Haute or Not?

Unless you count a couple pairs of shoes and a few handbags, there’s nothing in une femme’s closet that could by any stretch of the imagination qualify as “designer.” Sure, I have items from some of the mass produced lines from Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, but nothing that couldn’t be found at the local Macy’s. Even though I could probably afford the odd designer garment these days, I’ve never thought I had the right body (too short and curvy) or the lifestyle to justify it. With a 10-year-old child, two long-haired dogs, a car that lives outside and only gets washed maybe three times a year, a job that sometimes requires rooting around in dusty storage areas, and hand-eye coordination that is at times less than stellar, I’ve never really considered purchasing any designer clothing, with two exceptions.

The first is an Hermés scarf. Since I’ve really started wearing scarves on a regular basis in the last year, I’ve decided that the right one would definitely add a bit of panache. I may actually pick one up early next year.

The second (don’t laugh) is a classic Chanel jacket. Every few months I think about actually searching for one, then the urge seems to subside for a while. But I’d really prefer a vintage version to any of the current iterations I’ve seen recently, and that’s going to take some work to find. I may just have to admire them from afar for a few more years.

What’s your take on designer clothing? Worth the price or a big waste? Any designers that you’ve found to be more wearable than others?

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  1. Dejapseu: You have my vote on Hermès scarves definitely! The signature style is great but they have some fabulous seasonal designs every year and they are worth considering too.

    I am short and curvy too; which makes it near impossible to buy clothes and wear without alteration. But on my favourites list are:

    Féraud trousers which are exceptionally well-cut and beautifully tailored with thoughtfulness and robustness;

    Tod’s loafers, which are simple classic styles, but still outstanding and smart;

    I also recommend silk-lined gloves of which Loewe with their delicate styling but robust construction are my favourite. I have them in many colours. Silk-lined gloves are rarer than we think as I have found out. But Ann Taylor surprised me. Although I wonder how much you need gloves in LA…

  2. It’s possible, if you are careful, to buy vintage Hermes scarves on ebay. They’re the kind of thing men buy their wives at duty free and stay in the box for a decade, unworn. I’ve looked at some that tempted and seemed genuine.

    I bought a Dior scarf in Bone Marche a couple of months ago. It lives in its Dior box. I love it.

  3. I want Nicolas Ghesquiere to dress me, and Paul Smith to provide the shoes and ties.

    I think, for certain items, the designer label will always mean quality.

  4. shefaly, we actually do have some cool evenings and mornings in LA and I’ve been known to pull out the gloves on occasion. They’re not silk-lined, but I picked up a pair of ochre leather Forzieri’s just a few weeks ago. Couldn’t resist the color!

    Linda, true about e-bay, but a) I don’t have enough knowledge to tell the real from the faux, and e-bay abounds with fakes, and b) I also want the experience of choosing one in the boutique and getting the personalized lesson in various ways to wear it. (I shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that second one, but I am a little bit.)

    Thomas, I’m getting a clear mental picture of your style!

  5. I think it depends.

    Some designer pieces are timeless–like the aforementioned Hermes scarf, chanel suit, and so on. They are things that age well and wear well. Coco Chanel’s designs, even those from the 1920s, have aged very well, as have the styles of Madeleine Vionnet (although not all can wear that kind of bias draping), and the trompe l’oeil sweater by Schiaparelli.

    Some designer pieces are either crap meant for the runway only or are so representative of their era that they’re only wearable as costumes. Mary Quant’s designs, while still fabulous, come to mind as a little TOO representative of their era.

    But again that changes. 20 years ago I would have said that about Balenciaga, or YSL’s work from the 1950s and 1960s.

    The advantage to true designer pieces is two things:
    – the actual design. No matter how good the knockoff, I find the original has a certain something that can’t be replicated.
    – quality. If it is truly a designer piece, it has been made with a lot of care and attention to details of construction and materials.

    However, most of us can’t afford those pieces. I certainly cannot. That leaves you with having them made or getting lucky and scoring a vintage piece.

    I second the Chanel-type jacket. I’ve had a few and I find them flattering on most figures, professional-looking, and “classy” with a “c” rather than a “k”. I don’t know if you’ll find an affordable original, especially vintage, but you can have one made for a very decent price. Just find a good pattern. Vintage or current Vogue patterns are probably the best source for that.

  6. When we went to Vegas last July 4th to celebrate our 25th anniversary by getting married, I came back with an Hermes scarf and a bottle of L’Heure Bleue. I’ll wear them with the basic but very good cashmere sweaters I’ve special ordered a couple of from Scottland each year for the last few years.

    My style tends to the very, very classic from a good label but not neccesarily one you could identify by look. I really only spend big on things I’ll keep for a long time. I figure if I still wear almost twenty year-old Ralph Lauren scarves, the Hermes will earn its keep.

  7. I have a handful of designer items, including a couple of Oscar de la Renta pieces, a Bill Blass jacket (from when Mr. Blass was still alive) and some Donna Karan from the early 1990s.
    I also don’t have the lifestyle or body type (straddle the line between misses and plus), but if I can find the right piece at the right price, I sometimes indulge.