Customer Watch: True Investment Dressing—with Jewelry

The best Letters from the Editor of a magazine are informative well beyond a summary of the theme and contents of the magazine. The letters provide thought-provoking insight into larger issues on the minds of experts who live and breathe the subject matter of their publications. I particularly enjoy the musings of Editor in Chief Linda Wells of Allure magazine.  

 

In the July 2009 issue of Allure, Wells considers fashion from the standpoint of a practical-minded consumer. She writes that she cheered when the First Lady was photographed wearing the same flowered print dress more than once: “By appearing in it at two important events, Mrs. Obama spoke to all of us who open our closets every morning wondering what to wear, and then grab the thing that makes us feel pretty, over and over again.”

 

Wells contrasts this approach to fashion with that of celebrities who borrow a dress only to wear it once and then return it, in the extreme case wearing two different outfits to the same party in order to get double the publicity. Wells emphasizes that the concept of wearing something once does not and cannot apply to “anyone who pays retail for her clothes.”

 

Wells continues: “Fashion people like to toss around the term ‘investment dressing,’ as if an evening gown or a pair of pumps gained value over time. To see the folly of that notion, try hauling your clothes to a resale shop. The Italian coat with the tag still attached? Fifty bucks if you’re lucky.”

 

She paraphrases Diana Vreeland discussing the value of couture for the concept that “pleasure is the return on investment” and concludes, “Fashion does have its practical side, but its real worth is measured in what it says about us and how it makes us feel.

 

Indeed, fashion provides both the emotional satisfaction of wearing something wonderful, however that may be defined for an individual (whether trendy, glamorous, edgy, sexy, classic, creative, or simply exquisitely comfortable) and the practical value of providing the means to allow an individual to dress appropriate to a situation. What apparel and even the most beautiful handbag or shoes do not have, however, with the exception of museum-quality couture, is intrinsic value.

 

Now consider the value of an item of fine jewelry. A beautiful bracelet or brooch, a pair of earrings or cufflinks, a strand of pearls, a cocktail ring, a designer wristwatch, a statement necklace—each of these (and every other variation on the theme) exceeds expectations as to both the pleasurable and practical measurements of worth. Much jewelry is deemed to merit wearing on a daily basis, and for many individuals, their most “serious” jewelry appears at special events. Jewelry is worn for what it says about the wearer, and how it makes him or her feel. There are few gifts, whether from a loved one or a self-purchase, that cause a pulse to flutter more than a fabulous jewel.

 

Fine jewelry goes beyond both the pleasurable and practical measurements of worth, of course, because the very essence of fine jewelry is precious. The Italian bracelet with the tag still attached, unlike the coat, won’t go to a resale shop—it more likely will go to a fine jewelry store as consignment goods or to an auction house. Indeed, the bracelet may have been stripped of its tag, worn and loved for decades and still merit consignment or auction, without necessity of being last season’s style. And gold buy-backs in the current economy attest to the intrinsic value of the materials that comprise fine jewelry.

 

Compared with disposable items of clothing and accessories that are driven by current styles, yet are at the same time fragile and easily damaged, fine jewelry has substantially more longevity. Moreover, it is readily recyclable, the metal and stones able to be reclaimed and used repeatedly if and when the owner should choose to follow the dictates of fashion.

  

 

We’ve seen the First Lady reach again and again for a stack of classically elegant Loree Rodkin diamond bangle bracelets for special occasions. Is there any doubt that when she goes to her wardrobe and considers what to wear, she is choosing the jewelry that makes her feel pretty, over and over again? Those bracelets are a perfect example of items with pleasurable, practical and intrinsic value—true investment dressing.