(This lovely image of two stylish Parisian women put a smile on my face. They are women who definitely have a sense of who they are in their clothes. This image comes from the unique instagrammer, thesartorialist, a photographer of stylish people around the world. What I love is that his photos are real and not retouched to perfection)
Watch a stylist in action, and almost always the phrase “investment piece” is part of their formula for building a smart wardrobe. Because of the time we’re living in, and our concerns with climate change, investment dressing makes a lot of sense. But what is it really?
Once upon a time fashion was just fashion. We now live with too much of everything, and as a result we discard too much. “Trends” have become similar to catching the flu; people wearing clothes that pop-up as instant hits on social media, growing into a fever, and then bang, you walk into the store and purchase items you really don’t need. We are bombarded by so many choices with little room for creativity and long-term vision. We don’t value our clothes. A well-curated wardrobe is about buying fewer quality items that you really love and appreciate. Investment dressing is ultimately about longevity and dressing for you, rather than what the influencers say you must have.
An investment piece is by definition a closet staple of timeless design, simple yet stylish, withstanding the trends. Often a stylist’s methods for building a smart wardrobe have more to do with choosing investment pieces that they feel are on trend and what you must have in your closet, rather than what works for the client. Just because someone says you must have an item, doesn’t mean it’s for you. Stylists will typically run through the following list of garments that form the basics of investment dressing: blouses or shirts, denim, outerwear (leather jackets, coats and trench coats), pants, LBD or the little black dress, shoes, handbags, and jewelry (gold or silver). So you purchase a trendy men’s styled shirt, are you going to wear it? Certainly some of you may not feel like yourself in one, more like pretending to be sexy in a man’s shirt. A leather jacket may not be your style or an option for vegans. What about my favourite pearl necklace? Is it really passé? You can see the problem, these items can’t possibly be universally appealing.
Dressing well and choosing investment pieces is about picking quality ones that work with your lifestyle and beliefs, but also what will make you happy to wear each and every day. Choose one good piece from each clothing category, or more of the same styles you love wearing. I love dresses and skirts, but denim is not my idea of an investment piece. My hand knit sweaters are some of my best investment pieces, because of the time needed to knit them, but also for the quality fibers and beauty of the yarns.
Here are the characteristics I think are most important in choosing investment pieces.
- Longevity – wear over and over with pleasure.
- Top Quality Fabrics – should be mostly made from natural fibers.
- Quality Manufacturing Processes – need to be beautifully made, classic and sophisticated.
- Transparency of Fashion Brands – look for the companies and brands that tell you exactly how and who makes their clothing, and how they are addressing environmental challenges.
- Express Individuality – dress for you. You don’t have to wear what everyone else is wearing.
- Worn Multiple Different Ways – the pieces must work well with the other clothes in your closet.
- Care For Your Clothes – they will last longer.
- Cost per Wear – investment pieces may come at a high price tag, and it may seem as though you’re spending more, but you aren’t buying as often. In the long run, you’re spending less than repurchasing poor quality items on a regular basis.
- Forget Trends
- Feel Comfortable and Confident – but certainly not like a “sloth”.
I have found that I shop far less often. It is difficult to find top quality investment pieces that meet my expectations, but they are out there and I do my research. Investment dressing for the most part is a personal journey, buying fewer things that you love, value, and which reflect your personality and lifestyle. And finally, you can break-up with the “must have trends” forever.