs, and a feeling that I can somehow but more satisfied with my life if ( fill in the blank) is in it. The good: weight loss and a need to wear classic clothing that fits well. I'm trying to cull out the so so and bring in only the fabulous. I definitely need to donate, consign, ebay this summer.

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    1. Hey shopping celle! Never fear! I hear you on the shopping thing - buy yay on the weight loss and congrats! Classic clothing that fits well is the dream!

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  27. Wow this thread has gone crazy while I was asleep!
    Such interesting comments and thought on this.
    I agree that clothes and shoes can't be 'investments' in the true sense of the word, but I do believe that a beautiful, classic coat or jacket in gorgeous fabric that fits perfectly is an investment in self-confidence and joy!

    I also agree that price and/or designer labels are no guarantee of quality. However, I do think that some labels can be worth the $$ if the price isn't too out of one's budget.
    Think Max Mara coats, some Prada, Loro Piano pieces.

    I was lucky enough to work in a very high end retail store in my 20's, and I think that gave me an insight into what was worth the price and not, for my own personal style. I still have pieces from that time that I do wear from time to time. Dani is right that styles do change, but eventually, they come around again!
    I've also had a couple of old pieces tailored to make them more current - this can be a good idea if fabric and colour are divine and a few alterations will give the item more life.

    I also want to expand on my rule of not buying expensive summer items. I think it's a hangover from being a Brit. It's rarely warm for long in the UK, so there's no point at all in shelling out for a summer wardrobe that will get little wear unless one goes on hols to warmer climates. Now, of course, I live in a country where it's very warm for a good 6 months of the year, but I still baulk at paying $$$ for summer duds, as its too sweaty for them to last long! I do buy a couple of posh bits every summer, but most of my big spends are more trans-seasonal and suitable for autumn/winter.

    Anyway, thanks everyone for such an interesting take on quality/price and fashion.

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    1. Hmmm - max Mara - love...

      How bad was the markup? I've always wondered what the markup was for prada etc?

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  28. To me there is only one piece of clothing that can be truly called "investment": a great coat. Coats don't go out of style as often as the other stuff and when you think about it they provide a fundamental need which is to keep you warm (for those of us who live in cold climates, of course). If I look back there is only one thing from more than ten years ago that I would buy again now, and that is my Moncler down coat. Granted, it feels a bit oversized because coats used to be oversized then but I still feel cozy and chic in the cold when I wear it. I guess it would be the same with a Max Mara coat or any other great coat that fits you well and keeps you warm. So good job on your coat ;-).
    For everything else I agree with ajc, personal tastes change, styles and cuts change, fires, baggage loss and moths happen, and there is no guarantee that splurging on something that you think you will wear forever will actually pass the test of time. I would almost say that one should buy for the here and now more than the long term. One of the biggest mistakes IMO is buying something with the "I will wear it forever" in mind. What about tomorrow? We are used to think the cost per wear in terms of long term but a pair of jeans that you wear almost everyday for a year and then you toss are a better "investment" than something you wear once or twice a year (even assuming that you will wear it literally to your deathbed).
    Fun topic, I enjoyed reading everybody's comments!

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    1. HI Ema! I agree - in the end, a coat is likely to last you longest and in our climate, is the thing that people see every single day or is the thing that keeps you warm when you are freezing your a$%$# off!

      weren't they interesting comments?

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  29. I broke down and bought 4 Brooks Brothers shirts the other week. Not an investment, to be sure. I'll never be able to sell them for more than I paid. :) But I feel that they perked up my wardrobe. I look (and feel) more professional in them. And I've been getting a lot of compliments on them, which is always great for the ego.

    I could be completely wrong, but I picture you as a woman on the hunt when it comes to shopping. I can't imagine you being happy with just two purchases over a 6 month period. :)

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    1. Merry Wife - I think you have me pegged quite well!!!

      I think that 4 nice shirts that you get compliments on and that make you feel like a million bucks is indeed investment shopping!

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  30. Hello... first time on your blog and am enjoying the humour and the content! I was saying to a friend the other day that it takes some girls a lifetime trying to work out what their "look" is!! I am still unsure!! I have spent too much money on coats I dont wear.. (I live in Sydney and the winters here are not really cold enough)... I have two pairs of Chanel flats - the ballet flat type - one black pair and then the nude and black pair. I have worn these hundreds of times and they still look amazing... they are classic and work with everything. I also used to buy too many bags - no more!! I think, as one gets older, that quality over quantity usually begins to emerge - especially that by my age - (61) that one needs to know what "Look" we are going for!! Jenny

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    1. HI Jenny! So glad you popped in! Your feelings about winter coats are the opposite about here in Canada - we really only have 3 months of warm weather and the rest can be less than ideal, so a coat is a good thing! I would be in trouble in Sydney - I would be buying more sandals than a person should ever have!! I agree on our style emerging and God, I hope by the time I am out of my 50s that I have it down pat!

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  31. Another thought -

    I saw an interesting idea on a blog - if you think an item might be a staple for you, find a lower cost version to "test" out. If it proves indispensable, you can buy a nicer version of it. I think this is a good idea.

    On the other hand, maybe by the time you buy the nicer one, the bloom will be off the rose, or the nicer one will be just different enough that it gets relegated to the back of the closet.

    I have a cheap black cashmere turtleneck that I find versatile and that is truly falling apart. Same thing for a zip up grey wool hoodie that I had to get rid of a long time ago, but still think about. I'm thinking about replacing both of them with higher quality products. But, I am finding that the nicer brands (e.g. Brora) have slightly different details that take the products from minimalist/hip to a little "older" and more proper looking, which is not the direction I want to go. I could try a "hip" nice brand, but then I don't know if the price would actually correlate with quality.

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    1. Abby - that is an interesting idea.

      That is one reason I won't ever abandon J Crew or some of the other brands - I do like the cuts and a lot of traditional brands fit boxy on me and trust me, I cannot do boxy!

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  32. Great topic!! I have been thinking along the same lines. Now that I am not working and no longer in a corporate environment, I have piles of "investment" pieces that I no longer wear. Now, I am quite cynical whenever I see that phrase in a magazine. It just seems like a marketing ploy to get people to spend more. At the same time, I have given up on cheap & chic items from H & M et al. because they always end up in the donate bin after only one or two wears. Instead, I have been trying to buy things that I think I will wear right now, and are of decent quality, and I have been going through my closet and wearing older pieces. I haven't bought much recently, as compared to when I was working, but I am a lot happier with the things that I have bought!

    Thanks for this post - I loved reading everyone's comments!!

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    1. HI Louise - I hear you - I realize that even when I go back to work, I do not plan to work 9 to 5 monday to friday in the corporate world, so I really need less and less of that kind of thing, and benefit from casual pieces that can be "dressed up".

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  33. I agree w/ajc, Investment piece is a marketing scheme set forth by the fashion industry. It's a good one as I'm sure it has sold a ton of merchandise. When you drive a Harley off the lot, it increases in value according to an enthusiast I know. When I stroll my J Crew Collection yadda yadda out of the store, it absolutely does *not* increase in value. The best I can hope for is a good cost/wear. And, sadly, I have to hope the garment doesn't fail me. Things are made so much more cheaply these days and don't have lasting value in many cases. Good points were made about body shapes changing, the cut of items, etc... Another reason I don't believe in investment pieces and I'm all about cpw.

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    1. Hi Gigi - great points! I am not even sure who J Crew is making a lot of their clothing for anymore, as I see some of the little bitty folks looking large or ill-fitting in the clothes and I think "if they can't do it, no way I can!"

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