As a new autumn season approaches, what are the clothes worth investing more money in? And are there areas where I can save?
I certainly subscribe to the idea of buying less and buying better. Tailoring is the area where I recommend spending the most you can afford because good cut, design and fabric are essential for it to last. The more fitted it is, the more stress points there are. Look how well those neat Tom Ford suits stood up to 007 leaping across buildings.
Fabric needs to be properly fit-tested, seams strengthened and lined. A good suit requires quality fabric that doesn’t bag at the seat (aka bum) or knees — it has to have some spring and a suppleness to it. A case in point is Paul Smith suiting. I have a purple suit I’ve worn multiple times when I’m styling (which is a little like an Olympic sport — lots of reaching, carrying, bending, stretching, kneeling and running around) and it genuinely does not crease.
I’d recommend Paul Smith’s wool hopsack — a brilliant weave that is light, breathable and anti-wrinkle. The punchy pink suit with slim trouser (£235, paulsmith.com) can be worn separately and works well with burgundy, navy, charcoal or white (blazer is £440, paulsmith.com). There is a wide-leg trouser suit in lilac if you’re curvier.
If your budget allows, then go bespoke — The Deck on Savile Row is amazing (prices from £2,200). For off the peg, I recommend Joseph, Theory, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, Cefinn and, on the high street, Arket. I own a couple of Arket suits — the jackets are fairly well cut but I don’t wear the trousers without the jackets, the fit simply isn’t good enough. Again, the hopsack suit is a great choice! It comes in red, beige and black (£149, arket.com).
Next, coats. Choose carefully and they will last for years. Coats matter, as they are often the first thing people see. Save up for a good-quality or designer-level brand, or use Depop, Vestiaire Collective or HEWI for a preloved gem.
If you choose classic shapes such as a wrap, a Crombie or a long military style, you can rely on them to work year in, year out. Key to this are high-calibre fabric and craftsmanship. Wools and wool blends provide warmth and are hard-wearing. The camel wool/silk number from Nanushka below is super-slouchy and easily peps up a jeans-and-jumper weekend look.
If you want a solid investment, then the king of coats really is Max Mara. The brand has been honing its coat game since 1951 and is renowned for its craftsmanship, good range of price points and inclusive sizing. My picks this season would be the water-repellent cotton cape (£785, gb.maxmara.com), the classic cashmere (£2,050, gb.maxmara.com or visit your local Max Mara off-price outlet for some great deals) or the brand’s cuddly teddy-bear shape. The rich burgundy-wine style (£870, gb.maxmara.com) looks amazing with navy, blues, black and cream. Wear with trainers or loafers in autumn and a long boot come winter.
Textural coats can easily double up as evening coats, adding interest and a smattering of fun. I own a Stand Studio style in fake shearling. It feels light but it still kept me toasty in New York in December — no mean feat (£624, shopbop.com). Another tip is to use an electric debobbler — brilliant for sprucing up a lacklustre coat, and a gentle steam helps too.
I truly believe it’s worth buying jeans from the jean specialists — the designer denim brands. Yes, they are expensive but they spend all their time honing their fits, pocket shapes, fabrications and so on. Trawl through The Outnet before you go for full-price jeans, but you will need to be quick, as sizes sell out fast. I rate Mother, Citizens of Humanity, Agolde and Slvrlake. The straight-leg model from Slvrlake is a year-round shape.
Knits are also worth putting money into — unless you live with naughty cats or young children! Don’t buy cheap, high-street knits made from polyester and acrylics, as they are guaranteed to make you sweat profusely at an inopportune moment and they always look cheap. British wools are hardy, long-lasting and extremely warm. We will all be wearing them round the house this winter, while the heating is out of bounds. Buy from the solid British labels &Daughter, Charl knits or Navy Grey. Navy Grey’s new “The Oversize” is reminiscent of Phoebe Philo-era Celine, with a reassuring weight and density.
Cashmere is worth the money (but always freeze new additions — whether they are from a store or second-hand — for a couple of days in a plastic bag to kill off any moths). The softer knits are the most expensive, as you get only a small amount of the silkiest hair under the chin per goat and it tends to be separated by hand. Look at Aethel, Alabaste, Lisa Yang and Le Kasha. I rarely buy cashmere full price but it’s worth it for Margaret Howell — I have owned some pieces from the label for more than 10 years.
What not to splash out on? Don’t waste cash on white T-shirts or shirts, just go to Cos, Uniqlo, Colourful Standard, Arket or Jigsaw for white tops and shirts. The issue, and apologies if this is unsavoury, is that a white top doesn’t wear well. Until someone works out how not to ruin the underarms, seriously, don’t bother.
I love a sock and a sandal but I have had little longevity from expensive socks. They feel nicer, they look good but they always go at the heel and the toe. Let’s end with shoes. Controversially, it seems to me that although designer shoes are undoubtedly more beautiful, they are not necessarily more wearable than a cheaper option. But if you do want to splash out, a good way to test the soundness of your investment is to wear new shoes on the carpet for at least two hours once home to see if they really are comfortable.
Anna Berkeley is a London-based personal stylist and style columnist for FT Weekend. She has worked in the fashion industry for more than 25 years, previously as a buyer for Selfridges and Prada, and a consultant for Margaret Howell. Every month, she will answer readers’ questions about fashion and what to wear. Have a question for Anna? Email her at email@example.com.
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