No matter what field you work in or are interested in, there are investment myths- “if you buy a Honda, it won’t lose value”, “if I buy this cappuccino machine, I can make one a day for 10 years,” and “a Birkin is an investment bag- you can resell it for a higher value if you need to”. However, are these things actually true? You can get a lemon Honda Civic the same you can any other car, that coffee maker probably isn’t going to last any longer than a plain old coffee pot, and should the world’s economy go into the tank, people may no longer be interested in a $15,000 purse. This guide will help you determine what your investment buys for your wardrobe should be, and how to get the most out of them.
This post is not about indulgences- we all have them, and I don’t think that they are a bad thing as long as we are being realistic with ourselves. There is a difference between rewarding yourself with something nice, and justifying an extravagant purchase as a necessity, and I think that those lines are being blurred more and more often nowadays. I define an investment purchase for your wardrobe as something that serves a specific purpose for YOU, not for resale value. If you are interested in reading more about the myth of investment buys, Refinery 29 has a great post on them!
Something that I think is incredibly important to distinguish, is the difference between well-made and brand name items. An item is not necessarily of great quality simply because it happens to be from a certain brand, and an unknown designer or company may provide you with a much higher quality item. Do your research, and get to know the hallmarks of quality in the item that you are looking for- don’t assume that a brand name will deliver amazing quality, and don’t assume that an unknown brand is a waste of money. These are the four questions I think to ask yourself if you should be investing in an item or not.
1) Is It an Everyday Item?
I am a big fan of investing in items that get everyday use, especially shoes. Most rock bottom price items are not meant to stand up to continual, every day use- if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you need supportive and comfortable shoes for work, invest in them! If you aren’t willing to invest in a regular use item, how can you expect it to support you and properly do what it is supposed to? Do you have a work tote or briefcase that you use for attending meetings with colleagues and clients? A well made bag will carry everything you need, and project a professional image for years. Do you work in a hospital and are constantly on your feet? The right supportive shoes will go a long way to avoiding knee and back problems in the (near) future!
2) Where Do I Wear It?
You may have pieces that you don’t wear often, but you wear it to important social events, ie. weddings, funerals, showers, and even interviews- for most people, that would be a suit, dress, or pant/skirt and jacket! These are events where a) there may be pictures taken, b) they are of serious social importance to your friends, family, and social group, and b) your appearance may affect the outcome (in an interview). Because these pieces aren’t worn very often, they will be stored for months or even years on end; a lot of cheaper fabrics and materials aren’t meant to last for years and years, with regular wear or not, and you don’t want to pull out your suit to go to a funeral only to realise it is disintegrating.
3) What Am I Using It For?
If it is an item destined for heavy use, ie. luggage for work travel, gym clothing, a tote to carry heavy files, that is a good sign that you should be investing in it. We tend to expect a lot out of our clothing and accessories, more than I think is fair of us a lot of the time. I always want to ask why people are shocked when the strap from their $30 outlet purse breaks after a month of every day wear- well, you got what you paid for out of it. When you pay for a name, rather than quality, that is a risk you take. If it is meant to carry a substantial load, either physically or mentally (ie. the blazer that makes you feel amazing for work conferences, the tote bag that is carrying a pile of files and laptop to and from the office), it’s time to invest.
4) How Much Am I Willing to Invest In This?
I have said this several times, and I will keep repeating it, if you aren’t willing to ever pay full price for an item, you probably don’t actually want it. It should be noted, that doesn’t mean that you should never look for sales or deals, but it’s a good gauge to see if you actually like and would enjoy a piece or if you are simply purchasing it because it is on sale. So, before you decide how much you are willing to invest in a piece, do some research and find out how much that item costs regular price, across several stores and websites. I find that nowadays, people arbitrarily decide how much an item is worth- “I won’t pay more than $30 for jeans,”- without actually knowing what the market value for something is. If it truly is an investment piece, I tend to go towards full market price, as it’s something I know is worth it. (If it is an item that you haven’t purchased before, try to purchase it from somewhere that allows returns/exchanges if possible.)
What are my investment pieces? My loafers that I wear to work (and often on weekends), my running shoes, and my dresses, as I use those all of the time. If I expect them to perform at their best for me, I have to be willing to put my best into them, starting from the purchase. Does this mean that you will never magically find a blouse for $3 at a thrift shop or garage sale that is absolutely amazing on you for years? No, you hopefully will! However, most of us don’t maintain an entirely thrifted wardrobe that we love wholeheartedly and serves every function we need.
If you could buy one item, no matter what the cost or scarcity, what would it be and why?