When a Fashion Investment Pays Dividends

It is a truth universally acknowledged by my family and friends that I have a bit of a fashion obsession. That doesn’t make me a style maven, just obsessed with clothes. I love to plan what to buy, and plan what to wear. But what I love best is planning how to wear what I already own. And seeing that a fashion investment I made last year, or even last century, is now paying dividends.

Like this Max Mara jacket below. It was part of a suit I bought back in January 1997. How do I know that? Well, I wrote about buying the suit in my journal.

I was searching my old journals yesterday for stories about travel, and somehow I ended up reading great swaths of entries. School, school, school, marking, complaining about students, waxing lyrical about students, colds, colds, and more colds. I seemed to have had an almost continual cold the first ten years of my teaching career. I also wrote about skiing holidays, running, books I was reading, lunch out with friends. And a lot of stuff about what clothes I wanted to buy, what I bought, and what I was wearing that day. For years, I wrote in my journal during my writing class, while the students wrote in theirs. The idea was to model good behaviour for the kids, plus it gave me time to keep my own journal.

So yeah, I bought this Max Mara suit in January 1997. And during the winter of 2020, I hauled it out again and started wearing the jacket. Or planning to wear the jacket. What with the killer cold I had followed closely by lockdown, I only had time to wear it once in public. But I would have worn it like this. With a turtleneck, boots, and skinny jeans in the winter, and with a striped tee, bootcut jeans, and sneakers in the early spring or fall. The pants of that 1997 suit no longer fit me. But my investment in that jacket has definitely started to pay dividends. Again.

Max Mara suit jacket from 1997 worn two ways. Proving that this fashion investment paid off.
This old investment is paying dividends.

Same with this other old Max Mara suit from 2002. I was a big fan of Max Mara back in the day. Still am. I wore this navy pantsuit with the one-button jacket, sharp shoulders, and wide-leg pants for several years and then packed it away. And for the past three summers, it has factored largely in my wardrobe again. At first I only wore the jacket, but then I had the pants let out by a tailor. I am so glad I did. I now wear the suit with a white tee and my Stan Smith sneakers (similar) and always, always feel like a million bucks. In fact I think I like it better now than I did back in the day. My fashion investment in this suit has paid big dividends.

Navy Max Mara pant suit,  a major fashion investment back in 2002.
Another Max Mara investment payout.

Anyway. Yesterday, after I finished leafing through old journals, reading about what I wore or hoped to wear years ago, I had a shuffle through my collection of old fashion magazines. I’ve long been fascinated by fashion journalism. These days I mostly peruse online, but I have a collection of old magazines that I have kept over the years.

Like the Vogue 1994 issue that featured the white Jill Sander suit on the left below. Or the Harper’s Bazaar from 2010 with a similar Tommy Hilfiger white suit on the right. I’d wear either of those outfits today and feel totally current. Jackets may be double or single-breasted, fitted or loose, the pants slim or wide-legged, cropped or full-length, but you can’t go wrong with a sharp white suit for summer. My current lifestyle means I won’t be buying a white suit anytime soon. But even if I don’t want a whole suit, a white summer blazer is still a good fashion investment.

I laughed yesterday when I saw that 1994 shot, above, of Claudia Schiffer in her white suit. She’s wearing white Dr. Scholl’s clogs. I clearly remember the spring in the nineties when Dr. Scholl’s were all the rage… again. And I remember digging around in the basement for the navy blue ones that I’d bought back in 1977 when the drugstore where I worked part-time sold them. The summer of ’77, and for a couple of years after, I wore them with jeans, with shorts, with everything.

Then they went out of style and I only wore them around the yard, or camping. But that spring back in the nineties, I dug them out, cleaned them up, and wore them to school. I remember two girls in my grade eleven class gasping in admiration. “Oh Miss, how cool. Are those original?” “Yep, ” I chuckled. “So I guess that makes them vintage now, eh?” And I guess my Dr. Scholl’s were a good investment.

But let’s get back to white summer jackets. I hadn’t owned a white jacket in many years when I bought the Theory blazer, below, two years ago. I almost invested in 2015, but opted for my black Helmut Lang one instead. Which is also a good investment, I should add. I mean the only thing more versatile than a white jacket is a black one. Or navy, if you prefer.

In the past two years, I’ve worn this white Theory jacket so many ways. Like with a white Vince tee, my A.L.C. striped skirt, sneakers, and my Eric Javits straw bag. And last summer with my old Equipment blue shirt, high-rise, straight-leg Frame jeans, sandals, and my gold Michael Kors tote. Oversized blue cotton shirts are on trend this year, I hear. So this six-year-old blue shirt should be reaping some dividends this summer.

White Theory jacket. A fashion investment I made and which I hope pays big dividends in the years to come.
My white Theory jacket with a skirt and sneakers, and jeans and sandals.

I am always amazed by how cyclical fashion is. I don’t know why I’m amazed. You’d think I would have learned that about fashion if nothing else. But it never ceases to thrill me when a jacket or a suit or sweater in which I made a major fashion investment makes a comeback, and my investment begins to pay unexpected dividends. I mean, I don’t buy something expecting to be able to wear it ten or twenty years later. If I buy an expensive item, I do so because I love it, it goes with lots of things in my closet, and I expect to wear it for at least a few years. If I can wear it and love it for four or five years, that’s all the dividend I expect to reap from my investment.

Then when I tire of the piece, or it goes out of style, or no longer suits me, I will sell it or give it away. But if I still love it, and it still fits, I will tuck it away in my hall closet. Some pieces I pull out every once in a while and still can’t bear to part with. Some, like my black Max Mara suit, I forget about entirely. Then when my memory is jogged by a fashion layout in a magazine, or by a YouTube video, I dig around and find a treasure. And am able to reap belated dividends from a long ago fashion investment.

I’m hoping that my white Theory jacket will have that kind of longevity. Because it’s white, I’ll have to work a little harder to keep it looking good. But I’m sure that it will never go entirely out of style. Or not for long at any rate.

So, I admit I’ve been obsessed with fashion from a very early age. In fact, a few years ago I found an old notebook from grade six, and on the back page was a list of possible activities for me and my friends to do the summer I was eleven. Even as a child I was a list-maker and an organizer. And on my list, besides visiting forbidden sites like the old Millbrook dam, were ideas like designing and making clothes for Barbie dolls, and making a fashion magazine. Ha. I guess I was the Anna Wintour of my neighbourhood.

I’m still working my way through my old journals from the nineties. Learning quite a lot about myself that I had forgotten. And I’m not just talking about what I wore.

I’m also getting ready to turn my closet for spring. It may be a bit early, but I am so ready to get reacquainted with old and not so old friends that have been languishing in storage since October. I will, of course, let you know how I get on with that endeavour .

Now it’s your turn, friends. What are you wearing this season that is giving you a good return on your fashion investment? Conversely, any pieces that you now realize were a big mistake? Do tell. We’re all friends here. We will not judge. 🙂

P.S. Clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission.


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40 thoughts on “When a Fashion Investment Pays Dividends”

  1. You wear blazers so well!

    I am hoping to get a lot of wear out of my canvas Gucci slides: tigers, pink parasols, and all;).

    1. I see you in slides with tigers and pink parasols. Wish I could wear slides of any description. But I can never find a pair where my feet don’t just slide right on through. 🙂

  2. Love it – the Anna Wintour of your neighbourhood! Blazers are more a winter thing for me. It’s generally too hot in Sydney for them in summer, especially now that I no longer work in air conditioned offices. It’s autumn here and I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with my jeans, both straight legged and a little wider. And my jumpers in fine wool merino, a few chunkier woollen ones and some cashmere ones. I don’t need more but am hankering for a green jumper, possibly cashmere. We’ll see…

  3. I do agree about not binning stuff quickly. So many experts say if you haven’t worn it for a year then you never will . I think that’s just a marketing ploy & not good for our purses or the planet . It needs care though as some fashion traits are so extreme ( I’m thinking massive shoulder pads or ginormous flared jeans ) they’ll not be back for me ever . I tried having an expensive wide shouldered coat adjusted but it didn’t work . Even colours slip away , green disappeared for years & I can’t imagine liking taupe again , but who knows . Generally though , many of my current favourites are old favourites . Now where did I put that old trench coat ….

    1. Enormously flared jeans will never grace my closet again. Not since the late seventies. And taupe on top will not be my friend again either. Although I am looking at buying a pair of ecru jeans.

      1. I am still wearing a khaki raincoat that I remember wearing more than 30 years ago when I was pregnant with my son. It has one pleat in the back and looks like Katherine Hepburn should wear it. I’ve had it relined, but is it still wonderful.

  4. I have things I’ve worn for 20+ years, mostly high-quality cashmeres, but a trouser suit usually doesn’t make it because the seat of the pants get shiny. (When I grew up, men’s suits often were sold with 2 pairs for that reason.) Like yours, Max Mara items have delivered exceptional value. But I keep nothing I don’t wear in a year, year and a half tops… just don’t have space.

    1. I don’t have much space either. My regular closet is tiny. But I have commandeered most of Hubby’s closet for my off season things. And have one rack in our hall coat closet for garment bags of carefully selected things that I can’t yet part with. Thank goodness my husband doesn’t need or want a lot of clothes.

  5. I keep trying to wear a black blazer I bought last year but it’s just not quite warm enough yet. On it goes, off it comes, back and forth. Would really like to put my winter jacket away but it is going to come out again today as I do some garden tidying and spud planting. And whenever I think: time to polish the boots and put them away….down comes the rain, up goes the wind. Like today, for instance. When the temperatures finally rise a bit, I shall burst forth. Like a minimalist butterfly (I am sure these exist).

    1. I’ve dug out my spring coats but am wearing them with winter sweaters. And I’m still wearing my light down jacket. Which I am finding I like for spring. Minimalist butterfly. I love that, Annie. 🙂

  6. I bought a light linen jacket styled like a jeans jacket last year. Have not been able to wear it yet since I live in hot Florida! I usually wear a denim jacket in the winter when I need one which is about 10 times a year! I have a lot of jackets and long pants just hanging in my closet! Even at my age (over 70) I still wear shorts and tee shirts all summer due to the climate here!

  7. Oh the memories of dresses past. There are so many that I wish I could have kept for a resurgance but the space was a real thing and moving was always a clear out time. I am another who does not believe in the one year or out theory and am happy to have a place now that I can put things on hold. I will often check out that ‘stash’ to see if any can come out to play or relax for another season. You reminded me of my childhood where I would make clothes for my Barbie and a particular time that I was in a hat making spree from pop bottle caps and scraps of material left over. When my older cousin would come to visit I would pressure her into helping me make elaborate dresses for my paper dolls. Soooo, I guess I have been a fashion enthusiast for many years as well. Thanks for the reminders and for your own journey through the journals.
    P.s. think I will go have a try on with the white blazer.

    1. Your hat making sounds like so much fun, Diane. I was telling Hubby about paper dolls last night. Mum used to get the McCall’s magazine, and Betsy McCall cut-out dolls were a favourite with me.

      1. How I anticipated the arrival of new issues of my mother’s McCall’s magazines every month and loved Betsy McCall paper dolls! Also loved planning my wardrobe in lists with photos cut from magazines. My Home Ec teacher in junior high was impressed with my fashion journal and little impressed that crabby woman. She actually sent me to the Principal’s office for approval to wear a midi length high-necked prairie-style dress I sewed in class around 1968. It was the first midi worn in school; you would think a mini dress might warrant that. The humiliation of having to kneel on the floor before the male principal for approval was something I never forgot.

          1. Finding one’s style, exploring our fashion identity is quite a journey in life. Being subjected to scrutiny or shame in the process certainly impacts us. Sue, it’s so interesting how your posts unearth such strong life memories and we all get to share. Thank you!

  8. My investment piece was a pair of Ferragamo Vara bow pumps in black patent leather. They were sooooo expensive for me….such an extravagance! I don’t wear them as often now, but those don’t seem to ever go out of style. A fun discovery for me was to see the same shoes (although not patent leather, but sensible glove leather) displayed in the closet of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson at their home museum in Texas. Might get buried in those shoes, I love them so much!

  9. Love your navy suit, fits you so well, definitely a classic. Loved your mentioning the Dr. Scholls sandals, I had two pair in the 70’s, blue and white. I wore them ’till the wood splintered…good memories.

    1. Thanks, Sue. Those nineties jackets are quite on trend now. In fact I’d be quite happy wearing most of the stuff I owned in 1994. If it still fit, and if I still had it… which I don’t.

  10. After reading fashion blogs for a year or so now, I have become more familiar with the investment brands / designers. (Without yours I would have never known about Max Mara!) The ethical shifts away from fast fashion also has me rethinking my shopping. I love clothes, I love to shop, and I also love to pull out old favorites from my seasonal wardrobes. Though as I get older and the years go by, the clothes accumulate and the weeding out of unused items is essential. (I watch an episode of Hoarders now and then for inspiration) As a result, the appeal of classic investment pieces is becoming stronger for me. This became clear the other day when I was doing some browsing shopping in TJ Max. I was looking through a rack of pants when I came across a pair of Vince white linen pull on pants. This spring I have been focused on adding a pair of comfy, casual linen pants to my wardrobe. The TJ Max price tag was more than I wanted to spend on a casual day of browsing shopping, however, in comparison to the original Vince tag, I knew it would be a good investment, and a once in a blue moon opportunity. Due to Covid, the dressing rooms are closed, but all items are returnable. So I took a moment to reflect on my good fortune, and put them in my cart. The good fortune continued, and they fit flatteringly well for pull on linen pants. I will bring them to the seamstress for a slight hemming. Even if I don’t get around to wearing them this summer, I have visions of wearing them even years in the future when I take a Spring holiday trip to a tropical climate. In that vision, my two dogs aren’t around to inevitably put dirt on me.

  11. Some of my go-tos are my Saint James striped tees. Three quarter length sleeves with a slimming but not tight fit. Throw one on and you instantly look polished. Even though you can machine wash them, I take them to the cleaners. They have lasted for years.

  12. I love this post, and can relate to your journal entries! I began teaching (also English) in 95. And the colds…

    Thanks for a great website.

  13. Pat from Wisconsin

    I love this post! Thank you so much! I keep wanting to buy a blazer (one of the few things one can try on in Wisconsin, with the dressing rooms closed in many places) but haven’t found the right one. I like to combine classics with more on-trend items. But I do hate the notion of fast fashion. Speaking of that, I went in an H&M in Milwaukee yesterday just to see what it was like–what a madhouse! My first time. The checkout line was the whole length of the store, what with social distancing and all. I didn’t linger.
    Anyway, I have four questions:
    1-In earlier posts, it looked like you were wearing a hooded sweatshirt under a blazer, but was it one of those dickey things that are just the hood and the middle part–no sides? If so, doesn’t that slip around and come flapping out the front? (It would cut down on bulk, though.)
    2-Also based on my day of attempted shopping yesterday, I noticed that there are plenty of winter coats and formal dresses in dark colors available, but not a lot of regular spring merchandise. Some, but less than normal. (With fewer dressing rooms open and the dearth of merchandise, this would be a bad year to be shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress!) Is this a supply chain problem like with building supplies? Would we do well to stock up now if the supply chain deteriorates further? It could also be a temporary cash flow problem. There seemed to be plenty of shoppers yesterday, maybe somewhat fewer than pre-pandemic. And then there’s the fact that department stores are harder to find than before.
    3-I see that padded things are trendy. Padded-top slides and sandals. Sleeveless tops with shoulder pads. It might take my eye awhile to get used to that. But it could be interesting. What is the current enthusiasm for padding all about? The slides look comfy, but I think I prefer the padding under my foot. I’m thinking the padded tops would be good for people who have sloping shoulders, but might make me look like a five foot two linebacker.
    4-We just got done plotting out a camping vacation from Wisconsin to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI for September (routing ourselves through Michigan and into Canada, but then after seeing your post about your poor mother, I did some online checking. Looks iffy whether even Canadians from other provinces can go to these areas, let alone interlopers from the U.S. Do you have any insights on this? My husband is always ready to dismiss concerns (thinking of eventualities is my job–eye roll). I’m thinking we probably won’t be allowed in, is that right? Or do you think it will open up by September? I did get the feeling that the thought in Canada is “keep your germs and your money out of here.” Really glad we are sending some vaccines your way.
    Thanks for your great posts! I really enjoy all the comments, too! My best wishes to your family and especially, your mother.

    1. I’m going to number my answers, okay?
      1.The dickie hoodie that I wear under my Veronica beard jacket zips onto the jacket in the front and at the neck so it doesn’t move.
      2.I have no idea what is going on with the supply chain. But I will hazzard a guess that stores are trying to get rid of winter stuff that they didn’t sell when the restrictions were more stringent.
      3.I like the sleeveless tees with padded shoulders. But I won’t be investing because I think it’s a trend that won’t last.
      4.At the moment no travellers (even Canadians from other provinces) are allowed into New Brunswick without self-isolating for 14 days. But I do think things will open up by September. Fingers crossed. The New Brunswick government website has a section devoted to COVID travel restrictions that you may want to check before you book.
      Hope this helps. 🙂

      1. Pat from Wisconsin

        Thanks so much! After I posted, I realized it was pretty cheeky of me to pose four questions!

  14. During the pandemic, I’ve fallen in love with olive green pants: two pairs of joggers, a pair of stretchy workout pants and a pair of leggings. I’ve enjoyed adding tops with pastel pinks qua or light blue, especially my long pink cashmere cardigan. Spring is around the corner, but my wool sweaters still feel good. You definitely have a keen eye for fashion that will last! I remember trying to find a perfect white linen blazer after seeing your post a couple years ago, still haven’t found just the right one for me. Thanks for your entertaining posts!

  15. Hello,
    Those are great investment pay-offs.
    Unfortunately I have been unable to do this, as I’ve gained weight too often to really benefit – although tbh, I’ve kept a lot of my really good pieces from when I was slimmer. I’m really reluctant to donate or throw stuff that’s a good make or got loads more wear in it… Our loft is about a quarter filled with my “too small” or “smaller” stuff. There’s also a few bags of “bigger” stuff that I don’t really wear, but I occasionally have “shopped” in the loft and come down with a few things, so not entirely wasted.
    I’m with the lady who said about the not wearing for a year that you should throw out – sometimes things need to not be worn for years before I throw or donate. I have thought about selling, but not got around to it yet.
    I’ve always called myself a classic dresser, rather than a follower of fashion, so that will stand me in good stead for those still being suitable – when I finally lose this weight. My plan for 2021 is to get fitter and lose some weight, so maybe by the autumn I can wear some of those classics again!

    1. Fluctuating weight makes the whole closet editing thing so difficult. Especially if you have “good pieces” with lots of life in them.

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