Ask a Stylist: What Clothes Are Worth Investing In?
As a new fall season approaches, what clothes are worth investing more money in? And are there areas where I can save money?
I certainly subscribe to the idea of buying less and buying better. Tailoring is where I recommend spending the most you can afford, as a good fit, design and fabric are essential for it to last. The tighter it is, the more stress points there are. Look how well these neat Tom Ford suits held up to 007 leaping through buildings.
The fabric must be properly fitted, the seams reinforced and doubled. A good costume requires quality fabric that doesn’t bag at the seat (ie buttocks) or knees – it should have spring and flexibility. A typical example is Paul Smith’s costume. I have a purple suit that I have worn a few times when doing my hair (which is a bit like an Olympic sport – lots of reaching, carrying, bending, stretching, kneeling and running) and it really doesn’t crease.
I would recommend Paul Smith’s wool hopsack – a lustrous weave that is lightweight, breathable and wrinkle free. The punchy pink suit with skinny trousers (£235, paulsmith.com) can be worn separately and works well with burgundy, navy, charcoal or white (the blazer is £440, paulsmith.com). There’s a wide trouser suit in lilac if you’re rounder.
If your budget allows, go for the bespoke – The Deck on Savile Row is amazing (prices from £2,550). For ready-to-wear, I recommend Joseph, Theory, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, Cefinn and, on the high street, Arket. I own a few Arket suits – the jackets fit quite well but I don’t wear the pants without the jackets, the fit just isn’t good enough. Again, the hopsack costume is a great choice! It’s available in red, tan and black (£149, arket.com).
Then the coats. Choose carefully and they will last for years. Coats are important because they are often the first thing people see. Save for a good quality or designer brand, or use Depop, Vestiaire Collective or HEWI for second-hand jewelry.
If you choose classic shapes like a wrap, Crombie, or long military style, you can count on them to work year after year. The key to this is high caliber fabric and craftsmanship. Wools and wool blends provide warmth and resistance. Nanushka’s wool/camel silk number below is super loose and easily peps up a denim and sweater weekend look.
If you want a solid investment, then the king of coats really is Max Mara. The brand has been honing its coat game since 1951 and is renowned for its craftsmanship, good price range and inclusive sizing. My picks this season would be the water repellent cotton cape (£785, gb.maxmara.com), the classic cashmere (£2,050, gb.maxmara.com or visit your local Max Mara outlet for bargains) or the trademark teddy bear shape. The rich burgundy-wine style (£870, gb.maxmara.com) looks amazing with navy, blue, black and cream. To wear with trainers or moccasins in autumn and a long boot in winter.
Textured coats can easily double as evening coats, adding interest and a touch of fun. I own a Stand Studio style in faux shearling. It’s lightweight but still kept me warm in New York in December – no small feat (£624, shopbop.com). Another trick is to use an electric debobbler – great for sprucing up a dull coat, and a gentle steam helps too.
I really believe it is worth buying jeans from the jeans specialists – the designer denim brands. Yes, they are expensive, but they spend all their time fine-tuning their cuts, pocket shapes, fabrications, etc. Browse The Outnet before settling on full-priced jeans, but you’ll need to be quick as sizes sell out quickly. I note Mother, Citizens of Humanity, Agolde and Slvrlake. The straight leg model from Slvrlake is an all year round shape.
Knitwear is also worth investing in – unless you live with naughty cats or young children! Don’t buy cheap knits made from polyester and acrylic because they are guaranteed to make you sweat profusely at an inopportune moment and they still look cheap. British wools are strong, durable and extremely warm. We will all be wearing them at home this winter, when heating is prohibited. Shop from the strong UK labels &Daughter, Charl knits or Navy Grey. Navy Gray’s new ‘The Oversize’ is reminiscent of the Celines of the Phoebe Philo era, with reassuring weight and density.
Cashmere is worth it (but always freeze new additions — whether store-bought or second-hand — for a few days in a plastic bag to kill moths). The softest knits are the most expensive because you only get a small amount of the silkiest hair under the chin per goat and they tend to be parted by hand. Look at Aethel, Alabaste, Lisa Yang and Le Kasha. I rarely buy cashmere at full price but it’s worth it for Margaret Howell — I’ve owned a few pieces from the brand for over 10 years.
What not to have fun? Don’t waste money on white T-shirts or shirts, just go to Cos, Uniqlo, Colorful Standard, Arket or Jigsaw for white tops and shirts. The problem, and my apologies if it’s not advisable, is that a white top doesn’t look good. Until someone figures out how not to ruin armpits, seriously, don’t bother.
I like a sock and sandal but have had little longevity with expensive socks. They feel better, they look good but they still go heel and toe. Let’s finish with the shoes. Controversially, it seems to me that while designer shoes undoubtedly look better, they aren’t necessarily easier to wear than a cheaper option. But if you want to splurge, a good way to test the merits of your investment is to wear new shoes on the carpet for at least two hours once you get home to see if they’re really comfortable.
Anna Berkeley is a London-based personal stylist and style columnist for FT Weekend. She has worked in the fashion industry for over 25 years, previously as a buyer for Selfridges and Prada, and a consultant for Margaret Howell. Each month, she will answer questions from readers about fashion and what to wear. Have a question for Anne? Email her at [email protected]
Follow @financialtimesfashion on Instagram to discover our latest stories first