It is a truth universally acknowledged by my family and friends that I have a bit of a fashion obsession. That doesn’t make me a style maven, just obsessed with clothes. I love to plan what to buy, and plan what to wear. But what I love best is planning how to wear what I already own. And seeing that a fashion investment I made last year, or even last century, is now paying dividends.
Like this Max Mara jacket below. It was part of a suit I bought back in January 1997. How do I know that? Well, I wrote about buying the suit in my journal.
I was searching my old journals yesterday for stories about travel, and somehow I ended up reading great swaths of entries. School, school, school, marking, complaining about students, waxing lyrical about students, colds, colds, and more colds. I seemed to have had an almost continual cold the first ten years of my teaching career. I also wrote about skiing holidays, running, books I was reading, lunch out with friends. And a lot of stuff about what clothes I wanted to buy, what I bought, and what I was wearing that day. For years, I wrote in my journal during my writing class, while the students wrote in theirs. The idea was to model good behaviour for the kids, plus it gave me time to keep my own journal.
So yeah, I bought this Max Mara suit in January 1997. And during the winter of 2020, I hauled it out again and started wearing the jacket. Or planning to wear the jacket. What with the killer cold I had followed closely by lockdown, I only had time to wear it once in public. But I would have worn it like this. With a turtleneck, boots, and skinny jeans in the winter, and with a striped tee, bootcut jeans, and sneakers in the early spring or fall. The pants of that 1997 suit no longer fit me. But my investment in that jacket has definitely started to pay dividends. Again.
Same with this other old Max Mara suit from 2002. I was a big fan of Max Mara back in the day. Still am. I wore this navy pantsuit with the one-button jacket, sharp shoulders, and wide-leg pants for several years and then packed it away. And for the past three summers, it has factored largely in my wardrobe again. At first I only wore the jacket, but then I had the pants let out by a tailor. I am so glad I did. I now wear the suit with a white tee and my Stan Smith sneakers (similar) and always, always feel like a million bucks. In fact I think I like it better now than I did back in the day. My fashion investment in this suit has paid big dividends.
Anyway. Yesterday, after I finished leafing through old journals, reading about what I wore or hoped to wear years ago, I had a shuffle through my collection of old fashion magazines. I’ve long been fascinated by fashion journalism. These days I mostly peruse online, but I have a collection of old magazines that I have kept over the years.
Like the Vogue 1994 issue that featured the white Jill Sander suit on the left below. Or the Harper’s Bazaar from 2010 with a similar Tommy Hilfiger white suit on the right. I’d wear either of those outfits today and feel totally current. Jackets may be double or single-breasted, fitted or loose, the pants slim or wide-legged, cropped or full-length, but you can’t go wrong with a sharp white suit for summer. My current lifestyle means I won’t be buying a white suit anytime soon. But even if I don’t want a whole suit, a white summer blazer is still a good fashion investment.
I laughed yesterday when I saw that 1994 shot, above, of Claudia Schiffer in her white suit. She’s wearing white Dr. Scholl’s clogs. I clearly remember the spring in the nineties when Dr. Scholl’s were all the rage… again. And I remember digging around in the basement for the navy blue ones that I’d bought back in 1977 when the drugstore where I worked part-time sold them. The summer of ’77, and for a couple of years after, I wore them with jeans, with shorts, with everything.
Then they went out of style and I only wore them around the yard, or camping. But that spring back in the nineties, I dug them out, cleaned them up, and wore them to school. I remember two girls in my grade eleven class gasping in admiration. “Oh Miss, how cool. Are those original?” “Yep, ” I chuckled. “So I guess that makes them vintage now, eh?” And I guess my Dr. Scholl’s were a good investment.
But let’s get back to white summer jackets. I hadn’t owned a white jacket in many years when I bought the Theory blazer, below, two years ago. I almost invested in 2015, but opted for my black Helmut Lang one instead. Which is also a good investment, I should add. I mean the only thing more versatile than a white jacket is a black one. Or navy, if you prefer.
In the past two years, I’ve worn this white Theory jacket so many ways. Like with a white Vince tee, my A.L.C. striped skirt, sneakers, and my Eric Javits straw bag. And last summer with my old Equipment blue shirt, high-rise, straight-leg Frame jeans, sandals, and my gold Michael Kors tote. Oversized blue cotton shirts are on trend this year, I hear. So this six-year-old blue shirt should be reaping some dividends this summer.
I am always amazed by how cyclical fashion is. I don’t know why I’m amazed. You’d think I would have learned that about fashion if nothing else. But it never ceases to thrill me when a jacket or a suit or sweater in which I made a major fashion investment makes a comeback, and my investment begins to pay unexpected dividends. I mean, I don’t buy something expecting to be able to wear it ten or twenty years later. If I buy an expensive item, I do so because I love it, it goes with lots of things in my closet, and I expect to wear it for at least a few years. If I can wear it and love it for four or five years, that’s all the dividend I expect to reap from my investment.
Then when I tire of the piece, or it goes out of style, or no longer suits me, I will sell it or give it away. But if I still love it, and it still fits, I will tuck it away in my hall closet. Some pieces I pull out every once in a while and still can’t bear to part with. Some, like my black Max Mara suit, I forget about entirely. Then when my memory is jogged by a fashion layout in a magazine, or by a YouTube video, I dig around and find a treasure. And am able to reap belated dividends from a long ago fashion investment.
I’m hoping that my white Theory jacket will have that kind of longevity. Because it’s white, I’ll have to work a little harder to keep it looking good. But I’m sure that it will never go entirely out of style. Or not for long at any rate.
So, I admit I’ve been obsessed with fashion from a very early age. In fact, a few years ago I found an old notebook from grade six, and on the back page was a list of possible activities for me and my friends to do the summer I was eleven. Even as a child I was a list-maker and an organizer. And on my list, besides visiting forbidden sites like the old Millbrook dam, were ideas like designing and making clothes for Barbie dolls, and making a fashion magazine. Ha. I guess I was the Anna Wintour of my neighbourhood.
I’m still working my way through my old journals from the nineties. Learning quite a lot about myself that I had forgotten. And I’m not just talking about what I wore.
I’m also getting ready to turn my closet for spring. It may be a bit early, but I am so ready to get reacquainted with old and not so old friends that have been languishing in storage since October. I will, of course, let you know how I get on with that endeavour .
Now it’s your turn, friends. What are you wearing this season that is giving you a good return on your fashion investment? Conversely, any pieces that you now realize were a big mistake? Do tell. We’re all friends here. We will not judge. 🙂
P.S. Clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission.