Thursday, March 25, 2010
What's worth springing for?
What is worth going waaaay over your budget to buy? Obviously, something that provides such intense pleasure that you are skipping with delight when you wear it a year later.
But that's hindsight.
In the moment, how do you decide to spend a great deal, relative to your means? I'm not talking about a purchase that is more or less manageable– I mean the tippy-top of your price point, plus 50%, plus every give-self-a-gift justification you can wrangle.
Here are my criteria for clothes.
1. Doesn't date for (ideally) a decade
We know the cost-per-wear concept, but in order to get that wear, search for something relatively undateable. Tweed hacking jacket trumps balloon skirt.
To get a piece with legs, you need not confine yourself to stodgy, obdurate sensibility. Your new sweater may not see 2020, but you want wear it out, not have it go out of style.
This studded suede vest by Maje, ($390 from Net-a-porter) is a perfect example of hard-to-date.
If you told me you'd had it since the '70s, I'd believe you, yet with a long-sleeved tee and jeans, it's of the moment.
Philosophy di Alberta Feretti merlot satin jersey dress hits all my criteria: flattering cut, graceful fabric, and a belt to add in evening. Will travel well, too. Price, $640 from Net-a-porter.
Here's a ringer, a Gaultier Paris-print kaftan. Some of the longest-wearing clothes are actually the wildest. Bonjour, inner Tabitha Getty? Auntie Mame? Or just a 50+ with a sense of humour. Price, $745 from Saks Fifth Avenue.
Shown at the top of the post, Derek Lam's jade seamed wool tunic ($1,190 from Saks Fifth Avenue) is another item on which I'd make a decade bet.
A '60s feel, but the shape (achieved though boning) and contrast seams add refinement. Look at the back detail!
2. Doesn't wear out its welcome
Though it sounds boring, I consider durability once the price zooms way beyond my comfort zone.
No matter how much I think I'll wear those Italian velvet pants, the nap is going to wear off the seat in two seasons flat.
Though fashion writers insist on calling him 'directional' (I always wonder which direction), Rick Owens' metallic leather jacket makes the cut. Chic casual leather is good place to put big bucks; wear makes a piece personal. Price, $2,260 from Net-a-porter.
Do not remind me of my metallic brocade coat that cost as much as a small building and sprouted a forest of broken, stiff threads after one short season.
A swath of understated luxury, this Bottega Veneta wool-gabardine trench in aubergine is mostly sold out on Net-a-porter (price, $1,950). Apparently I'm not alone in thinking, investment piece.
Durability includes maintenance. Will it cause hand-wringing from cleaners? You know you're in trouble you hand over your white silk coat and hear "I can't promise...". Will you mind the continual cost for hand-pressing some blouses require?
3. Gives if you need it
If you are over 50, require your splurge to accommodate a bit of weight gain (or loss, which I understand does happen to some women). A midriff-hugging delicate chiffon top may split its side seam and there's no room for alteration. Bye-bye.
Matthew Williamson's embellished black silk maxi, with triangular mirror and metallic bead detail (price, $1,595 from Net-a-porter) is a smart splurge: multi-seasonal, forgiving and conducive to shortening to cocktail length one day, if you wish.
Knits, especially wraps or sweaters which open, like cardi or jacket styles, provide some size flex. This Clements Ribeiro Breton-striped cashmere with bold ivory frogs would give a kick to simple pieces, and though memorable is also quite classic. Price, $1,375 from Net-a-porter.
Ethnic or ethnic-inspired pieces in easy shapes that showcase superior textiles are also smart splurges.
Shown, Japanese shirt from vintage indigo fabric by Asiatica, $1,995 (or hunt for textiles and have one made).
Go with the flow. Etro's silk paisley caftan top does not require iron discipline to fit into over various summers. (Price, $590 from Net-a-porter).
I realize there's another philosophy which is, buy a very close fitting, expensive garment and it motivates you to keep slim. Consignment shops are full of examples.
4. Special, but not intimidating
A harder one to explain and control, this is an attitude issue.
Will you let yourself wear and enjoy the item, as if it's your favourite J. Crew t-shirt? I've bought things so fabulous that they intimidated me. Sometimes I've gotten over it, but one silk blouse was so exquisite that I kept saving it, and ended up a bigger size before wearing it much.
The opposite: a navy cashmere-silk sweater dress by Gentry Portofino that I bought in 1983. A monster splurge for me, yet the most timeless and enjoyable garment I've ever found.
What are your criteria for a splurge? Besides stealing your heart, of course!