investment purchases

jane birkin and her original 'birkin bag', a simple woven basket

'investment purchases' and 'investment dressing' are phrases that have been bandied about quite a lot in Vogue, blogs, and elsewhere in the media since the recession. it's a controversial idea.

there are critics and feminists who decry the cynical use of it as a marketing tactic to convince (largely women) consumers to pay exorbitant amounts of money for luxury goods during a recession. fair enough. after all, how can a handbag or coat really be an 'investment purchase' when the vast majority of retail items depreciate in value once you purchase it? (there are exceptions - the market for Hermes and Chanel yields quite respectable resale prices.) but the idea is controversial for the very reason that there is something appealing about it.

in the past few years, many bloggers (myself included) have been trying to minimize consumption in favor of wiser, more committed purchasing. i think with that comes a sense of emotional investment in a handbag or coat purchase that has been carefully thought-out, and perhaps even painstakingly researched. the whole point of this idea, i think, is to give women who love fashion and style a way to control the shopping impulse and channel it towards creating the well-curated wardrobe.

what do you think? do you have a shortlist of 'investment' purchases? have you made one recently? how does this idea fit in with your style/financial philosophy?


  1. Hi! Great post!

    I'm a fervent believer in investment pieces--have been for more than a decade, so long before any "recession" advice. Those pieces are the ones I've consistently worn out (*truly* worn out), whether they're pants or jackets or shoes. When I pay a significant amount (relative to the person and situation, of course) for an item, I make sure it feels and looks beautiful on. That means I wear it to death. It makes all those nickels worth it. :)

  2. As critical as I am of the idea of the "investment piece," I am a follower of the philosophy. But more than anything, I am a firm believer in the "buy less crap" philosophy. For clothing, my personal rule is to avoid fast fashion stores (and by extension, fashion trends) in favor of versatile, well-made and well-designed pieces that will last me more than 2-3 seasons. For me and my poverty-line grad school budget, these are investment purchases. I can't say if I'm saving more money this way, but I do think this approach allows me to buy fewer items that am less likely to grow tired of.

  3. Nice pic choice! (the Birkin!)

    I think it depends on how you define "investment"--strictly in financial sense most won't fit that category except for Alaia, Chanel, YSL, Hermes, and very few others. It seems like most of us waver somewhere between investment (unless one can afford the Kelly bag) and cheap/fast fashion, leaning more towards investment but more measured in terms of to what extent it becomes part of your wardrobe---if I wear it for over five years that's pretty good for me, and well constructed pieces are the only ones that would make the cut.

    Ever since Juicy Couture came into being the term "couture" kinda died, everything is "couture" nowadays and the word's original meaning was gutted effectively with those velour hoodies (they still hurt my eyes when I see them in the airport paired with uggs and coach logo bag), the term investment also seems to be following some similar kind of path.

    Brand originally was for more mature and older women who compensated for her lost youth by purchasing items with quality and class---with the whole "high-low-mix-is-hip" thing now everything is brand name products that "must" be toted by teens and tweens and what have you.

    hmm speaking of which maybe we should do postings on things that have lasted more than 5 years in our closet?

  4. Maybe it should be rephrased as "commitment purchases" as opposed to "investment purchases"?

    I think the concept of an investment purchase is the ratio of times used per dollar spent. If you're investing in something, then your returns are higher at the end of day, regardless of resale value. So technically I think it's not really the price that matters but the quality and usability of the item.

  5. AA & jennifer: heartily agree with both of you - and i've not bought anything from H&M or the like for 3+ years now. i've taken good care of and worn a lot all of the pieces that were pricey. i think that's the upside of buying an expensive piece; if the stars align in terms of how it fits into your lifestyle, the quality/crafstmanship of the piece, and your own style, it becomes a part of your wardrobe in a really meaningful way.

    nanashi: lol - yes, a part of me wants to think that a kitten dies every time someone pairs uggs with a JC tracksuit and badly monogrammed purse. the language and codes of fashion have definitely undergone a major transformation. in one sense i think it's really refreshing that a stylish 20something can wear a vintage hermes birkin with conviction just like an older society lady. but all the glut of celebs-in/out-of-rehab toting around hermes and chanel etc does dilute the style. i think your posts idea is brilliant - let's do it! :)

    amanda: agreed. the cost-per-wear quotient is definitely something i think about before making a pricey purchase, and even though it's a slightly wonky kind of arithmetic it really does make a lot of sense!

  6. Smart post! I really like the idea of "emotional investment" pieces as opposed to the usual financial one (which, as you point out, isn't true anyway). So many considerations go into my decision to purchase things these days-- where it was made, who made it, how it was made. I recently bought a pair of full-priced Fiorentini & Baker boots (which, for my budget, was very expensive). So far, so good, but I hope to want to wear them for years. We'll see!

  7. I think of it more as an emotional investment - something that will bring you pleasure for years to come every time you wear it. But even so it's important for me to stay within budget - if I want something expensive, I would rather save up for it for a while than buy it on credit.

  8. I think the theory is that if you put your money down on what the fashion industry defines as "investment items", you'll "save money" in the long run because you won't need to buy anything else because you already have something classic and perfect.

    I don't believe that personally, because I know I'll always fall in love with something new, hahaha.

    The important thing is whether I act on those impulses to buy something new - and that's when I look hard at what I have and decide whether that new thing has a place in my life. Is it a good replacement for something that should be retired? Is something new I appreciate for its original design as much as for practicality? Is it something I actually need?

    I guess I believe in "investment" as a thought process - ie, thinking abt what you get out of something before you buy it. If you think about something before committing you're less likely to make costly mistakes.

  9. I think for building up a balanced basic wardrobe, it's wise to opt for "investment pieces" that you'll wear time and time again in combination with different things. I'm thinking well-cut blazers and trousers, the perfect jeans, cashmere sweaters and cardigans,white shirts(both silk and cotton) and high quality winter coats.

    But I don't oppose getting cheaper on-trend pieces beside the basic wardrobe. In our part of the world, Zara and H&M offer a very good variety in budget-friendly but trendy pieces in acceptable quality.

    Personally I don't keep on searching for that one perfect white T and pay a considerable amount of money for it (some bloggers seem to be very keen on "not setting for second best"). I'd rather get it from highstreet stores but will make sure it's made of 100% cotton.

    Also all "investment pieces" have a price limit for me. At the end of the day, it's just clothes/shoes/bags. I really don't see the point of spending the amount for a small car on a Hermes-bag. Things that are out of my league will remain there, no matter how hyped up they are. Too much is just too much, end of discussion.

  10. veuve: i think there ideally is a balance between the emotional and financial sides of a purchase. i think i'm always trying to not let mercurial fashion impulses take over my purchase decisions. your F+B boots sound great! just right for this weather too.

    pret a porter: i think what you're saying echoes a lot of the commenters here; i think the criticism against 'investment shopping' points out other social/cultural issues involving women, consumption, and the fashion industry. both pro and con perspectives are valid IMO. i agree that a worthy "investment" piece has value that's far more than just pure resale price.

    lin: well put! i do the same. i've made only a few purchase mistakes in the past 2 years, all of which i've been able to remedy by selling the item for a decent price...

    vegalyn: you raise some very valid points! i also rely on mid-priced brands like jcrew for tees and other basics. i have a priority list for what i'm willing to spend a lot on - shoes and handbags, so for everything else i'm happy to shop vintage or midrange/mass retailers like ASOS, jcrew etc so long as it's made out of quality natural fabrics. and of course all of this is dependent on your own lifestyle priorities and tastes. i personally get a great deal of pleasure out of discovering beautifully made and designed sartorial pieces, so i'm willing to selectively pay more for certain items.

  11. I have only recently changed the way I shop, and started investing in pieces rather than buying a heap of crap and then throwing it out as soon as the season is over. There are some things I will refuse to spend hundreds on- t shirts etc but when it comes to coats, the perfect LBD and especially bags, I would rather save for a couple of months for the perfect one than buy a few that are less than perfect. I agree with Vegalyn- even if a Balmain jacket is perfect, I'm not going to spend $10,000 on it.


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