When I’m reading fashion blogs or mags two words make my blood boil as if I was preparing a tea party for vampires. In case you were too lazy to read the very heading of this here article, they are “investment dressing”. What exactly is investment dressing? It’s the practice of buying expensive clothes because they will last longer, be of higher quality and if it’s a classic piece still be worn for seasons to come when all the trends of peplums and polka dots have been relegated to the bargain bin. The idea of investment dressing is further expanded upon with the pretend maths of “cost per wear”, which aims to prove through irrefutable number crunching that the coat you’ve been eyeing that costs half a week’s wages actually isn’t that expensive provided you manage to wear it 700 times without growing sick of the sight of it.
Now I have no problem with some of the ideas behind investment dressing as I do think we tend to buy too much anyway, but I do have a problem with the language, in particular its name. Let’s face it, that pile of Alexander Wang jumpers and Isabel Marant embroidered denim is not going to help you make a down payment on the cosy little cottage complete with porch swing for your retirement. Those leather leggings? Not an investment. That chunky intarsia knit sweater? Also not an investment. That vintage Chanel dress? Okay, that might be an investment if you resell it as a collectible. Oh, wait you wore it (you fool, wearing your clothes!) thereby depreciating the value and it’s now no longer an investment. An investment is something that has the potential to increase in value, and clothes as a general rule will not do that. Clothes shopping is basically an entertainment expense for many of us with already full closets, and anyone trying to persuade you otherwise probably has vested interest in convincing you to spend more money.
Indeed if you have worked hard to earn the cash to splash out on spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of shoes or bag, why do you have to justify it as some sort of investment? It’s your money and you’re free to spend it on whatever brings you pleasure. When someone buys tickets to a music festival and all the sideshows of their favourite bands it’s not “investment music listening”. I’m not really sure why fashion should be any different except that it has a history of being treated as frivolous, superficial lady business. Women are taught that being selfish is an unattractive and unfeminine trait, and therefore “simply because I want to” is not considered a suitable reason. I believe that the allure of investment dressing lies in the fact that it provides a concrete, faux logic rationale to buy that expensive Equipment silk blouse over the Sportsgirl version.
I also think the concept of investment dressing is incredibly irresponsible to recommend to young women who don’t have the sort of disposable income to blow on high falutin’ apparel. Women are already on the back foot when it comes to being financially literate. The stereotype that “mathematics is for boys” still exists, women continue to earn less than men and Australia has an ever-growing problem with credit card debt. Do we really need to be selling women the idea that buying a skirt they can’t afford is a fiscally responsible decision?
I hate how the idea of investment dressing tends to lean heavily on the idea that the expensive decision is always the wise decision, when that simply isn’t true. One of the most worn items in my closet is a $60 pair of jeans my boyfriend bought for himself before deciding were too tight that I got tailored in at the waist and have worn at least once a week for the past six years. And conversely I’ve bought plenty of higher ticket items thinking they’d be in constant rotation in my closet but they’ve just sat there unloved and unworn. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this but while I’m a fairly good judge of what I like, it turns I’m a fairly poor judge of what I’ll get a lot of wear out of. That’s why when it comes to investments I’d prefer mine to be in managed funds, not my wardrobe.