Investment Portfolio – Tracking Past Performance

Probably the best $125 I’ve ever spent…

“Investment dressing” is one of those phrases that’s currently on everyone’s lips, yet as with any investment there is a degree of risk that the return may not meet expectations. We can make a best guess  but often only time will determine the blue chips in our wardrobe portfolio.

Some of the garments I now consider my best investments weren’t bought with that in mind. The Jones New York leather jacket above, for example, was purchased years ago from, to replace a mid-weight jacket (enough for LA winters). It was intended as a stopgap, but has more than earned its keep, getting almost daily wear between December and April for the past six years. It’s beginning to show some signs of wear, but it has at least another winter or two of regular wear left.

Investment pieces might be those with a low Cost Per Wear due to classic design and durability, or they might be pieces that, while not worn as often, always seem to save the day and are the answer to the Nothing To Wear conundrum.

But in looking back over what I now consider my investment pieces, some common themes emerge.

Quality.  While they may not be “designer” pieces (though one or two are, accessories mostly) they are well-made and durable. Fabrics are substantial and details like seams and buttons are well sewn.

Simplicity. Almost all are simple in design, with few details that place them in a particular season or trend. Classic styling.

Compatibility. They suit our climate, they suit my style, and are easy to coordinate with other items in my wardrobe. These are not the pieces that require purchase of something else to make them work with what I already own!

Fit. Should go without saying, but they are comfortable, they fit and flatter.

Some of my other wardrobe investment pieces include: silk jersey tees and tanks from Eileen Fisher, black Stuart Weitzman ankle boots (now in their 6th year), Arche knee boots purchased in Paris, black booties also purchased in Paris, 7 For All Mankind dark wash boot cut jeans, my Eileen Fisher stretch pencil skirt, a wonderful lightweight taupe silk/cashmere scarf from J.Crew from a couple of years ago, my black Chanel “Executive” tote (bought four years ago as a briefcase alternative, carry it most work days).

How do you define your wardrobe “investment pieces?” How well is your portfolio performing?

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  1. My investment winners have the same criteria as yours: good quality and simplicity. For me, it’s mostly shoes and bags, jeans, and some scarves. It seems I get bored with my tops and skirts *before* they lose their usefulness, so I tend not to invest too much in them. Your EF pencil skirt would be a long term keeper in my closet though!!

  2. I record everything I buy and analyze at end of year for value. Usually the criterion is cost per wear but occasionally it is “Did not wear often but had to have it” e.g., evening jacket for a wedding. When I look at what has returned value, I can justify all the black and the cashmere sweaters, worn here 9 months/year. Problem is nearly everything seems “a smart buy” at the time, especially if shopping with a GF after lunch with wine!

    Also that move of tuning the hanger the other way on what you wear, then checking what is left in original position at the end of the season helps you really see what gets worn.

  3. Cashmere cardigans and v-necks, good jeans, boots do stalwart duty for me. The grey cashmere coat I bought on sale at Banana Republic (their Heritage line) 4 or 5 years ago, my M0851 bag (although I bought it first in Tomato before realizing after 2 years that I really needed it in Black as well — should probably have bought the Black first and stuck to it). My black Fluevog heels (the ones just like your orange ones, with all the straps) have done for almost any dressy occasion in the last 3 years. And a black velvet dress with asymmetrical sleeves that gets me through anything really dressy (like the opera). That last one won’t ever get a low CPW but as Duchesse suggests above, there are some things you have to have. Oh, and my leather jacket and my double-tour watch. Didn’t mean to list so much, but I’m pleased to see that I’m getting there, investment-piece-wise. I still make many shopping errors, but I do think I’m getting better.

  4. I’m curious, I really really love how those Eileen Fisher silk jersey tees look, but I’m afraid of spending so much for a t-shirt. How well do they really hold up and how long would you say they last?

    1. Monkey, I’ve purchased the silk jersey tees (not the viscose) and some of mine are now three going on four years old. I find the straight silk jersey holds up best (and is pricier than the viscose blends). I wash in the machine on the gentle cycle, cold water and hang to dry.

  5. I try to keep track of what goes out to Goodwill or Amvets. For me it’s easier to improve my working wardrobe by reviewing what failed and avoiding that mistake again.

  6. Alas, I have few investment pieces…a couple of purses and that’s about it. Investment pieces are hopefully in my future…but they have not been in my past! I would go for quality and simplicity as well! Your style is something I aspire to!!

  7. Monkey, I have four of the Eileen Fisher viscose jersey tees (the feel better on my skin than the silk jersey). My black “sprang a hole” after I had worn it for a whole season. I was very very disappointed. I mended the hole and will still wear it, but now it is relegated to at home or extremely casual wear (not that it was dressy).

    As far a favorite “investment” pieces, I have to say that my Worth taupe pants and jacket with fine sweater knit shell have stood the test of time (in their fourth year).

    I also have black items that have earned their keep—a sleeveless black knit dress, one with three quarter sleeves, as well. I tend to wear out my go to items. And, I’m always sad when that happens.

    I have several lovely leather jackets, but have found our climate in Dallas too warm (even in winter) for them to get consistent wear.

    1. I still love my viscose tops. I wore the black one A LOT! I will rebuy it next fall if it is offered. That should tell you something.

      Deja Pseu, we both have the black lantern dress. I have worn it SO many times. I hope it does not develop a hole. So far, so good. I have two other viscose EF dresses–both sleeveless.

  8. Mine is doing very well–although that took a great deal of work over the past couple years. I think there’s an important need for balance between things that are everyday or seasonal staples and things that are exciting. And many of my investment pieces are leather jackets–it’s amazing how perfect they are on nearly every occasion when made of good leather and in a flattering cut.

  9. I have a designer (German) coat of cashmere that I bought as a sample model 12 years ago. It’s a classic cut that I can wear belted or unbelted. The color…wasn’t black! It’s an indefinable greyed-green, medium dark, which goes with everything. I had it hemmed to mid-calf length and shortened the sleeves. Total cost: $124. I still love it.

    Your post was really helpful to me in determining my ROI on other pieces. I think my cashmere sweaters will outlive me, other and trendier things, probably not.

  10. I just can’t make the leap to clothing, shoes and bags as “investment” pieces, when I choose something. I never really know for sure, what will make it in my wardrobe for the “long haul”, and what won’t. Often it’s something quite unexpected, that I get the most wear and enjoyment from. Even with a good bag, it doesn’t mean that I won’t tire of it, and want something more “of the moment”. I have fickle taste!

    1. kathy peck, yes, that’s why I was trying to get at; it can be difficult to know at time of purchase which pieces will truly turn out to be good investments.

  11. My best base pieces are all very plain: black ponte or other slim pants, black t-necks, long black cardi.

    My best jackets are all Chanel-esque by Carlisle. I have three.

    Boots are always a good buy.

    I just bought the EF long silk tank–we shall see if it earns its keep.

    re Monkey above: I believe the EF silk tees are often part of the Nordstrom pre-Fall sale, which can be accessed on-line. Our fearless leader Pseu has written about that sale many a time. So they will be a bit cheaper; seldom do they go way on sale. I’ve been watch for a while.

  12. One thing I hadn’t considered consciously was your “compatibility” factor–that, for me, is very big–otherwise, it’s not useful. Thanks so much for the time and thoughtfulness you put into these posts!

  13. I love this way of approaching a wardrobe – especially when one has pieces stretching over years, stages of life, locations, professions, and (admettons)… sizes.

    It occurs to me that my “investment” pieces haven’t been touched in awhile (they are my Go-To pieces when I am fortunate enough to have a reason to be in Paris) – classic perfectly fitted Black I.N.C. pants, one exquisite gray pencil skirt with a subtle charcoal piping (Tahari), a soft flowing Fisher jacket…

    It’s extraordinary that these pieces are 10+ years old, and have been worn so many times, and still look new!

    That said, I have some lovely pieces picked up at “soldes” when I was younger. I doubt they will ever fit properly again, but they bring back such wonderful memories, I haven’t been able to part with them.

    1. Big Little Wolf, could you find some occasions to wear your investment pieces here? I can certainly understand the emotional attachment and not wanting to let that go.

  14. My Chanel jacket, a Narciso Rodriguez LBD, all my Petit Bateau tees, 7 for All Mankind jeans, Manolo black flats, a hot pink Loro Piana scarf. And my Beautifeel shoes that enable my walk to work! I think about 70% of my clothes fit this category. I truly don’t own very much, and having at least 70% of my closet be stuff I pull out over and over again helps me keep things light.

    Nice post.

  15. My black leather jacket — best money every spent —
    for versatility, cost per wear, and pleasure to wear.

    And black cashmere sweater.

  16. I suspect simplicity may be the most important criteria for me. I’m thinking of the pieces I have held onto the longest…my cowboy boots, my Fryes’, a down trench I inherited. And thanks to frugal scholar for the tip on the silk tees, an item I think I need.

  17. Agree with RoseAG. Whenever I donate clothing, I evaluate why I’m letting it go. I’ve found the main reasons are issues of quality, cut/style/fit, and unflattering color. The items I wear often fit my preference for simplicity and refinement in detailing. These include several sleeveless Brooks Bros non-iron blouses in white and light blue (always worn under a jacket or cardigan), and great fitting jeans – both blue and white. Love Stuart Weitzman shoes. Although somewhat expensive, they fit me well and feel like money well spent. I have a few special pieces I enjoy adding to my basics – a red/white Burberry cotton topper and a Dries printed silk top.

  18. Hope I’m not blabbing too much Pseu–it IS your blog. For those interested in EF silk: The EF long tank I bought is 79 at Garnet Hill–only XS and XL in gray left. They had the short sleeve tee at a big $10 off, but all seem to be sold out. The long tank looks great, but must check w/ my daughter first! There is a free shipping with 75 dollar purchase floating around, which I used on the tank. i will try to find it again if anyone is interested.

  19. I don´t wish to go into details, but I prefer quality, functionality and esthetics, when buying whatever.

  20. Except for my daily wear of jeans and black t-shirts, I guess I consider everything an investment purchase 😀
    It used to be suits for me….

  21. I am laughing at your “cost per wear” analysis. I saw a cartoon showing a woman in a job interview. The male recruiter tells her that she’s really not qualified for this job as a finance director because women just don’t have a head for numbers. She looks at him, then starts listing each item of clothing, the price, when and where she bought it, and the cost per wear.

    She says, “I got these shoes at Macy’s. On sale for 30% off, then I used my Macy’s discount card for another ten percent. Total cash was $90. I’ve worn them three times a week for the past two years, which brings the cost per use to [whatever.]”

    She did that for everything she was wearing and I thought, “Yeah, I could do that with my clothes, too!”

  22. Right now everything article of clothing I own is an investment purchase as I got rid of everything that didn’t fit the parameter you’ve listed. So far the only purchased that hasn’t panned out is the Lands End trench and it wasn’t very expensive.