Investment Dressing … My 5 Rules for Not Wasting Your Money

I have always been a believer in the idea that you get what you pay for…..most of the time. And I have always believed that it’s NOT necessarily a waste of money to NOT shop the sales, to NOT go for the cheapest choice; it’s sometimes better to spend a bit more, to spring for the more expensive item. Depending on the item, of course.

It’s called “Investment Dressing.” And according to Trinny and Susanna and Stacey and Clinton…and probably every fashion stylist out there… what’s most important is not how much you pay for a piece, it’s the eventual cost per wear over the life of the garment.

I think that investment dressing makes sense…up to a point. But investing in a big ticket item can be a problem; it can be tricky. Especially if you invest a big chunk of change and it’s all a big mistake.

So here are:

A. My five rules for shopping for investment pieces…well, actually they’re my rules for shopping for anything, really. I’m not a professional, nor an expert… they’re just “Sue’s Rules.”

B. And four investment pieces that I have purchased over the last few years…that have “earned their keep”, so to speak. They still fit, still look good and still feel current. Definitely worth the investment.

Rule #1   Know your own style.

What looks good on you? What doesn’t? Write this down if you have to … and don’t be dissuaded by zealous sales people who try to tell you otherwise.

This is a safari jacket by Elie Tahari that I bought in 2011. I love jackets. I wear them a lot. They have been part of my style since my university days. I’ve updated it this year with a new tee shirt from Gap (on sale!) and a vintage necklace and earrings from the 1950’s that belonged to my mum.

Rule #2   Know your wardrobe.

What items do you already have? How many times have you bought something only to get home and realize that you already own that top…or one very like it? Go through your closet and make a list of what you already own that is still wearable this season… skirts, tops, pants, jeans, jackets, dresses, suits etc. Don’t put items on the list that don’t fit anymore or that are dated or that you hate.

This silk giraffe-print dress is also by Elie Tahari. I bought it in 2010 when I didn’t really have any summer dresses. I had lots of pants, and shorts and a couple of skirts. But I really wanted a dress. It’s very comfortable with soft pleats that make it easy to move around in and thus good to wear to work or out for lunch. I love the little self belt and the ruffled collar, which unfortunately you can’t really see here. 

Rule #3 Do your research. Find out about the current trends.

Before I go shopping with a friend I always tell her to “do her homework.” Read the fashion magazines, look on-line. There are tons of good websites out there that will show you what the trends are for the current season. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I love for this.

If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that denim is big this year. But then, it’s always big, isn’t it? I bought this Burberry denim skirt three years ago. It has outside seaming… I think that’s what it’s called… and a slit in the back with four lovely, pewter buttons. And the skirt never loses its shape.

I bought this blue cotton sweater with the silk collar and ruffle down the front at the same time. This outfit is a summer staple for me. I can wear just about any colour of tank underneath. Or swap the sweater for a jacket or just wear the skirt with a tee shirt.

Rule #4   Make a list of what you need. Or want.

This is my list for Spring 2014. Yep…I know… it’s a bit anal. But I never end up with something that’s too similar to what I already own…and I always remember what I need or want. That’s because it’s on the list!

On my shopping list for several years was a leather jacket. I searched for just the right one and finally found it in 2008…. a soft, chocolate brown one from Akris. A bit more pricey than I wanted to pay. But I have never regretted buying this jacket. I love it.

It has cool zipper details on the sleeves and down the front. Imagine my delight the last couple of years when all the fashion magazines and blogs were oohing and aaahing over the “Moto jacket.”  Unhuh…yep…I had one of those!

I can wear my Moto jacket with just about anything, any season. In summer I love  it with my white jeans and a brown tee shirt.

Rule #5   Get Good Advice.

This might be an honest, yet stylish friend. One who knows what she is talking about. Or a salesperson with whom you have built up a rapport.

And here is my secret weapon. One that many people don’t know about…or never think about…or don’t understand. The Personal Shopper. I think that most people do not realize that Personal Shoppers are there to assist you at whatever level you need. They can help you find a whole new wardrobe…or for clients like me..that one special piece. They provide a service that does NOT cost extra.

My friend Liz is the Personal Shopper at Nordstrom in the Rideau Centre here in Ottawa. She is amazing. She has tons of experience and tons of fashion savvy. She’s really down to earth and easy to talk to… not intimidating at all. She wouldn’t be in her position if she didn’t have these qualities. Her goal is to build a relationship with her clients….not just to make a sale. In fact making a sale and making the client unhappy while doing so is the opposite of what she is about.

Over the years… I always visit Liz when I am looking for an investment piece for my wardrobe. I generally call and let her know when I’m coming into the store. And I let her know what I’m looking for that season. Because … I always have a list… well, d’uh!

Liz helped me find all the investment pieces I’ve talked about in this post. You can give her a call if you’re in Ottawa and she’d be happy to help you find what you need.

I don’t shop exclusively at high end stores. And not all of my wardrobe consists of high end “investment pieces.” I supplement my higher end items with tops, jeans and tee shirts from Gap and Zara, for instance. I have a few vintage pieces as well.

I don’t believe in wasting my fashion dollars; I do believe in investing my money wisely. An investment piece to me is something that is well made, classic, and which I don’t mind spending a bit more to buy because I know it will last for years.

Now … I have to go clean up the mess on the spare room bed and hang up all my “good clothes” ….

The sun is shining; I have a good book and a cup of tea waiting for my attention….and this is what I’m wearing for the rest of the day!

What strategy do you use when you’re looking to invest your fashion dollars?


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35 thoughts on “Investment Dressing … My 5 Rules for Not Wasting Your Money”

    1. Oh…she's is her mother's daughter. Does she favour linen pants and silver bracelets? I always love the way you wear your bracelets.
      Thanks for reading, Jane.

    1. Sorry, I have written so much and now I am adding more. I agree-safari jackets do seem to be among the things that never go out of style and don't change much over the decades. 🙂

  1. Hi from Vancouver Island! I have not got any department stores in my town; it is mainly a mix low end franchises like Reitman's , independent boutiques and Walmart. I do like Winners quite a bit though and I mainly shop at thrift stores, Winners and Target. Your style is very classic and has a simple elegance and I love all the outfits you showed here. I agree with you about spending money on something that is worth it and that buying junk on sale is not really saving money. Still, it is difficult to get pieces that will stand the test of time simply because that is exactly what fashion trends are all about-making us shop for something different. I love moto jackets and they will last for quite awhile but in another five years they will look dated. I bought a brown leather bomber jacket in the eighties. I loved it and got about four years wear from it but it has been very dated looking for the past twenty years. The trend that followed the bomber style was the trench coat style, and leather jackets were usually black, long and belted throughought the nineties and naughties. The thrift shops are now full of them.

    Shoe shapes, heel height and stye, collar shapes, lapel widths, hemlines and pantleg widths all change so that we eventually have to buy something else. We can chose to wear our favourite pieces anyway even if they do go out of fashion, or put the away until they inevitably come back in style. My mum just recently got rid of all the midi skirts she has worn for decades, finally feeling frumpy and out of style in them and now they have made a big comeback. Some young person is thrilled with the huge selection of them that just arrived in our local thrift shop.

    So I guess what I am saying is that I find this investment dressing thing a challenge and I struggle with defining just what an investment is. I think perhaps it means an item will be fashionable for about five years when I want it to be good for ten. It can be difficult to predict which trends will stick around and often by the time I have come around to the idea of them they are half way through their lifespan or more. There is a certain degree of gambling involved. My investment pieces tend to be boots and shoes. I am less inclined to bother with the trends and just get what I like.

    1. Hi Shawna,
      I tend to agree with you…about the whole manufactured obsolescence idea…fashion trends come back but usually in a slightly different way. Although…I have a beautiful, long, green tweed blazer from the 90's…that I stored instead of giving away and I've been wearing it the past couple of seasons since long jackets have become popular again. It's so hard to tell, isn't it? Gambling is a good word for it!
      I deleted from my post a few lines about how my idea of "investment dressing" might not be the same as someone else's. I have friends whose budgets are so much more generous than mine that the idea of a denim skirt as an "investment piece" is ludicrous. I think that investment dressing does not have to be about very expensive items…just items whose quality, fit, and hopefully longevity, makes it worth your while to spend a bit more than you normally would.
      As always…thanks for reading and weighing in on the discussion!

  2. Really enjoyed this post – thanks! I have a few investment pieces, but as I'm getting older I'm taking a more critical look at my closet, and I'm lacking in many areas. Love your notebook with your needs. I'm definitely guilty of getting home with something I already have!

    1. I know what you mean. Since I've been retired from teaching…I still find myself drawn to those cute little dresses and jackets..but I know they will not fit into my lifestyle anymore. So I move away from the dresses….and into the jeans section!
      Thanks for reading, Lana.

  3. Your ideas are great, but I wanted to comment on your beautiful home. I love the view. The trees are beautiful!

  4. Enjoyed your post a lot and all of your chic styles! I have developed a strategy for myself called the foundational five…I decide what five messages I want to communicate with my style and then use guidelines much like yours to send those messages. I have a page about it on my blog. I really like your first jacket.

  5. Enjoyed reading your perspective about investment dressing. I have such a melange anymore — luckily my daughter moved out and my close can inhabit her closet. Definitely agree about the list-making — I think too much buying, mine included, is impulsive and requires some thoughtfulness. Thanks.

    1. Thanks. List-making has saved me so many times…when my memory lets me down and I forget what I was looking for in the first place or I can't remember what I already have at home!
      Thanks for reading!

  6. Such great advice! I am so done with buying cheap "throw away" clothes. I've decided that I'm only buying investment pieces from here on out.

    1. I still buy "throw-away" clothes as you call them…but only if they are a supporting act with the main attraction…an investment piece.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I love your outfits! I think I am also at the stage where I am looking through and going what needs to go with what, what can I add to the peices I have, what jackets? I used to watch What Not to Wear, first on BBC, and they most often agreed that jackets make an outfit. Kind of pulls the pieces together, and shows shape. I agree with those rules you listed, some great advice. You look amazing, and i love the wrap dress to show a small waist.
    From the link up, jess
    Please stop by

    1. Thanks Jess! I have always been a jacket girl. I never missed WNTW …whether it was the British one or the American one. Loved them both. I will be sure to stop by your blog.

  8. Great advice … bears repeating especially when said as well as you did! You really have some great pieces, and you should be proud of your "keepers."
    I do a seasonal list, and even publish it to keep myself honest. And I've vowed to not buy anything that I don't really love. I've never been able to settle on one very definitive genre or style, but have two or three modes I have worn most of my adult life. And there are some things I just don't wear well; heavy, menswear footwear (except boots!) mini-skirts, short-shorts … like a lot of women of my age. But then, this year, I'm finding lots of things that haven't worked for me in the past that suddenly do. Not so much because of anything I've done differently, but my eye is changing. I'm with Wendy Brandes and her manifesto that "Never is the next new thing." I really didn't expect to keep having so much fun with clothing at my age!

    1. Thanks Jan. Me too….about having fun with clothes at my age. Love that quote "Never is the next new thing." Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Hi Susan, I just found you on notdeadyetstyle visible mondays. I really like your recent post on investment pieces, so true to have better quality items. Taking an inventory of what you have is crucial though. Love your featured items, especially the dress. Looking forward to following your blog. I am new to the style blog world and i am really enjoying it! Cherie at

    1. Thanks Cherie. I'm pretty new to the blogging world as well….and am having a lot of fun writing and reading.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  10. I've never gone as far as writing out the items I want to purchase (with the exception of purses), but I do keep a general idea in my head of what items i need. I'm also very slow at adopting trends, I want to see their lasting power before I indulge. It's hard sometime to define what one's personal style is. Great post with some great tips. First time here, cant wait to read more.

    1. You're right about it being hard to define one's personal style. Sometimes I think it easier to point at individual items and say that is me but that's not. Although I know I have never been able to do the loose and flowing look that some women look great in.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  11. I am so with you on the investment pieces. I have a black leather jacket that I spent a small fortune on many years ago(it was even on sale). I feel so good every time I put it on to this day! I'm going to run with your list idea. I recently read about taking pics of outfits and am on to that as well. It may sound like a lot of time spent on myself but I find myself better dressed in less time these days. Who knew?

    1. I like the idea of taking pictures of outfit ideas. would save time trying things on in the morning when you;re in a hurry.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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