Is Buying Investment Pieces Just A Dumb Idea?

I’m starting to doubt the wisdom of saving up for “clothing you’ll wear forever.”

When I was teenager, I spent a lot of time talking about how I was going to move to France, goddammit. Because, you know, in France people wouldn’t be such obese assholes. (It wasn’t a cute Cary Mulligan in An Education talking French thing, it was a God-I-was-such-an-astonishingly-terrible-tween thing). At the time, I read one of those “How To Be French” books and they gave a lot of advice, one piece of which was that you should only buy one or two very high quality items of clothing a year, rather than going out and buying lots of stuff like some gross piggy American. So I decided that I’d do that.

When I was 16, this meant absolutely nothing, because I had almost no income. Eventually my mom felt sorry for me and let me have her old Burberry trench-coat, which I wore in the middle of summer to smoke Gauloises and quote Sartre inaccurately.

I got over a lot of that (actually going to France for a while and spending a disproportionate amount of time watching American movies and being homesick helped). But I’ve always stuck with the idea of only buying  investment pieces that you think you’ll still be wearing when you’re 40.

This year, I’ve been shopping twice. The first time I bought a pair of flesh colored Christian Louboutin pumps. The next time I bought a classic black Prada Bag. And, that’s it. There’s a Fendi dress I’ve got my eye on, but it’s going to take a few more months to save up.

It’s sort of like a life long shopping diet. The days I do go shopping are great, and I really like the feeling of having saved up for something. It makes me feel disciplined. I’ve always sort of liked the act of setting goals and then working towards them methodically. I also like being at stores where they will give you champagne as you shop and the attitude is more “spend the whole day, try on everything you want, look at the harpist in the corner, here, have a scone with that champagne” than “I’m going to monitor you to make sure you’re not a shoplifter”.

But lately, I’m wondering if it’s really worthwhile. With designers doing lines for H&M, do rules about saving up for “investment pieces” still hold true? Can anyone really tell the difference between a real Prada bag and a really well made knock-off? Maybe we’ve reached a point where investment pieces can just as easily be Jimmy Choos for H&M as a pair of Jimmy Choos for Jimmy Choo. Maybe it’s time to just take my savings, hit up Forever 21 and blow it all in a decadent burst of consumerism.

Or not. Investment pieces. Pro or con?

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    • Eileen

      First of all, I personally hate calling clothing an “investment” because almost all clothing involves diminishing worth. Those heels on those shoes are not going to remain pristine. That lining of that handbag is going to start to pull. As for the clothes – well, my mother may still fit into the clothes she bought at 19, but I think that she’s a bit of an anomaly among 51-year-old women who’ve been through three pregnancies. She also never cared much about what was in fashion. Some people do, and that’s okay. I say, how you shop should depend on two things: a) how you like to dress and b) how much money you have to spend. If you can happily carry the same purse for the next ten years and don’t mind freaking out every so often about making sure it looks nice, then sure, buy that expensive purse. If you’d rather get a new purse ever two years, or if you’d like variety among purses, then buy a cheaper one.

    • Malkovich

      In an old lady conservative mood right now so I say beautifuuly made and classic pieces always win.

    • porkchop

      Making serious, long-term clothing buys actually helps you maintain your figure. Losing 10 pounds would take me about 6 weeks. Redoing my wardrobe would take 10 years.

    • pomegranate

      have to say, a little disapointed in the dropoff last paragraph. article makes a good point but there is so much left unsaid here to think about. don’t skimp! i’d like to explore certain middle-of-the-road brands that apply, or think about certain wardrobe articles that you could maybe spend less money on because trends change so often.

      bottom line is: yes, yes, yes to investment pieces. the simple fact is that you won’t have to buy a replacement at the start of every season. especially if you focus on not following every trend to a t. timeless fashion is just that.

    • Imogen

      Soooo pro investment pieces for big items; handbag, winter boots, winter coat, black leather jacket… things that look better as they wear, things that define an era, things that you’ll wear for at least 10 years happily. I love taking care of things, getting the heels repaired and seeing my shoes literally have years dropping away from them in age and I think its important to care for and appreciate things that you’ve saved up for, value and cherish.
      However, obviously not everything and particularly not certain materials (wool, cotton…) or certain items (scarves begin to look abit bedraggled however expensive, socks, t shirts, tops…) and these things I buy cheaper and more ‘of the moment’ to keep my wardrobe updated while the classic items define it.

    • Shilo

      I own a jersey knit black tank top that I bought at Forever21 FIVE years ago and it still looks great. I also used to own a Prada dress (it’s now dead and gone) that was clearly sewn with the cheapest shedding cotton thread on earth and a cheap plastic zip.

      I think that well made pieces that flatter and last are awesome, but judging based on brand or price alone is folly. You can find absolute gems in some pretty unlikely places, double that sentiment if you’re willing to have things tailored to fit.