Wardrobe

Buy It For Life

I’m a person who likes what she likes, and when I invest in something, no matter the size of the purchase, I like to buy it for life. Obviously some purchases, like cotton turtlenecks and jeans, need to be repurchased, but others, like coats and handbags and wallets, are things I’d like to buy only once and never again.

I’ve been making a list throughout the years, long before I started this blog, of my ideal wardrobe items (and I’ve written a little about that here.) While this list obviously evolves, especially as my life changes, there are things that I bought early on, or that I inherited, that will truly stand the test of time.

I like to shop just as much as the next person (and probably more than some!), but I am strongly, firmly of the view that you should invest in the best that you can possibly afford, and wear that forever.

The problem is, though, that so many pieces that are theoretically of high quality, and certainly have a price tag that would only make sense if spread out over a lifetime, aren’t meeting my personal standards for quality any longer. Of course there are exceptions, but on the whole, it’s much harder now to find well-made, classic items, at prices that don’t exceed a month’s rent.

An example I’ll use is this. I’ve bought lower-price gowns before for black tie events. My weight has fluctuated a fair amount in the past five years, so I’ve been reluctant to sink a lot of money into a custom gown until I’m certain I’ll remain at the same general measurements.

I found a simple, classically cut gown, on sale, and bought this before my event was originally scheduled–about two years ago, now. And when I tried on the gown two weeks before my event (which finally happened on October 30th!), it didn’t fit any longer. The alterations that were needed would have been expensive, time-consuming, and in the end not really look good, so I turned to my closet.

I’d bought a long black silk column skirt from Ann Mashburn during one of the sales about five years ago. It was a piece I truly could not afford full-price (it was at least $800 full-price), but I’d seen it in the Georgetown store, tried it on, and nearly bought it despite costing more than half my rent for the month. I kept my eye on it, and when it was 70% off during a sale, with one left in my size, I snapped it up.

And then it sat in a box for years. And years. I didn’t have anywhere to wear it, for some reason I preferred to buy a new gown for an event, instead of pulling out this beautiful, classic piece. (I look back at my past self and shake my head, quite frankly.) But then its time came! My gown (and backup gown) didn’t fit. The skirt did, beautifully, at just the right length with my favorite slingbacks, and with a sleeveless ivory silk blouse I’ve also had for years. And it was perfect. I felt elegant and comfortable; everything fit; I wasn’t worried about looking back on the pictures from the evening and feeling dated. I’ll be able to wear this skirt forever, and for a different look, just change the blouse.

I learned my lesson: buy it once–even if it’s for a special event–and buy it for life. It was a pleasant and timely reminder that so many things really only need to be purchased once, and be well-cared-for, to last a lifetime. It’s not just coats and handbags, it can truly be anything.

Do you agree with the “buy it for life” philosophy for all your things, or do you think there’s a time and place for that? I’m eager to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “Buy It For Life

  1. I don’t think I have intentionally done that, but I DO try to buy classic, well-made pieces (or receive them as gifts), and wear them for ages. As an example, I have an older-school Brooks Brothers cable knit I adore. I wore the elbows out and had leather patches sown in. Same thing with my favorite J. McLaughlin cashmere flowy cardigan. As my own weight fluctuates every few years, I feel like I’ve discovered a whole new wardrobe when opening the “too big” or “too small” storage boxes!!! I no longer am willing to buy fast fashion so your ethos resonates!

    1. I did have one blazer with leather elbow patches but it was during the part of my career when I worked at a Harvard research institution, so it was a bit too on the nose, haha. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to cycle back to that! I do love rediscovering old clothes that fit again, which is so nice! Shopping without spending is always good 🙂

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