10 Pieces of Clothing Worth the Investment
1. The (Not So Little) Black Dress
If you're going to splurge on just one item, make it the simple black dress in a style that suits your body type. For slender or evenly proportioned figures, choose a sheath or A-line. An empire waist works for apple, pear and rectangle shapes while a V-neck flatters full figures or large busts. Avoid trendy looks, lace and embellishments. Think of your dress as a blank canvas; use jewelry, scarves and accessories to add color and texture, and to stay current with changing fashions.
Bing Shopping: Black dresses under $50
2. The Tailored White Dress Shirt
Classic, chic, polished and appropriate for any situation, the crisp white button-front dress shirt is a wardrobe essential that many women overlook. Yet no other item can go from the boardroom to the beach. Choose a 100-percent cotton shirt with a single seam down the sides and under the arms rather than double stitching -- this indicates a better-quality shirt. Other necklines come and go, but the standard pointed collar is tried-and-true. When it's not about business but pleasure, wear it unbuttoned over a T-shirt and jeans.
Bing Shopping: Tailored dress shirts
3. The Cashmere Sweater
If you've never worn cashmere, you don't know what you're missing. The essence of understated elegance, cashmere sweaters can run the gamut of cable knit, crew neck, V-neck, cardigan, mock turtleneck and sleeveless shell. Classic colors include grey, oatmeal, camel, ivory, and pale pink. Two-ply yarn and long fibers indicate better quality while short fibers will pill. Expect to pay hundreds for a new high-quality cashmere sweater.
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4. The 10-Mile Heels
Are good shoes worth it? Yes, but only if you resist current trends. The black pump in a medium heel is your best option. Expensive shoes feel better and wear longer due to quality construction and materials. When you put them on, you should be unafraid to walk 10 miles in them -- that's how comfortable they should be. No matter how drop-dead gorgeous they are, if they hurt within seconds they're not worth the price.
Bing Shopping: Medium heel black pumps
5. The Pencil Skirt
You can't go wrong spending money on a good pencil skirt; it's the most useful item of clothing in any woman's closet. It fits well when it hugs your hips and tapers inward, ending at knee length or up to an inch above. Black, navy, brown, grey or beige are versatile neutrals that you can mix and match for years with other essential wardrobe items to dress up or down.
Bing Shopping: Pencil skirts
6. The Leather Jacket
Jennifer Aniston shelled out $12,000 for James Dean's leather jacket, but you can do better for a fraction of the price. Although a motorcycle jacket is hip and timeless, a mid-length fitted jacket is more enduring. For the softest, most supple leather, look for a jacket made of lambskin. Don't waste your money on inferior pieced-together patchwork leather.
7. The Perfect Pair of Jeans
Jeans may not seem like an extravagant purchase, but some brands cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Why spend so much? High-end manufacturers use a finer weave of denim and some wearers claim certain cuts make them look thinner. If you do invest in a pair, mid-rise dark jeans with a boot cut or straight leg never go out of style, while those with 1 percent or 2 percent spandex have a more flattering fit and hold their shape better after repeated washings.
8. The Lightweight Wool Blazer
If you want to impress but a suit feels too formal, a high-quality blazer of lightweight wool paired with pants or a skirt communicates style and sophistication. A well-made blazer will have lapels that lie flat, seams that don't pucker, and a lining that doesn't bunch. Buy one that fits you in the shoulders -- slight alterations can always be done on the sleeves and the torso.
9. The Tailored Trouser
There are pants...and then there are tailored trousers. Mimicking menswear but with a decidedly feminine shape, an elegant pair of trousers that fit perfectly can make your rear appear firmer and your belly flatter. Fabrics like wool crepe have a luxurious drape and resist wrinkles. Choose a mid-rise straight leg trouser that fits just below the waist, and opt for solids such as black, grey or brown, or a small herringbone pattern or fine stripes.
10. The Belted Trench Coat
The November 1918 issue of Harper's Bazaar recommended the trench coat as a gift "For the Woman in Service at Home and Abroad." Price tag: $65. Almost a century later, the classic trench is still fashionable, but today Burberry's traditional cotton gabardine coat begins at $1,295. Yet if you wore yours twice a week for 50 years, your cost per wear would be 25 cents -- an unbeatable investment. Imagine the savings if your great-grandmother had bought one back in 1918 and passed it down to you.