Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cheap vs $teep

Today's post is sort of inspired by a great conversation that happened over on Wendy's blog, One can't get over the habit of being a little girl all at once.
The post was about 'Investment' dressing, which arguably doesn't really exist. I mean whoever heard of clothes increasing their value over time?

Perhaps a very special, one-off piece worn by a Very Famous Person (Lady Diana or the like) might go up in value, but the normal stuff worn by us normal folk is unlikely to increase its value, so the work 'investment' is a total misnomer.

However, clothes as a personal, non-monetary but self-satisfying form of investment are certainly possible, in my opinion.

The conversation over at Wendy's was very interesting, with lots of incredibly smart and insightful advice from many stylish women. I highly recommend you nip over and read it here.

Anyway, Wendy's post got me thinking about some of my so-called 'investment' purchases and whether they've served me well or not.

I've spent a lot of money on clothes in my life. In my teens and 20s I worked at Harvey Nichols in London to earn extra $$ as a student. Most of the money went on clothes (and travel) - It was hard to resist the call of the Sloane St boutiques and the generous staff discount at Harvey Nics.

Once I graduated, I moved to France, then Russia, then Japan, and had a very well-paying job that meant a lot more expensive clothes.... Yamamoto and Comme Des Garcons etc. This was the early to mid 90s and black, drapey grunge was my friend!
Then a stint in Italy (cue Prada and Miu Miu, lots of Helmut Lang, not to mention an obsession with Dries Van Noten)
I think you get the idea.

A lot of my old 'investment' purchases from those heady days of a high disposable income are safely stored in boxes and occasionally get an outing. Most of them are being kept for my daughter, in case she has an urge to wear a petrol blue jumpsuit by Katherine Hamnett from 1987 or a very grungy, deconstructed Comme des Garcons sweater from 1993. 
I'm not sure if this means that they were a good investment or not, but I've certainly banked a lot of memories in them!!

My current situation means a much lower disposable income. Kids, a mortgage and a lower-paying job means that the days of splurging with gay abandon are over. (Hmmm. I think my partner might disagree with me there.)
So, this week's outfit pics showcase some of my more recent 'investment' clothes, along with much cheaper additions that probably won't make it into my daughter's storage box. I'm a great believer in wearing my 'posh' clothes as much as possible. There's no point in saving them for best as I rarely go anywhere fancy. Hence I'm one of the most overdressed people on campus.

This leather jacket was very $$$ when I bought it in 2007/2008, but it's been worn to death. So much so that the lining will need replacing soon as it's ripped in the underarms. I shall get it replaced as I hope to continue wearing it for another couple of years at least.

The dress was also a bit of a splurge. APC is a French mid-range brand, but their prices are high for my budget these days. I bought this in 2009 after visiting the shop it was in 3 weeks in a row to try it on! it's a beautiful wool paisley pinafore and I still love it, so this too gets the seal of approval.

The wool knit under it was a cheapy chain store buy. It's already got holes so won't last beyond this year. Fail.
The bag is from 2010. I don't buy bags very often. It will be used for another year or 3. Tick!
The scarf is a cheap, viscose thing that has pilled a lot, but I like the size and colour, so it will be sticking around for a while. Tick!
I have 5 J Crew enamel bangles in different colours. I love them, but not sure how many years they'll get worn....

This outfit features the leather jacket from above.
The v-neck is a cheap-ish knit from Country Road - a sort of cheap, but-not-really chain store in Australia. It's a merino/silk blend, and so far I'm very pleased with it. no pilling, washes well and seems to have kept its shape thus far. It may well be kept for some years, in which case it will be a total winner.

The skirt is a total splurge Paul Smith Black Label tweed skirt that was bought for me as a gift by a very generous relative (he also bought me the Prada coat below).
It's totally amazing, lined in silk (Dani would be happy!), with fabulous, arse-enhancing tailoring that you can't really see due to my crappy iphone pics. Sorry.
This skirt is 3 years old and it gets a lot of wear. I really, really love it, and imagine I'll be wearing it for a good many years to come.... or perhaps I'm delusional and it will date.

The Fendi shoes are being worn as well. They pass the test as they were a BARGAIN! See this post for their story.

Finally, the biggest splurge item in the last 3 years, my Prada coat from Winter 2011. This was a gift from a very 'price insensitive' relative. I'm such a goose that it makes me smile whenever I wear it.
It's black wool, single-breasted with big silver buttons (as you can see, sort of).

When I wear it, it has the magical effect of making all the other items I'm wearing suddenly look much, much better. I also get stopped by people commenting on it. It is a bit theatrical, I guess.
I have no idea if this will be worn in 5 or 10 year's time, but I'm trying to wear it as much as possible now!

Do you have 'investment' pieces in your wardrobe? If so, do they get worn, or saved for best?


  1. Funny I was going to do a post on this and both of you have done it better than I would have! I gotta be honest and say that the coined term of "investment pieces" drives me a bit crazy. The only "investment" piece that I have was the first press off the once popular brand called Tocca in the 90's. I was fashion mad back then like any 20 something year old and bought half the first collection. Apparently that collection is worth loads and funny enough I kept them bc to this day they are lovely although half of them have alcohol stains on them still! But otherwise no other piece of clothing I have no matter how high end will not even fetch half the price I paid for it. But I just save them as I know it lasts or will be trendy again or give away in the future to family and friends. You want an investment then I always tell my younger friends to buy a house!

    1. Naomi, I think you and Heidi should definitely do your own take on this subject - it's interesting and we all have a slightly different perspective and our own stories.
      Please do one!!!
      I remember Tocca very well. In fact I remember lusting after some of the dresses in Harvey Nics!
      I think it's good that you've kept them.

  2. Damn it - I was going to do a post on this too!! Agree that 'investment' dressing is a bit of an oxymoron, but I have noticed when blogging that a lot of my stuff is very old - the quality has lasted, and the style still looks fashionable, despite being so old. Can't say I have as much good stuff as you though - my student job was at Esprit and then Witchery. And enforced poverty due to a mortgage and renovation in my late 20's meant not a lot of money spent on my wardrobe at that time. I'm making up for it now!!
    My sister kept all her fashion investment pieces... a Pucci print catsuit circa 1992/3 is floating around somewhere. Plus a Madonna "Like a Virgin" t-shirt (not sure this one is worth anything though). xx

    1. Came back to comment on your outfits too- love them all. You have some great pieces. I think that things don't have to be so "classic" (ie a black blazer, or grey trousers) for them to be enduring. The tweed skirt I can't imagine dating at all, and the APC shift is gorgeous. Sometimes the slightly quirky pieces done well will last the distance and be worn much more than something a little more "classic" and basic. Dying over your Prada coat. I have a Max Mara one from 2001 that was an "investment". Unfortunately I don't need to wear a full length coat anymore due to not living in Melbourne with its freezing Winters, so it languishes in my wardrobe, despite being still quite current looking.

    2. Thanks Heidi - As I mentioned above I think you should do a post on this too - the more the merrier!
      I think you probably made better decisions concerning 'investments' than I did. A mortgage and a renovation yield a far better return in the long run. I left it very late to join the property market and we're paying for it (literally) now!! We will never be able to retire at this rate!!
      I agree with you about the quirky pieces. I tend to prefer slightly left of centre classic stuff - the J Crew pixilated skirt being a good example.
      The Prada coat is such a luxury. There is NO WAY I could have bought it for myself, so I'm very lucky to have a lovely relative who has a high budget!

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  4. Sorry I deleted my comment. After some thought I realized it may read a bit obnoxious. It was fun being voyeur of your splurges. OT but does anyone find blogger freezes if you decline auto correct on iPad or iPhone hence my American spelling of realized.

    1. I am sure that there was nothing remotely obnoxious in your post, Jude!!

      Yes, using blogger on an ipad is annoying. I use it all the time and it makes it very hard to do a decent job of linking or replying!

  5. HI Ruth - thanks for the nice shout-out! And woulda, shoulda coulda and Heidi - I think multiple posts on this issue are interesting - so go for it!

    I love your style Ruth - damn, i wish I had days of gay abandon in London. I had days of granola dressing in New Brunswick! Ah well...And for the record, I am looking for a price insensitive relative who wants to buy me things...

    I think the concept of investment dressing is indeed an oxymoron. I have some stuff saved from the 80s but I am sure no one will want it - but now think I should dig it out and take a look!

    1. Hi Wendy, thank YOU for such a great post - if I find another rich relly around the traps I'll let you know!

  6. What a great post, and I agree with Wenders, lots of posts on this subject are encouraged, I find it so interesting.
    You did have a glamourous job. I was a waitress in Uni and then started my family at 22, I spent my 20's in denim overalls and sneakers, a perfect outfit for the sandbox. Your Prada coat is gorgeous, isn't that the kind of thing that is well worth the $$, look at the wear you'll get out of it and the magical elevating properties it holds!
    I have my expensive handbags and they do make everything look better, they have encouraged me to dress in simpler colours and lines as well. I also have loads of Brora which is very expensive for me so I choose my pieces carefully, those pieces really last and I love the way they're made, no poly etc.
    I don't save anything for best, I wear my Hermes scarf everyday and I use my good bags everyday. It's worth more if it gets worn, as you say investment dressing doesn't make much sense, it only has value if it helps us get dressed and feel good about ourselves!

    1. Thanks Dani. It is a fascinating topic.
      I had plenty of very unglamorous jobs too - potato grading, runner bean stringing and raspberry picking! And having had my kids in my mid to late 30s I can say that I probably should have done it much younger. I'm knackered most of the time... Ah well!
      Your bags are beautiful - I do lust very much after your Smythson... A beautiful bag, coat, scarf or piece of jewellery can elevate an outfit miraculously.
      Your high standards with linings have inspired me to be more discerning!

    2. potato grading? please do a post on that! never heard of it.

    3. Certainly! It's not very glam or interesting!!

  7. I grew up poor, and had been married to a Yorkshireman, hence an inbuilt shoppers guilt.
    My income is ok but will be better when I have finished my god dang phd.
    The only Prada I own is a pair of spectacles which I forget to wear but gee they make me look smart.
    I had a crazy auntie that blew an inheritance on booze and multiple longines watches, one og which she gifted me. She is now penniless in a secure nursing home.
    I need a price insensitive relative like you have. Can I borrow yours?

    1. Cilla, hand in there with your Doctorate... It will be with it in the end!
      I'll pass on any other price-insensitive relatives I find loitering... And I know what you mean about shopping guilt. I have overcome it with lots of hard work ;-)

  8. Oh Ruth, you made me laugh with that gay abandon comment. Haha. I get that I-don't-care-I-look-good-no-matter-what-the-price attitude.

    Love your leather jacket and tweed skirt! And of course you can pull off pencil cut.

    I've never believed in investment dressing. It's a concept designers and editors made up. Sounds good and a very business/economic term to use to justify splurging on clothes that you won't even look at after a few occasions.

    But I agree with your take about clothes being a non-monetary self-satisfying investment. You're right, you're actually investing on feeling good about yourself--which builds confidence. As long as you're not guilty about your purchase, then you're doing yourself a favour by treating yourself :)


    1. It's a real manic way to shop.... Enjoyable, but not sustainable!

      I did used to struggle with shopping guilt, but have managed to get over it now... Sort of!

  9. Great follow-up post ruth!
    I love,love the tweed skirt and the Prada coat and even though it was lot of money for your relative,it was totally worth it!
    Clothewise i dont have that much investment clothing,most is middle price segment for me,but i have a ew bags i splurged on:)

    1. Your bags are amazing, Ina! Great outfit-lifting pieces!

  10. Hello Ruth! This piece reminds me a little of myself!... in that I used to buy a few expensive clothes when I was younger (and thinner!) Lol!!.... I still have a leather jacket which I adore but it is a little tight and of course - when I'm thinner!!! I am a keeper I think and still have a couple of Escada jackets in my wardrobe (sorry!)... Your coat is absolutely fabulous... knock-out... no wonder people stop you. A good coat is such a great standby! Great post! Jennyxx

    1. Thanks Jenny! Escada jackets! They sound lovely - I used to go window-shopping at Escada!

  11. Well first of all can I just say I am envious of how well traveled you are. Among all those lovely places you have visited, you managed to fit in Birmingham too!

    I enjoyed reading your post, firstly because I was living vicariously through your 'thriftless' days, but also because it's a conversation I often have with my mum. Relative to my salary I do overspend on fashion and my mom thinks I'm crazy for it, however I live on my own, with no responsibilities (husband, children), I have a mortgage, but with the variable rate and secure-ish job I am comfortable, so yes I spend spend spend and I think I should use this opportunity to do so while I can, before the bigger priorities and responsibilities come along, I don't want to have regrets.

    I don't know whether I'd called any of my items investment pieces as such, but my biggest expense has been my Mulberry bag and Louboutin shoes - I hope I see a return on them one day ha ha. x

    1. Haha! I still hide new things from my mother and am economical with the truth concerning their true cost!

      I reckon it's fine to splurge on pretty things - and it sounds as if you are financially sorted, so no need to be feeling guilt! It's amazing how mothers worry about these things. I wonder if I'll be the same with my daughter?

      Which mulberry do you have?

  12. hi, Ruth, I was thinking about things I've had for a long time, and I rarely regret having spent the money, I'm certainly equipped if any of the past 6 or 7 fashion eras returns. My regrets are the cheap things that I loved and wore to death. Now I try to pick up duplicates of those on sale.

    1. Ah the cheap things... I'm still trying to replace my perfect cheap grey sweatshirt that I spilled red wine over....

  13. Great post! I am guilty of using the term 'investment piece' when talking to my better half about a new handbag purchase - my only true splurge - but I'm not sure if I use it for his benefit or to convince myself it's money well spent! In saying that, my first expensive handbag (a Balenciaga Work purchased in 2005) still looks as good as the day I bought it, and it has been used at least 3 times a week since purchase. At the time I bought it, handbags at chain stores like Witchery and Mimco were getting expensive and I was buying a couple each year so as far as I was concerned 'investing' in a 'good' bag that would last me years (8 and counting) was money well spent. I've got a few other beautiful handbags now and I do believe they're worth the price tag and I hope a future grandchild will appreciate the ridiculous amount I ‘invested’ on my Chanel (which incidentally the boutiques increase the price of each year) and did I mention I bought it years ago and it now retails for over $1200 more than I purchased it for…see how I use the ‘investment’ angle??? I no longer have the disposable income I once had but my handbags do seem to make my less expensive pieces look better…I’m convinced!!

    1. Hi and thanks for visiting! Congrats on winning Naomi's giveaway, too!
      I think a good handbag can certainly be considered an investment of sorts, especially when the prices go up so much each year (like your Chanel).
      I bought my Bayswater bag about 8 years ago for around £350, and now they're double that, so it just goes to show how high bag inflation is!
      Chain store bags here in Aus are horrid quality and very overpriced, so I really don't blame you for ditching them in favour of higher quality ones!

  14. Jumping on the phd finishing bandwagon, living on a fellowship makes "investment" pieces prohibitive. I often debate if high end retailers are worth spending more. Many of them are now outsourced to China and switching to unholy mixes of synthetics, so I look, examine and file away worthy items in my "when I win the lottery" list.
    Your outfits look lovely, and I bet your poeces, bought before the outsourcing boom are incredible quality. I'd love to take a peek in those boxes, ruth!