Monday, October 4, 2010

Clothes Loved New and Old

Clothes should last for a very long time.  This necessarily means that they will be used for different purposes throughout their lives. Here are some examples for oxfords, khakis, belts and a few other items.

New: Business Casual and Out with Friends
Items start in this category.  Fresh out of their packages, they have sharp creases and an ironed sheen. 

Gently Worn:  Errands and Daily Life
The cuffs are starting to fray.  There may be small, subtle spots.

Heavily Worn:  Yard work
Items have holes, both from use and sometimes from moths. Patches can be evident.  They are often rumpled.


Implications
This approach should not cover all items of course (much of what is required for a summer wedding or a night out in the city will never be worn years later on trips to the composter).  But this approach also applies to areas as disparate as cars and furnishings. 

This perspective resolves many paradoxes, including
  • A frugality combined with an appreciation of more expensive items, and 
  • Why well-off people embrace and expect the use of well-worn items.
One Can:
  • Buy well made things to begin with. 
  • Buy classic and timeless styles.
  • Have two or all three uses in mind when making a purchase.  
  • Combine flattering and comfortable.
  • When in public, never have too many new items nor too many old.  
  • Always keep items clean.  Patch or mend where possible.  
  • Keep the three categories separate in shelves or closets.
The Prep Aesthetic has gone through some interesting permutations.  From one perspective:
  • It started off as a secret wardrobe of a successful club of people.
  • It was then "outed" and became appealing to those wanting to appear successful and in the club.
  • It then became mainstreamed, popularized, increasingly symbolic, and therefore knocked-off.
  • Finally it became out-of-style, with predictable but short-lived subsequent resurgences.
But from my perspective, finding clothes that are as close to timeless as possible, flattering and well made, then taking care of them and wearing them as long as possible, will never go out of style.  (And to a lesser degree, photographs of someone wearing Preppy clothes will never look wildly dated.) I am willing to put more effort towards finding the right clothes initially so that I don't have to think each day what to wear.

  

26 comments:

Tickled Pink And Green said...

I bought my Burberry trench back in 1986 in London. I love buying things in their original place of origin.... My Mason Pearson brushes, my Barbour, my only Laura Ashley dress... all bought in England..

LPC said...

Right on the nose.

James said...

I have reached the age where I now understand why old men used tell me with pride,"hell boy I have shoes older than you". A great post full of good advice,thank you.

Ryan P. said...

I couldn't agree more-deciding what to wear is so easy when what you wear never really goes out of style!

Hilton said...

Great post, madam.

Lauren said...

I admire that you have such a strong sense of what suits you and what you like. Did you ever have a rebellious period when you wore a completely different style? Do you ever get bored with your look?

Sam said...

Excellent.

Wharf Rat said...

Article superbly states an underlying philosophy, IMO.

People that read TDP aren't trying to impress anyone, and have figured out a life style that works for them. They are probably relatively impervious to changing "fashion".

Readers here, simply seem to be trying to be themselves, so that they can concentrate on more important things in life. Trying to be something that your aren't, through apparel, never works, and invites ridicule. (Take a look at automobile choices. Are people paying for reliable transportation, or the hope to impress others? Seems to jump out at you,)

Paying more for quality garments may be the most economical way to go. If you never have to discard because of "fashion", and what you buy outwears less expensive items, the cost per wearing is less, and may a better value, in the long run.


Good article earlier, on church rummage sales. To get an idea of really expensive items, look at rummage sale offerings, and you see items that went "out of style", and rapidly became of little value. Cost per wearing can be quite high.

Ian Gilmoure said...

fantastic post, keep up the good work!

Curt McAdams said...

Now that it's fall, I've pulled out flannel shirts and other clothes that are no longer part of my first wave of clothes. It's odd how good it makes one feel to put on that 10 year old flannel shirt that's just frayed enough to be used only for Saturday morning errands and trips to the farmers market.

My wife doesn't always "get it" and wants to get rid of some of these old friends... Luckily, I usually stop her in time!

Carole said...

Spot on--I've had my Burberry raincoat and sumptuous scarf for seemingly forever and I still take delight when I wear them.

I like pulling out my "old friends" and wearing them again. As you stated, some get repurposed for other tasks, but because of their quality, they endure.

Andrea said...

Absolutely right, I agree with everything. I have a lovely suit which is 25 years old, and riding boots and hunt coats that are even older. Never buy cheap clothes; it's wise to own fewer clothes and save up your money to buy something good and sturdy that will last forever, like a Barbour jacket.

j.mosby said...

When look back now, for some mindless move I threw out a pair Brooks Brothers Shell Cordovan Loafers that I bought back in the early 80's, I could cry now! What was I thinking!

Frugal Scholar said...

I was inspired by your comments on frugality to write a post on my own blog. Hope that's ok. Check it out if you have a chance.

Lauren said...

Not a suggestion at all. I'm nearing thirty and want to solidify my own look, but unable to commit to anything consistent. Just curious.

Atheos_Cirno said...

I like the clothes, and thanks for the advice

old said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Muffy. My "casual" business attire today fits your advice perfectly-

J.Press Yellow OCB -purchased 2001.
J. Press Wool Challis Foxhead Necktie purchased 1994-5.
Classic Brooks 3B Sack Guncheck Sport Coat that looks like it should be on the cover of The Field - purchased 1990-91.
Majer plain front gabardines in a khaki hue - purchased at The Red Barn Pittsford, NY 2001-2002
USA made Bass Weejun penny loafers - original soles purchased new during my third year at Notre Dame during the Gerald R. Ford Administration. Hoween cordovan belt - Christmas 2008. Last but not least, an ancient ratty oatmeal Irish walking hat purchased at an Irish Imports store in Manhattan after seeing a simliar one on the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan earlier that day in the early 1980s.

Pink One said...

"Paying more for quality garments may be the most economical way to go. If you never have to discard because of "fashion", and what you buy outwears less expensive items, the cost per wearing is less, and may a better value, in the long run."

This is so true! The older I've gotten, the more I understand the truth of this. It drives me nuts how fashion changes so frequently. I'm not one to keep up with current trends, but I do like fashion and looking put together. I don't want to walk around looking sloppy and I don't want to change out my wardrobe every year or two, either. The previous years have found me floundering with fashion, trying to figure out where I belong. I only recently stumbled upon a preppy blog by accident. One blog led to another, and then another... I began to realize that the thinking and lifestyle of these blogs/people clicked with the direction my instincts were leading me in, although I did not know what direction that was. After stumbling upon blogs like this one, my feelings and thoughts are all falling into place. I feel like I finally put my finger on what "IT" was that I was trying to make sense of in my life. I feel like I'm finally discovering who I am, if that makes sense.

Pink One said...

I need to make an apology. I just realized that in my moment of reaction to comments on Muffy’s post, Top Ten Reasons True Prep is Unreadable: A Review, I failed to even introduce myself (I’m commenter “R”…before I figured out how to change my commenter name.). Sorry for the rudeness in reacting before introducing myself.
I am a military wife and mother of 3. As I mentioned in that first post, I was not raised with any sense of “lifestyle”, so I have spent my married life trying to figure that out for myself. Muffy’s blog was a pleasant surprise that I recently stumbled upon. I love, and identify with, the attitude/thinking/lifestyle that she speaks about, and I want to learn more about it. I look forward to learning more from all of you. Thank you.

Lily said...

I am just discovering your site and truly enjoying each post I read...I am in the process of giving my small, over stuffed apartment in Boston a decor face lift and your musings have certainly inspired me to keep it simple!

Tipsymadras said...

I'm only a recent reader of yours and have been stumbling through some of your old posts. I absolutely relate to this post after overhauling my closet this past month. As a twenty-something my wardrobe consists of hand-me downs from parents/grandparents as well as my own purchases. Needless to say, when editing my wardrobe the only things that were tossed were, embarrassingly enough, things I had purchased out of compulsiveness that were, at the time, "on trend". Since the purging it is so nice to look in the closet and find things that are me, not some future fashion mishap to be looked back on. Great advice, as always, Muffy.

Patty said...

love, love, love this post. My mindset exactly

Anonymous said...

Hi, i have beem visiting this blog for quite some time. I love it. I'm currently going through what my best friend calls a life detox process. I find this site insigtful. I lived in new england for about seven years. I miss it terribly although im not a native my heart is there. More to the point with the new change in my life i find more and more discontent with the fashion industry. This site has been so helpful in regards to knowing what is best n durable. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Your comment, "This approach should not cover all items of course (much of what is required for a summer wedding or a night out in the city will never be worn years later on trips to the composter." amusingly reminds me of an elderly, very eccentric next-door neighbor many years back. She used to wear a mink coat to take out her trash. --Holly in PA

Harry said...

Dear Muffy,

I have been following your blog for some months now from my soon-to-be-ending exile abroad, and I truly appreciate the cornucopia of information you provide to your readers on so many subjects: clothing, skiing, sailing, village life, all accompanied by gorgeous photography. The reason I am writing this post is that I am in a quandary about my wardrobe. Due to my career, I’ve lived abroad for some 20 years now, but I’ll soon be returning to the States. In my official capacity, I’ve worn mostly suits to the office (no “work casual”) and for evening hours and weekends, I’ve managed to keep enough men’s preppy essentials to kit me out over time.

The problem I am having is that since I’ve been away, I really have no idea how to do preppy “business casual” in America. I’ll be consulting with physicians and academics, and so suits, at least for everyday wear, are out. I must look “professional,” but at this point in my 40s, I’m not sure anymore what “professional” means. I’ve seen colleagues in jeans, tee shirts, khakis (creased) and wool trousers, kempt and unkempt; in short, anything seems to go. I feel as if I’ve crawled out from a cave and now must navigate this strange, new world back home. How does one strike the right balance these days between looking professional at the office in an environment of “business casual”? (P.S. Thank you for any thoughts you may have in this direction.)

CPL said...

One thing I will disagree with is the appreciation for 'expensive'. I have no problem paying for something that is well made (which I believe is your real point), and I expect to get years out of it. But, often is the case, that you are paying for the label. Sometimes it is a small premium, but it bothers me nonetheless. Virtually all brands succumb to this in some way. The shirts I prefer (even wearing with business suits in the city) are LL Bean. Super well-made (if a bit 'rough', but nobody is getting that close!), and, honestly, a crisp white shirt looks great with a suit. Plus the collars last forever and cuffs don't fray. And they're cheap !*ahem* inexpensive. They outlast by brooks brothers shirts by a factor of 3 or 4, and cost half as much.