Magazines are all boasting “money-saving” bargains these days, but for many readers, especially those of us in college, fringed Phillip Lim skirts priced at $495 and Lanvin T-shirts at $478 are just not realistic options. Fashion-forward magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and W provide stunningly inspirational style ideas and covetable pieces, but they aren’t always the most economical venues from which to make purchases.
So how can one manage to look good, especially in preparation for spring, without dropping thousands of dollars with each outfit? The answer is simple and clichéd, but it’s a mantra that works: invest in worthy pieces and cinch spending on everything else. What exactly defines a “worthy” investment piece? Many would argue it is one whose value appreciates with time, but unless it is a Hermès Birkin bag, whose starting price is at $10,000, or a $2500 Chanel 2.55 bag, it’s hard to equate any clothing piece to sturdy long-term stock. A more modern, refined way to define it is any pricier piece that will transcend seasons and styles.
An investment piece isn’t always the most expensive, however. For example, an inclusion of fine details like sharp structure on a dress (a la Balenciaga); the practicality of an item, such as in a classically supple black leather satchel; or the simplicity in a flawlessly designed silk blouse are all much more decisive factors. A perfectly soft and sheer T-shirt from T by Alexander Wang will run you around $80, but think of all the ways you can wear it: it pairs perfectly with simple jeans or shorts, drapes just right as an under-layer, and most importantly, the quality will not diminish with every wear and wash. Clearly, an investment is less about how much you pay for it and more about how much you get out of it.
As Fashion Week for fall 2009 is happening around the world, editors, bloggers, and critics seem to be blown away by the collective “constructivism” mindset that many designers have taken on. At BCBG Max Azria, models wore paneled dresses with just the right amount of slinkiness; the Proenza Schouler house has been receiving non-stop praise for its witty reconstruction and the textures the designers used for their collection.
Creativity and uniqueness shine on around designer tents everywhere, and the same technique should be used to spot splurge-worthy pieces. Jiwon Hur, a junior architecture major, wore a chic sweater with a one-of-a-kind pearl, jewel, and lace applique, which she paired with an oversized scarf. Hur put together a perfect outfit in shades of pastels, but remained modern with a versatile sweater. Lily Hwang, a sophomore architecture major, gleamed in her safari-inspired khaki coat, which gave a terrific infusion of color to her otherwise dark outfit. It put a utilitarian spin on her feminine look, one that was heavily applauded on spring runways.
Be it a sweater, a coat, or a T-shirt, the bottom line is that there are no guidelines to picking out the right wardrobe investment. Instead, look over your closet, and the next time you go shopping, don’t shy away or ignore any pieces — be imaginative with what you can put together, and don’t be afraid to spend a little more on a worthy piece every now and then. The art of great style is to know how to put pieces together and how to pair high- and low-end items. What you deem worthy is up to you, and that’s the best part.