8 investment pieces actually worth my investment

8 investment pieces actually worth my investment

I’ve been reading Tara Button’s new book A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life. She talks about how poor construction and planned obsolescence affects everything from appliances to bedding to baby clothes. It’s bad for our budgets, it wastes our time, and it wrecks the environment.

I especially liked her chapter on faster and faster fashion, and it got me thinking about my own wardrobe, and specifically about the pieces in my wardrobe that have lasted.

Today I’m sharing eight pieces that weren’t exactly cheap, but have been worth it in the long run. These pieces are right for me and my life so I actually wear them—a lot. They’re well-made, and un-trendy in the best sense. They’re not wearing out, and not going out of style.

I’d love to hear about your long-time favorite pieces—the ones that have worked for you for the long haul—in comments.

1. Noonday Collection necklaces.

Good craftsmanship for a good cause. I have two and will add another to my Christmas wish list because I wear these all the time and they still look brand-new. (One is pictured above, the other is hanging with the blue sweater in the top closet photo.)

I had an experience a few years ago that changed the way I buy jewelry: the metal on my favorite necklace had gotten dirty and funky, and I couldn’t figure out how to clean it. The jeweler told me that, unfortunately, my necklace was not designed to be cleaned, and that’s true for much contemporary costume jewelry (even the pricier stuff!). After a year (or even a few months) of wear, it’s trash.

Now I’d rather spend a little more for the good stuff that lasts.

2. Madewell jeans.

I hate shopping, and denim shopping is the worst kind of shopping. Imagine my surprise when last year—after a friend’s recommendation and some internet research—I walked into Madewell and walked out with jeans I love in twenty minutes flat.

They won’t last me a lifetime, but I bet I’ve worn my favorite pair a hundred times and they’re holding up great.

3. Gold jewelry

Simple gold jewelry goes with everything and lasts for years. I use mine to complete the rule of three, even if I’m just wearing a tee and jeans.

I love my hoops from a local Louisville jeweler, but if you’re not in town these J. Crew hoops are similar. My favorite lightweight pendant (pictured) was a gift from a local shop, but I also own and like this heavier Stella and Dot rebel pendant, pictured below in the boots photo. (Heads up if you’re shopping: years later, my Stella and Dot pendant still looks great, but I bought earrings at the same time that haven’t held up at all.)

4. Citizens of Humanity jeans.

I’ve had these white jeans for nearly five years and have worn them a hundred times, easy.They’re my go-tos in warm weather and go with everything. (I got them from Stitch Fix in a rare keep-everything-get-25% off fix)

Hot tip: if you know what you’re looking for, ThredUp is a great place to find pricey denim at a big discount.

5. Neutral sweaters.

For neutral sweaters that won’t wear out in a single season, I love these basic cashmere crews from Everlane. (Although this year I might try the v-neck version, because I need to replace a worn-out, less durable v-neck that wasn’t worth the modest amount I paid for it.)

Last year I also discovered this sweater shaver, which extends the life of pilled sweaters.

6. Tieks.

It’s no coincidence that several shoes show up on this list, because with just a few pairs, I wear my shoes all the time. For eight months of the year, you’ll find me in Tieks most days. They don’t last a lifetime, but they last a long time. (Those are slate grey croc pictured above; you can read my review here.)

7. Kork-Ease boots

I like the Kork-Ease brand for style, fit, and durability. I was reluctant to shell out the cash for these Natalya boots (although sites like 6pm often have similar styles at a big discount) but when it’s chilly out these are the shoes I reach for first.

8. Hunter rain boots.

When I bought mine seven years ago, discounted at Nordstrom Rack, I wasn’t sure if I’d wear them enough to justify the price. Wow, was I wrong. I’ve been surprised at how often I wear them. I love them so much I got Will his own for Christmas last year (because he was always stealing mine! And yes, we wear the same shoe size.)

What favorite pieces do you turn to again and again? Which purchases have been worth it in the long run? We’d love to hear all about it in comments. 

investment pieces fashion

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  1. It’s funny, I was just thinking about this issue (consumerism/disposability/buying “better”) this AM on my way to work. I will have to check out that book. Thanks for sharing your investment pieces! For me Cole Haan shoes would definitely make the list.

  2. Liz says:

    I agree with this philosophy on clothes buying. I tend to invest the most in my winter coat and shoes, things that I know I will wear daily or weekly. I buy cheap tshirts, which I plan to replace every year. I am trying to be more intentional with my shopping and not impulse buy the cute trendy sweater at Target, because I know in a year it will end up in my donation pile. I’m in my 40s now, so I can afford to invest in better quality pieces, but when I was younger and had less disposable income, I did buy a lot of fast fashion.

    I am conflicted on how to shop for my kids, because they outgrow stuff so quickly. Their clothes usually only last one season for them before being too small, so I do tend to look for cheaper pieces for them. I buy them better quality shoes, but fewer pairs.

    • sarah says:

      I know what you mean with the kid thing. I really don’t focus on quality clothes for kids. I focus more on things that are easy, comfortable and practical so they can be laundered quickly and items can mix and match. The pants need to be good enough quality that they will last the season, but that’s about it. The trick with kids is to not get trapped into buying too much.

      • Ashley says:

        This is where I’ve landed, too — and I completely agree about not buying too much. I’ve made that mistake and have always regretted it! For kids, more choices are not always better. They tend to stick to their favorites anyway (which is why I doubled up on a pair of black sparkle leggings from Target).

      • Heather says:

        I love Tea Collection for kids, especially girls. My daughter is skinny, so if I buy a summer dress for her in a slightly big size, she can wear it all summer, then over a long-sleeve shirt in the winter, then it’s a shorter dress the next summer / winter, and then when it’s indecent as a dress, I sometimes still can get a third year out of the item as a long tunic top with leggings. (If she weren’t so skinny, the dress would probably be to narrow on her the third year…) We have dresses that have been worn at least every other year for 3 years and still look good!

        I buy them for our boys, too, but mileage varies depending upon the style and how interested the boys are in playing the ever-exasperating “Let’s pretend we’re dogs and drag our knees all over the concrete” game. That said, I have pairs that are on their 4th year of solid use as they get handed down from older boy to younger boy — without pilling or looking worn.

        They also have outfit collections — three dresses or shirts with two pairs of pants for a slight discount. One year I just invested in two outfit collections and supplemented with a few hand-me-downs. Best year ever in terms of kid shopping!

    • Amanda says:

      Kid’s clothes are tough – I’ve gotten to the point with my two girls where they each get a “capsule” wardrobe for the season (fall/winter and spring/summer). Each has a set number of shirts/pants/skirts/dresses depending on what they like to wear (my oldest is all about dresses, but my youngest is a bit more flexible). Generally, for the items that overlap, I buy two of each size, since they still like to twin (they’re 2 and 4). I also figure if I have about 10 pairs of pants, then we’re good – covers more than just a week, since potty training is still a thing at this point. I buy only black leggings (Target) and jeggings (Crazy8) as pants. Dresses and tops tend to come from Old Navy. Jammies are also from ON, and they have 2-3 sets each. Undies are from Carters – cute patterns, and nice quality/fit. Shoes are my weakness with them (same for me) and are generally sourced from Target or Old Navy. As a side note, I tend to buy the same colors for the entire family, so if we ever have family pictures, I can pull together outfits from clothes that everybody already has and know that we’ll look somewhat pulled together (it drives my mom crazy that I keep my kids in a narrow range of colors, but it works for us).

      This was probably overly detailed, but it took a few years, and way too many overly-full drawers, to get to this point for me – hopefully it saves someone else so much trial and error. 🙂

      • Marissa says:

        I love this! Our family also sticks to smaller wardrobes and a specific set of colors and although I get teased for it, my friends always save those colors of hand-me-downs just for me! It’s the best!

    • Kristin says:

      I have been fortunate to have been given or able to find hand-me-downs for my 4.5 yr old since he was born. Unfortunately my primary source has dried up and I wasn’t prepared with garage sale finds so this fall, for the first time ever, I’ve had to buy an entire wardrobe for him! I not only had to decide on the quality and quantity to purchase, but decide on his ‘style’ for the first time, lol. I really like Children’s Place! They are comfortable but good quality to be passed down. Speaking of passing down, my 2 yr old is wide where my 4.5 yr old was tall, and so many of my carefully saved and handed down clothes don’t fit! Can’t win!

    • Amy says:

      Buying second hand for your kids is a good option. (and yourself when available) It is cheaper, but also better for the environment – win win!

    • Katie says:

      I’ve been trying to buy my kids clothes second hand for that very reason. Perfectly good clothes have been consigned because they were outgrown. We’ve got a good shop locally, but I’ve also had great luck with ThredUp and Swap.com

  3. Sue Stentz says:

    Vince brand sweaters that are oversized coat-like cardigans. They work well
    indoors for warmth or as a coat. Also, any style cashmere sweater.

  4. sarah says:

    My best “investment” item has probably been my tan wool Brook Brothers dress coat. Although I actually bought it used for $10. I’m not even sure what decade it is from. It’s definitely an older coat, but it looks great and it’s kind of old-school in a good way. I wear it to work all the time in the winter, but I also would wear it with jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt when I want to dress super casual, but also step it up a tad to appear like I still tried. Other key investment items are good jeans (I like Joe’s Jeans), black jeans for work and quality boots. Also, this is along a different line, but by my observation and opinion people that take the time and investment to have a great hair cut and color can simplify in other areas and still look great.

  5. Nichole says:

    I loved this…and just added that book to my TBR. I am big on buying things that last. I am also not super trendy so I always ask myself when I try something on “if I see a picture of me wearing this 10 years from now will I roll my eyes and go ‘what was I thinking?’” I also don’t like to have a lot of “stuff,” so I’m much happier buying a few nice things than a lot of garbage.

    Investing in great furniture has been good for us, but you have to be super careful here. Expensive does not always equal quality and sometimes the best things are hand me downs or secondhand because they were actually built to last.

    I also think investing in a great coat makes sense. I live in the south so my coat doesn’t get a ton of wear, but having something nice with classic lines makes me look put together.

    And finally jewelry. I don’t own a lot of fancy jewels, but all of my jewelry is real gold, silver or platinum. It’s not trendy, but it’s timeless.

  6. Lydia says:

    I took the plunge on a pair of Tieks earlier this year and I am in love with them. Hoping they last a long time. I also have a wool coat by London Fog that I have been wearing for almost a decade and it still looks great.

  7. Jen says:

    Love your list! I am very intrigued by the Everlane cashmere sweaters but turned off by the dry clean care – I live in a rural small town and do not have convenient access to a dry cleaner. Curious, do you dry clean your Everlane sweaters? If so, how often? I have a feeling I’m going to take the plunge and buy one. HA!!

    • Anki says:

      It should be noted that clothing labels are only really required to list one cleaning method for a garment; they do not have to list all possible cleaning methods that could be used.

      As a knitter, I can tell you that you should *totally* be able to hand wash one of these sweaters. Just get yourself a bottle of Eucalan or Soak or another gentle detergent (but not Woolite, even though it has wool in the name) and use a clean dishpan for washing in. Just follow the directions on the detergent of choice. You’ll need to dry the sweater flat, and you don’t want to wring or twist things.

    • Mimi Gregor says:

      I wear cashmere sweaters all the time. I actually wash them in the washer. It MUST be cold water and the handwash cycle (if it has one). Then I air-dry them. I’ve never had a problem with shrinkage.

  8. Ashley says:

    I can’t speak to Everlane specifically, but I’ve hand-washed cashmere sweaters and they come out fine. Just lay them flat to dry, with no heat.

  9. Michelle says:

    Many, many years ago when I was fresh out of college my brother gifted me a coach leather black bag. This was before coach put logos on anything with the exception of a leather tag via a chain. (Amazing brother, right?!) A couple of years later when I could afford it I got a tan one, double handle satchel. Both very basic but high quality and timeless. I’ve used these, not babied them, but do put leather conditioner on them occasionally. I’ve gone through countless lower quality and/or trendy bags and always go back to these. When you can afford it, high quality timeless bags are a great investment.
    I have wool pea coats handed down from my mom, and an amazing barn jacket from my Dad. Ocassionally they need buttons, the dry cleaners have repaired pocket linings, and I do dry clean at the end of each season.

  10. Ashley says:

    I have a lot to say on this topic. 🙂 Things I’m willing to invest in:
    – Good outerwear. I live in a four-season climate and having quality coats makes a huge difference in terms of my comfort. They’ll last for years if you forgo the super-trendy stuff.
    – Ecco booties. They fit perfectly and go with all my work pants in the winter months. For footwear in general, I find that less is more.
    – A high-quality leather bag for everyday use.

    I haven’t splurged on premium denim. I only wear denim on the weekends, and my size has fluctuated in the past few years. My most expensive pair of jeans ($80) is my least favorite to wear, even though they look incredible.

  11. Diana says:

    I just read that book and was so inspired in many ways! It really made me take a lot at my consumer habits!
    I’m realllllly tempted by higher quality jeans but I’ve also have a couple pairs from Old Navy that are super comfortable and I’ve had for 4 years with no signs of wear. I just recently had to get rid of a bunch of Victoria Secret bras and underwear that finally wore out after almost weekly wear for 8-10 years. I’d consider that pretty long lasting. Otherwise, I consider 4-5 years a good span of time to keep my clothes which I KNOW needs to be longer. I haven’t really bought much clothes since I read that book though and I’ll definitely need to think about longevity more before purchasing.

  12. How adorable do you look in that black and white outfit with your hoops?!

    Investment pieces are my favorites and I comb second hand stores and sites like Zulily and TJMaxx frequently because you never know what will show up. I RARELY pay full price for anything. That said, I’ve never regretted paying a little more for pieces that last.

    I’m also a Hunter devotee. Red ones for me, and I’ve had them for almost 10 years.

    Twenty (!) years ago, I splurged on a St. John black knit halter dress, and it’s still current and adorable. I also have a white knit dress and long sweater jacket that I bought for $100 each at the (sadly defunct) Scholar Shop in St. Louis.

    Gold jewelry, yes! Also pearls, which are my go to.

    My Donald Pliner shoes are my favorites and I snag them whenever I find them on sale. Made in Spain and I wear them for years.

    Trench coat from Brooks Brothers. I paid full price for it, but it’s worth it.

    Good wool sweaters. It gets cold here in the winter, and I live in sweaters. Dale of Norway wools show up online at a discount frequently and they’re gorgeous and beautifully made. They’re classic pieces that never go out of style, but if you’re looking for fashion forward pieces you’ll want to go with a different brand. When I wear them I always feel like I should be skiing in the Alps!

    One wonderful thing about investment pieces is that they immediately upgrade your entire outfit. So you can pair a beautiful sweater with $30 jeans and an on trend necklace and still look fabulous. Thanks for another fun post, Anne.

  13. Chelsey says:

    I live in my Madewell Kent Cardigans in the fall/winter. I own three and pay attention to when they go on sale.
    Also a big fan of this new shop where I purchased a vintage, wool, plaid skirt that fits like a glove. It was $12 but such high quality! I know I’ll wear it a ton this winter.
    Finally, I purchased two pairs of wedge sandals from GH Bass about three years ago, and they’re still in good shape. They’re my favorite shoes ever and exemplify my rule about buying the things you love in multiple colors in order to build an easy wardrobe. (My mom and grandma taught me well).

  14. Daleen Thomas says:

    Your post today is a great reminder for us all. I’ve been purchasing a Cartonnier blazer each year for the past 10 and I love them. You can dress them up or down and they’re made so well (my 10 year-old one still looks new). You can find them at Anthropologie.

  15. Mary says:

    I used to “buy for life”. And then I shape-shifted my body. My “for life” items no longer fit. So I got new “for life” items. Then I shape shifted again.

    Now I have committed to maintaining my “body for life”! And not in the unattainable version, but my more comfortable, more realistic version. And now when I buy for life, I am much more confident that I will indeed wear these beloved items for many years to come.

  16. Ahh!!! I adore the practice of buying sustainably. I’m always more willing to pay more up front if it means an item will last for years and years. One of my favorite investment pieces is a classic, cognac-colored leather tote: the XL Laptop Tote from Piel. I obsessively condition the leather a couple times a year so that it will keep looking lovely for another decade or two, at least! A sweater shaver is on my to-buy list, too. Thanks for this post, Anne!

  17. I have a wool winter coat from the French chain 1-2-3 that is 20+ years old. The style has a high, fake-fur collar with matching cuffs, and it’s a streamlined, gored cut that the saleswoman called Russian–more Cossack. It’s just off-trend enough to never go out of style. The quality is excellent.
    I have a short leather trench that I bought in Milan even longer ago. I need to replace the lining, but the leather still looks great.
    I had a simple black leather tote bag from Furla that also lasted for years and defied trends, though recently the leather got all sticky and icky and I wasn’t able get it clean.
    Jewelry is harder. I have lots of cheap, handmade stuff from Africa that still looks great and doesn’t go out of style. Simple post earrings are timeless.
    A silk cardigan is nearly 20 years old and still looks great. Actually, much of my closet dates to when I stopped working in an office 15 years ago. If you have natural fabrics like cotton and silk, you can dye (or, for white shirts, bleach) and either deepen or entirely change the color.

    • Ruth says:

      Thanks for mentioning something so important – good quality clothes can be remade or repaired. Replacing a lining, having a moth hole rewoven, re-soling shoes, dying items – all are trades/skills that need to be given life again.

  18. Beth says:

    Love this concept Anne and completely agree! Three items I can recommend are my Bean Boots from LLBean (guaranteed by LLBean if you need to have them resoled), Barbour beadnell wax jacket, and Herve Chapelier 925N nylon bags. I have had these objects collectively for decades, and in my opinion they only look better the longer I have owned them. Added bonus to the nylon bags: machine washable! And I second you on the madewell Jeans. Won’t last forever, but when you wear them every day you definitely get your money’s worth. Plus madewell often offers $20 off jeans if you bring in an old pair!

  19. Suzay says:

    I am no Goth Girl, I love color, but when I reviewed my Many-Years-Often-Worn items, they seemed to be all black! Short black suede warm boots from LLBean, a black turtleneck from LLBean, a suedy flared 8 panel black skirt, a straight black skirt with elastic waist, my flat black Clark’s shoes, plus some low-heeled navy leather pumps (Thrift $10). Also polo shirts in all colors, an invaluable crisp cotton white top, and a red and black swing dress coat that’s 25 years old from JCPenney.

  20. Jonesie says:

    Anne, in the picture, your Tieks look like the elastic plastic covers that doctors and nurses wear in the OR over their shoes! I don’t like the way the elastic sort of wrinkles in—do they all look that way? Show me another picture of them in another color!

  21. Amy says:

    I second many items that people have said. My lifers include Bean Boots, silver or pearl stud earrings, a good wool winter coat, a leather handbag (mine is crossbody as I like being hands free), Birkenstocks, and wool or cashmere cardigans. A few items I would add that I haven’t seen yet are silk scarves, vintage necklaces in natural materials such as coral or amber, and LLBean chamois shirts; they last FOREVER and definitely have that woodsy chic vibe.

  22. Mimi Gregor says:

    Quality bras are a must have. There is such a difference between high-end French companies and Victoria’s Secret. It changes one’s silhouette and one’s posture for the better.

    A quality handbag for everyday. Mine is a really pricey Coach bag that I got for a mere fraction of its retail price at a consignment shop. It makes me feel good to wear it, and it should last me YEARS.

    Pikolino’s Vicar boot https://www.pikolinos.com/us-en/vicar-w0v-8610.html?color=CUERO in black. Pricey, but very well-made and VERY comfortable. It’s like walking on pillows. I even wear them with skirts, because that’s how I roll. Well-made, quality shoes in general, although I usually get them cheaply at consignment shops also. The Pikolinos were undoubtedly the most I ever spent on a shoe… but well worth it.

  23. Sarah says:

    I LOVE that you are covering this topic! I have worked in an upscale consignment shop the last 3 years while in grad school and it has been EYE OPENING to say the least- both in regards to my own style/closet/shopping habits and also into the habits of women in general. We get more clothing every day, many items still with tags on them and others hardly worn. It is glaringly evident how many of us (myself included, in the past) shop out of boredom or distraction or to numb uncomfortable feelings, rather than out of need. Working at the shop has also given me insight into exactly what you are talking about- to buy fewer, better items and highly limit “trends” that pass in 5 minutes. Good leather, wool, cashmere, denim, and solid metal jewelry are 100% the way to go!

  24. Erin says:

    I love this topic as well – it’s definitely been the way I’ve gone in the past few years when choosing things. My Frye boots were a pricey but fabulous investment. I get then polished and re-soled every other year or so and they look brand new each time. They get softer and more comfortable with age too. Also, my husband gave me a gorgeous wool coat maybe 8 years ago that I’m pretty sure I’ll have forever – it’s a classic Burberry trench. Cuyana is a brand that goes by the mantra “fewer, better things” and I try to remember that when making purchases. I have a leather tote from them that gets daily use but doesn’t look it at all!

  25. Amanda June says:

    As I get older I too have gravitated more toward high-quality, longer-lasting pieces and try to resist “fast fashion” (not always easy), but I try to be careful not to make it an excuse to just spend more money on everything 😂 I recently discovered Madewell jeans and agree that they’re amazing — just the feel and fit are so different from what I’m used to!

    An important note: Noonday Collection and Stella & Dot are both MLMs, or multi-level marketing companies, which are unethical and exploit women especially. Though the product itself may be great, I guarantee you can find similar items elsewhere without supporting such a harmful business model. You can find more information on Wikipedia (“multi-level marketing”), through a new podcast called the Dream, and here: https://medium.com/@AestheticDistance/why-are-people-still-defending-mlms-c1d6ea878f83

  26. Jessica says:

    I am trying go be better about this – only buying things I really love/need and saving up to spend a little more on quality items. One of my favorite purchases ever is my tan and black pair of Sabah shoes. They were WAY more than I normally spend on shoes, but I wear them nearly every day. They are so comfortable and can be re-soled to last for years to come. I want another pair in grey, but thanks to solid construction I won’t NEED another pair for quite a while.

  27. Nicole H says:

    Shoes, bras, and outerwear are usually where I try for quality. I live in the Midwest and truly believe that to appreciate winter here, you have to know how to dress for it. Last year I finally bought Bean Boots from LL Bean and they are worth every penny. And I love how the company backs their products. My daughter’s backpack is from there and looks like new even though it’s over two years old. And her previous LL Bean backpack was used for four years and looks like new. We only upgraded to get a water bottle pocket.

    I also love my Taos leather sneakers and Sofft chelsea boots. Well made and I love how well they fit.

  28. Andrea says:

    I love this post! I’ve been curious about Madewell and now I’m intrigued by Everlane, too. I tend to spend more on blazers/jackets, shoes, and handbags. My Sam Edelman flats last me so much longer than the cheap Target pairs I used to buy. I have some bags and wallets that were splurge pieces which I use a ton, and they still look brand new. Thanks for the reminder to invest in quality over quantity. I’m grateful I have that privilege.

  29. Celia says:

    I’ve started sewing recently and am trying to make and mend my own clothes now. What I do buy is usually second hand save for shoes, though for Danskos I have gotten used. I will spend money on shoes I can wear everyday. Where I live that’s Birkenstock, Dansko, and Olukai sandals. Pricey, but my feet don’t hurt and they work for my life. (My Danskos are my usual dress shoes.) I don’t have many pairs of shoes but wear them all the time.

  30. Janna says:

    Because of you I wear Madewell jeans and absolutely LOVE them! I love good handbags and my current favorite is Baggalini bags—good looking and lightweight. J

  31. Kaitlin says:

    Hunter rain boots are the best. My first pair lasted for 7+ years of almost daily dog walking wear. I finally caved and bought a new pair last year after I had worn the soles down too far.

  32. Naomi says:

    Noonday Collection is amazing! I buy often from them and have built up a nice collection of earrings and necklaces that are stylish, well-made, and fair trade. I’ve never gone wrong with a piece from them!

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