Spend More on These Wardrobe Basics
Everyone loves a bargain. But it may not make sense to scrimp on the pieces you need and love the most. In fact, sometimes the best way to be frugal over time is to invest a little more upfront in the right items. When you calculate the price per wear of quality, staple pieces, the perceived splurge factor goes way down. So what’s worth that extra investment when it comes to your wardrobe? Here are our picks for nine core cold-weather categories.
It may seem counterintuitive to invest in hosiery since they’re so seemingly prone to runs. But when it comes to an opaque tight — something you can wear for half the year and remains a perennial, practical staple — it’s worth paying a little more for hosiery that will last.
Our pick: Wolford Velvet Deluxe Tights, $45
Soft, durable (they can endure several years of wash and wear), and they don’t bind at the waist. Be sure to wash them in a delicates bag so they don’t snag in the wash, and hang them to air dry.
Boots are one of the most expensive items you’ll buy — all the more reason to make that purchase less frequently. The two keys to maximizing your boot budget is to buy a high-quality shoe and commit to regular maintenance, both of which can allow you to keep your boots for over a decade. (Yes, we said decade.)
Our pick: J.Crew Field Boots, $328
Riding boots are a timeless classic, and this simple J.Crew version will retain its appeal long after you’ve forgotten about the price. Have your cobbler put rubber soles on them before you ever wear them (and replace the soles regularly). Keep them polished and wear them professionally and casually with both pants and dresses.
Tank tops are not just what you wear when it’s hot. When purchased and used correctly, they become a staple piece you wear year-round, layering under T-shirts, sweaters, blouses and blazers. They’re worn close to the body, so softness matters, as does fit — you don’t want your base layer to bunch.
Our pick: Theory Tubular Tank Top, $105
The stretchy quality of these tanks is tight enough to work like a body shaper, without the uncomfortable fit often associated with those suffocating tops. And since you’re wearing it almost every day, it’s important that the stretchiness holds up. The Theory tanks will retain their shape and carry you through all four seasons for multiple years (just don’t put them in the dryer).
If you live in a climate where it gets cold, then you know that your coat and your shoes are what you’re seen in a good portion of the time. Given the fact that it’s your outdoor blanket and your aesthetic facade to the world for several months a year, the importance of owning a great coat cannot be overstated. Look for good tailoring (consider where it’s made and inspect the seams), and be picky about only choosing high-quality fabric (opt for a high percentage of natural fibers like wool and cashmere over acrylic and nylon, which wear out more quickly and are not as warm).
Our pick: Club Monaco Double Face Wool Coat, $495
Wear it to work with a dress or slacks, pair with jeans on the weekend, wear it open when it’s warmer or bundle up with a chunky scarf when temperatures drop. A classic Italian wool jacket with clean lines will weather time and trends.
When it comes to handbags, “investment piece” need not equate with “designer.” Always buy real leather, as fake leather looks cheap and will crack and break down quickly — you’ll get what you pay for. Keep the hardware to a minimum, as it becomes dated more quickly and is one more thing that can break. Avoid visible labels whenever possible and instead opt for fine craftsmanship.
Our pick: Clare Vivier Messenger bag, $380
This bag is practical yet stylish, and the detachable crossbody strap offers multiple ways of wearing and carrying it. The solid brass hardware promises durability that will perform comparably to the soft, nubuck leather.
A neutral pump moves seamlessly from office to casual, and with the right care, will keep your heels high and your price per wear low. Protect them with rubber soles and be mindful of the tips, which can wear down quickly. Choose a walkable height in black, camel or animal skins like python, which go with everything. As with the handbag, avoid too much hardware and instead stick with clean, simple styles.
Our pick: Ted Baker Pointy Toe Pump, $184
They’re a height that looks and feels appropriate for both day and night, and the small gold details are subtle enough to keep it classic, yet pronounced enough to keep them from feeling boring or traditional.
Black Skinny Jeans
When you’re not in your professional attire, chances are you’re wearing jeans much of the time. Black denim is the best investment because it’s dressier and more polished than blue or colored denim, plus it’s more forgiving. Spend the time finding the brand that fits your body. Some stores, like Bloomingdales, have installed Me-Ality size matching stations, which give you a free printout of brands and styles that are the best match for your body.
Our pick: Rag & Bone Legging Jean, $187
The tummy-flattering mid-rise will also ensure you don’t have to worry about anything creeping out the back. With just the right amount of stretch, these jeans will feel more like second-skin pants that form to your curves, while still being more substantial than a knit legging. Changing up your top alone will allow you to wear them more days than not each week.
Belts are one of the more underrated fashion accessories. They can single handedly transform any outfit, reframing your silhouette and giving you shape. And since they are so low impact when it comes to wear (no washing, dragging on the ground or carrying in your hands), a good belt can actually last a lifetime.
Our pick: Nicholas Rose Gold Plate Belt in black or cream, $180
The leather/metal duo on this waist belt brightens and sharpens any outfit. Don’t be afraid to pair the rose gold with other metals, like gold and silver, as well. The multiple size holes ensure that it fits right at the waist when you want it to, but allows for expanded layering in colder months.
Leather jackets are technically always in style, but small details can be a quick giveaway that it was fashionable five years prior to when you’re wearing it. Think simple and elegant and opt for soft or washed leather pieces that aren’t too “tricked out.” The less it looks like a traditional leather jacket, the more wear you’ll get out of it.
Our pick: LaMarque Lightweight Leather Jacket, $395
Think of this jacket as a three-season item that’s equal parts outerwear, blazer and sweater. The suppleness of the leather will get better with age, and the taupe color is a softer alternative to black.
Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is the founder of Sociology of Style (formerly Closet Catharsis), her wardrobe and image consulting company, where she is the "thinking person's stylist." Find out more and follow her on Twitter.