Monday, June 25, 2012

In praise of old clothes

My antique pearl brooches

"Clothes should be worn. They should be used. They become more personal, more distinctive and more beautiful - for me - when they have been worn lovingly for years.


One of the key reasons I believe well-worn clothes look better on everybody is that the wearer is inevitably more comfortable in them. You never look stylish when you are conscious of what you’re wearing.

This leads to several conclusions. First, invest in clothes that are good enough to last a long time. Cheap clothes come and go. You rarely develop the same connection with them as with something that has worn with you over several periods of your life.

Second, don’t acquire too much. I know it’s a wonderful position to be in, but I know I have too many shoes. Even with a rigorous policy of giving away or selling old pairs, I have too many shoes. It is noticeable that the newer pairs take a lot longer to acquire character, because they are not worn as much or polished as often. They will probably never catch up. When you get more money, buy better shoes, not more shoes.

Third, look after clothes well and pay to have them repaired. Few stains can’t come out of a shirt if dealt with quickly. They can be taken in and out (to an extent) as you lose and gain weight. Treasure the frayed collar or cuff as signs of your connection to that cloth - don’t wear that shirt to a job interview, but be aware of how good it looks with your old denim and worn-in brogues at the weekend. This is age-worn, old-money style.

At some point you will have enough clothes. That’s ok. Like gradually filling up your house with good-quality furniture, your consumption will inevitably slow. Spend the money on something else. Your kids perhaps. The consumerist urge will fade, and give way to a far richer, more rewarding period in your life filled with easy, simple elegance."

Words of wisdom from the menswear blogger Permanent Style.


  1. Love this. Thank you...very timely for me personally.

  2. Here, here! And charming brooches. Find well-worn clothes please me more than well-worn shoes. I truly mourn when a favourite pair is just too worn to revive anymore. IMP women keep buying because they have been sold the myth that "they have already seen me in that".

  3. I am feeling right at home with this post,
    comfort and familiar clothing are two of my favourites...

    Those pretty pearl brooches are lovely.

  4. I love when I've worn scarves to a new level of broken-in softness. I have a travel scarf that I bought in India year ago and it's been on every flight with me since. It's like a socially acceptable "blankie" for travel.

    Maybe it's the financial person in me, but I always consider my cost-per-wear on some items.

    Thank you for this reminder Janice.

  5. I'm old (and broken-in :) )enough to remember when those "antique" "virgin pins" (as those round brooches were known in my girlhood) were standard accessory. They were useful then--as now--for anchoring to a dress and using as a scarf clip.

  6. I am transitioning to this place... it should be a compliment when people see you in something that 'is' you - part of the familiar of who you are... As they say the journey is important not just the destination...

  7. I am sad when a well loved article of clothing literally wears out. It does happen.

    I am all in favor of buying the best and most comfortable shoes you can afford. I never buy cheap shoes as they are worthless.

    Great post!

  8. This is a wonderful reminder that being well dressed is not the size of the wardrobe. While I have made many a mistake (mostly shopping sales), the bulk of my clothing is more pricey according to my budget. Pondering the comment about 'having been seen in that before', I often think that I look the same day in - day out, but in the end, it's quite allright. I went to a very casual dining place today wearing an Eileen Fisher blouse and trouser both five years old and I could have almost been a chic sighting!

  9. Well, I want to believe this, and I want it to be me. It makes sense. But I'm nowhere near it yet, although I'm working on it. So far, I still want, want, want...and, believe me, it's nothing of which I'm proud. One of the things that's forcing the issue is that I moved to a tiny house which is going to be my home for a long time yet, and I have no room for ANYthing and I especially have NO closets (it's a really old bungalow). It's very stressful to live in a too-tightly-packed home. Also, my husband, bless him, reminds me that I'm not getting any younger, and am instead at the "age" where I should be downsizing in all areas of my life. Hmmmm.

  10. Wonderful, wonderful post. I was noticing this yesterday when wearing a dress I got 5 years ago with shoes from 3 years ago and a jacket from 6 years ago. I have half of this down. However, I also know what Vicki is talking about (and, I live in a tiny bungalow without closets, too). I am grateful for your posts. SJM

  11. This post resonates with me as well. I have shoes that I still wear that are over 16 years old, some that are vintage (from Mum) over 20 years old that I love, resole yearly and still get comments on! I sew my own clothes, the ones I keep are usually wool, lined and beautifully fitted, classic and I will still be wearing years from now. Many memories including sewing them. Don't care how old they are, as long as I still look smart in them, with a new scarf or accessory. Yet, I know I still have too many shoes, clothes and I do cull regularly... The key to looking chic is being yourself, inside and out, not wearing something new, which is a Western obsession.

  12. Love this post!

    I have always found that I get more compliments for clothes I have owned and worn for a long time, and maybe the reason is that I am relaxed and feel good in them. Since Easter 3 people have complimented me on the same dress, I have owned it for 5 years; 2 people have complimented me on my coat, I have owned it for nearly 3 years; 4 people complimented me on a dress I wore for the first time this weekend, my mother wore it in the 70's; and 1 old friend spontaneously said that she thought I looked radiant in my coral sundress, even though she has seen me in it for the past 10 summers.

  13. What a perfect post! I can't agree more. As a single mother whose clothing budget was non-existant when I raised my DD-food,shelter and her needs were the important things in those days,not mine-looking after the few things I had was critical as there was no extra to replace them(mind you they were not of great quality back then). Now that I am older and my DD is more than well on her way-(and there is extra for me) I vowed I would build a wonderful wardrobe based on the best I could afford for the basics such as shoes and outerwear,etc(although I do not agree with this philosophy for jeans, t-shirts and other absolute basics/ my initials are not RL,CK or any of the other well known names so why in the world would I wear them on my butt or other given I don't even wear my own initials for the world to see! :)) Anyway point of all this - is when it comes to the very good items such as the shoes, alot of people think me nuts but after each wearing I wipe off the soles and such before putting away or twice a year treat them to repel water,etc-for the record I don't favour any type of "trendy" shoe but stick to classics like ballet flats or flat riding boots in the winter with the occasional low heel pump so they don't date. I do the same with a good coat such as brushing it and checking for any necessary repairs after a wearing or 2. Some of my items I have now had for 6 or more years(ie: an amazing leather messenger bag that goes with me everywhere, everyday including trips) and because I have cared for it -I still get people asking where I got it( when I tell them it is more than 6 years old), they are disappointed because they know then they aren't likely to find it.
    It is so true if you buy a good quality item and take care of it- it does follow suit that you are much less likely having to buy and in turn less likely to have closet full of things