Dressed to invest: buying clothes for the long haul
We read a lot about investment purchases – but who are the women who spend big on their clothes, and why do they do it?
Dena Walker wearing a Vivienne Westwood antique print dress, which she bought for €485. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Jennifer Hord wearing a Missoni scarf that she bought for about €200. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Katie Healy with a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes, which cost her €600. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
There was a time, not too long ago, when fashion journalists, stylists and TV personalities alike wouldn’t baulk at the idea of spending €10,000-plus on a handbag (see: Oprah Winfrey), and, by that same token, they had no problem recommending the same to their readers and viewers. The logic was, of course, that we each have the right to decide what to do with money we earn for ourselves.
But then came the recession, and big-ticket items became an embarrassment. There was something insensitive about extolling the virtues of a five-figure dress when people were struggling to pay their mortgages or feed their children.
In recent years, things have levelled out slightly. The fashion world has copped on a bit, striving to strike a balance between recognising exorbitant purchases as something of a folly and respecting the fact that, for some, spending €500 on a dress is okay as “an investment purchase”.
Such a purchase is, by its very nature, something that has longevity – it is usually an item that has been carefully considered by the buyer (after a long period of covetousness), and those who invest in their purchases are usually the same women who avoid fast fashion, preferring to spend their cash in a well-thought-out lump sum than blow it all in increments on knickers and onesies.
Loopy for Louboutin
“I couldn’t justify going into Penneys and spending €100 every three or four weeks, like a lot of girls I know do,” says Katie Healy, a fashion blogger (whatkatiehealy did.blogspot.com) and investment purchaser whose Christian Louboutin habit is almost in double figures.
“I have eight pairs of Louboutins,” she says. “But I’m always recycling them, on eBay and whatnot, so I’m constantly getting rid of old ones and bringing new ones in.”
It’s not just Louboutins Healy invests in – her money is usually spent on what she calls the finishing touches: shoes, handbags and coats.
“I’d be a really infrequent shopper,” she says. “I buy a few bits and pieces every now and then that are of good enough quality, and I don’t really shop in cut-price shops, except for things like leggings.”
Dena Walker’s shopping strategy is similar to Healy’s. “What’s the phrase? Buy cheap, buy twice,” says Walker. “Unless it’s something very basic like a T-shirt, the cheaper it is, the less long-term it is.”
Walker describes herself as an “opportunistic” but sporadic shopper, and her decisions to spend on leather handbags, good shoes and standout dresses are often down to her personal situation.
“I’m lucky, in a way, because I’m not married and I don’t have children,” she says. “The responsibilities I have are limited, in that I don’t have to apportion a part of my salary to anyone but me. That sounds like a very selfish point of view, but I can’t magic up children to spend my money on.”
Discounted but not cheap
Jen Hord is in digital advertising and, like Walker and Healy, believes that good- quality clothing is worth investing in – although, she says, she would never buy a big-ticket item at full price.
“I tend to spy something that I like and then I do lots of internet research on how I can find it for a super discount price,” she says. That said, Hord admits that this doesn’t always mean items are, strictly speaking, affordable.
“I bought a Moncler jacket that I found on a UK website for about 70 per cent less than what I would have paid here in Ireland,” she says. “I feel like I scored a deal, but I still spent a load of money on that coat.” A basic, padded parka by Moncler costs €775 at moncler.com.
When we talk about investment purchases, there is an unspoken assumption that these items cost more than a month’s rent – but what is the most expensive item these women have ever bought?
Walker’s top purchase was a Vivienne Westwood dress, bought earlier this year from saintbustier.com for €489. “That was probably the most expensive single item I’ve ever purchased, but I would have spent £200 or £300 on things over the years. I have a Mulberry bag that was more expensive than the dress, but that was a gift.”
What made that dress worth spending €489 on, though? Is it really that different to a €50, even a €100, dress?
“I was going to a wedding when I bought that dress, and I felt really good about myself,” she says. “I felt as if I looked well; everyone was really complimentary and it made me feel really good at a time when I needed it. Now, every time I look at the dress it makes me feel happy, because I remember how good I felt in it.”
Healy’s biggest purchase was, unsurprisingly, a pair of shoes. “Actually, I regret that purchase,” she says. “They were ridiculously expensive, and I kind of bought them on impulse. I had made a lot of money. They were close to €800.”
Hord’s most expensive purchase was also a pair of shoes, by Prada, at Brown Thomas. “Let’s hope my husband won’t read this,” she says, when asked how much they were. “They were maybe €350.” This wasn’t full price, however. “They were on sale, and I had been eyeballing them for a long time, but it was a very Celtic Tiger purchase.”
The scarf collector
She has a weakness for scarves by Italian label Missoni (available in Brown Thomas and, occasionally, online at theoutnet.com for a sizeable discount).
“I probably have about 15 of them,” she says. “Everyone looks fantastic in them and I just love them. Everywhere I go, I try to save up and buy a Missoni scarf – but I don’t buy them at full price.”
All three women agree that, when it comes to quality, you get what you pay for.
“When I was a kid, my dad told me that there are three things you should always spend money on,” says Walker. “Carpets, mattresses and shoes – because you use them all the time and they need to wear well.”
“I don’t like cheap fabric,” says Hord. “So I tend not to buy cheap, fast fashion. But cheap, to me, is inexpensive, nice clothes. I buy a lot of items from Cos [a Swedish brand, available in BT2 and online at cosstores.com], where you can get a lot of classic-looking pieces that look really cool.”
Still, Hord searches for the best price before she parts with her money. “I buy from the website, because it’s cheaper, and I’m not a small person either, so sometimes it’s difficult to find the right size in-store.”
For Healy, the proof is in the wearing. “I have a pair of shoes – my first pair of Louboutins – that I’ve worn to death. They have been worn so much, yet they look pristine, and I get a lot more satisfaction from that than from wearing a pair of shoes that would be crumbling beneath me.”