The following is a guest post from one of my blogger friends, Robert Wall of Untitled Minimalism. Robert is a reformed packrat who writes witty and thought-provoking articles on the topics of consumerism, minimalism, simplicity, and frugality. He also hosts a regular podcast dedicated to the practical aspects of living a deliberate life. I love his posts and I hope you will, too!
If you have an idea for a guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic,” please connect with me to share your thoughts.
Let me start by saying I’m not a believer in the idea of “investment pieces,” at least not in the conventional sense. I’ve read bloggers who talk about buying handbags, shoes, and other fancy stuff as if it was going to last them the rest of their lives: “Invest in that designer piece you’ve had your eye on, but make sure it’s something you know you’ll love forever.”
“These Pieces are Investments!”
And before you think I’m reading too many women’s fashion blogs, the men’s’ blogs do it, too. GQ, for example, thinks I need a $1600 trench coat, a $1550 briefcase, and a $350 pair of shoes. Same argument, i.e. “these pieces are investments!”
The problem is, these things aren’t investments.
Wardrobes are composed of consumables. Sure, they take longer to consume than, say, a hamburger (or a veggie pita, if that’s more your thing), but let’s face it – items get old, worn, stained, and disposed of. During the time you possess them, items in your wardrobe don’t generally go up in value. Your best case scenario is that you’ll have a given item until it finally goes out of style.
So no, I don’t believe in “investment pieces”. I do, however, believe in making investments in your wardrobe – let me explain.
A Love/Hate Relationship with Clothes
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated wearing dress clothes. Mostly because whoever figured out how to make blue jeans comfortable never talked to the people who make pleated-front dress pants – at least not the ones my mom was buying for me. They were uncomfortable. They were miserable. About the only thing you could do with any semblance of comfort was sit there and eat Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Good for my parents, I suppose, but bad for me.
I had this love/hate relationship with dress clothes up until my mid-twenties, when I decided to kill 30 minutes of time before work at the specialty menswear shop next door.
Dropping $20 vs. $50 Well Spent
I discovered that specialty clothing stores sell pants that have a bit more flexibility. There’s a couple extra inches of fabric sewn into the seat seam, so it can be let out. You don’t have to worry about the leg length, since most of their legs are 37″ long or so and they just hem them to whatever you need. Same with shirts, sport coats, and all manner of other clothing.
So instead of dropping $20 at WalMart last time I bought dress pants, I wound up spending $50 for a pair of dress pants that fit correctly. This means I spent over twice as much, but I discovered something interesting – they don’t sit at the back of the closet. They’re comfortable, so I actually wear them!
It’s Easy to Fall Back Into the Trap
Yet even knowing this, even having those pants in my closet, I’ve found that I can easily fall back into the trap of looking for “a few $20 pairs of pants” when I need to replace some wardrobe items – even though the price is the silliest criteria I could possibly pick. Sure, I get more pairs of pants for the money – but does that really matter when I hate them to the point I don’t want to wear them at all?
Rather than buying five pairs of $20 pants, I could (and should!) buy two pairs of $50 pants and actually feel good when I wear them.
The Value of Feeling Good in Our Clothes
After all, feeling good in your clothes isn’t to be underestimated. Feeling good means you do better work. It means you have more fun with your kids. It means you enjoy that movie date more. It means you enjoy life more.
Which means that I can appeal to my frugal side by reminding myself that I’m not spending $30 more on a pair of pants; I’m spending $30 extra so that my ill-fitting wardrobe isn’t making me miserable during a dozen future social functions.
It sounds like a much better deal when it’s put like that, doesn’t it?
I’ll Leave You with One Piece of Fashion Advice
If you’re still looking for that perfect “investment piece”, that piece that’ll be fashionable for the rest of your life, that you’ll never regret purchasing, I’d suggest black socks. In fact, if I could give you only one piece of fashion advice for the future, black socks would be it.
But if you’re looking for something to wear on your next date, to that work function, or even just to the office, skip the “investment pieces” and spend the time (and the little bit of extra money) to find some clothes that really fit you – even if it also involves making friends with a good tailor.
It’ll likely be the best wardrobe investment you’ll ever make!
The above is a guest post from Robert Wall of Untitled Minimalism, a blog dedicated to helping everyday people maximize life by minimizing the things that hold them back.