Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Friday, 25 January 2008

When you can only buy one thing, what should the one thing be

Thinking about the advice that a Valentino evening dress will last a girl forever, I am inclined to think that were I to spend a great deal of money on a single item, would it really be an evening dress?

The problem with spending so much on a statement dress is that if you wear it only five or six times a year, at grand parties (and I have far more use for cocktail dresses than evening dresses anyway) then whenever you go to a grand party, you will always be wearing the same dress. Back in 2000 I bought an evening dress at Liberty and wore it hard but finally it went to the charity shop for someone else to wear. I felt like every time I made an entrance, people were thinking, here she is, in that dress of hers. I haven't replaced it with another long dress, long having been out of style except on the red carpet for some years now.

In the Autumn, I saw an Armani Collezioni coat which made my heart stop. It was in my size and its price was £895 which I most definitely could not afford, having a couple of months earlier bought a Collezioni jacket. I didn't even dare try it on in case it stuck to me, as if I were a girl in fairy story, the cloth burning my skin. But if I had bought that coat, yes, I would have worn it for the rest of my life. Of course it would have to endure a few dark lonely seasons alone in the wardrobe, but out again it would come, eventually. If you can only buy one stand-out, knock-down, blow the overdraft garment, I'd buy something which can be accessorised. Something not made to be looked at but to make you look as if you have everyday elegance and style.

But don't let that stop you buying me Valentino dress.


Ten minutes later, I'm starting to think I'm being a bit boring and I should go for the Valentino dress after all. You only live once etc, and to walk into a room in a Valentino . . .


Anonymous said...

My great aunt has a red and gold dress from a famous designer and for decades (she's 95 now) she wore it to most of her Christmas parties and even on Christmas or Christmas Eve. The style is fairly classic and I know occasionally she didn't wear it, thinking it was quite dated, but inevitably, someone would ask
"Mady, why aren't you wearing your red dress?". My great uncle said for him, Mady wearing the red dress was one of his greatest pleasures in life, and for us, it was too.

She spent a small fortune on that dress, but over the years, it was worth it. She could have had 20 dresses instead but they would have been forgettable.

Go for the Valentino! :)


P.S. I just bought one of your books and it is wonderful. Thank you for writing it.

Toby Wollin said...

I once fell in love with a dress. I even had an evening wedding to which I could wear it. I even lost 20 pounds in the ensuing time to wear it. I never wore it again - I lent it out to anyone I knew who needed an extremely fancy dress for an evening affair who also wore the size. I eventually gave it to a charity shop as well.
I fell in love with a Ralph Lauren black and white herringbone jacket. It was on sale-on-the-sale-on-the-sale because it had the wrong size ticket sewn into it. I knew it would fit me because I don't look at size tickets; I did the "measure with your eyes" thing, held it up to me and decided to get it. It was still hugely expensive for me - even at the tag end of the sale price, BUT I knew that this jacket would see me through anything. I have worn this to work, to funerals, to gallery openings, etc. It still looks great (because it is wool and well made). So, it's worth every penny I paid for it. The dress? most expensive thing I ever got.

diane said...

i received a black leather jacket by Vince as a xmas gift from my husband - i know it was quite a lot of money. i have worn it every day - it is stylish, not tough, fitted in the waist (will look good with classic skirts and slacks) and ageless - it is the softest buttery leather. i realize everyone was talking about evening dresses but this coat is great - a leather jacket is my vote.

Deja Pseu said...

Unfortunately, I've only been to one event in my life where an evening gown might have been borderline appropriate. For me, the Armani jacket would be the ultimate splurge. I tend to look at the amortization factor with pricier items: divide the price by the number of times I project I'll be able to wear it.

But if you have places to wear the Valentino, go for it!

Amanda said...

"Something not made to be looked at but to make you look as if you have everyday elegance and style."

That is very good advice, I am going to write that in my day planner and keep it in mind next time I shop. Love your site!

Thomas said...

If I were to spend, say, upwards of three thousand dollars on a suit, I would probably get about three thousand dollars worth of wear out of it. But if I were to spend an equivalent amount on a tuxedo, I'd probably never wear it enough.

But oh, for that first time I wear it...

Teresa said...

I can think of only a few events I've ever attended that required an evening gown. Sadly, I'd buy it and it would sit in my closet. I did wander through Armani's boutique recently and was longing to be able to buy even one of the evening gowns I saw there - they were gorgeous. I'll I could think of as I saw them was - Oh how I wish I had somewhere to wear them!

Does it work for you - and what else could you buy if you didn't buy the evening gown? Those are the questions. As you so rightly pointed out.

Then again - every once in a while - frivolous wins the day. *grin*