Give me your flats, your heels, your wide-calfed boots. And jeans. Jeans, please.
January 16, 2012 12:53 PM   Subscribe

I am a lady on a quest to never shop for clothes or shoes again. Help me!

So, I read this question on men's shoes that will outlive their owner and this comment on looking like a rich lady by buying a simple but long-lasting wardrobe.

Also, I never, ever, ever want to buy a pair of pointy black leather heels ever again. Ditto skinny jeans, black tee-shirts, and purses. I don't mind buying, like, trendy crap every once in a while but if I never need another cable-knit sweater it will be too soon. I am willing to pay for this privilege (on eBay) since the things will last forever so I can do it over a long time! Yay!

So, what are the brands in women's clothes and shoes that will outlive me? What are the brands that are expensive but not well-made and thus not worth paying a premium for? I'm looking at Land's End Canvas for tee-shirts (fits my style of "hipster-preppy archaeologist"), but I suspect I have to think much BIGGER than that? (Do I? I would love to buy forever-lived 10 dollar tee-shirts).
posted by Snarl Furillo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (35 answers total) 107 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A lot of what keeps clothing looking good isn't the clothing itself, but how you take care of it and if you follow the label. For example, hand washing, using lingerie bags for delicate items that can be machine washed, storing cashmere sweaters properly and in a moth-proof container, etc. In my experience this has made the biggest difference in having an item last. Just something else to think about.
posted by ArgyleMarionette at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Aside from the brand recommendation, one tip for shoes is to wear them lightly.
Getting them damp, and wearing them, damages them a lot more, so you'll actually get more wear out of shoes, if you have two identical pairs that you alternate between, so that the other pair has a chance to fully dry out. That, and good maintenance, e.g. regular polish.
Oh, and horse leather.

Same goes for clothes, but more along the lines of not washing them, except when necessary, and doing it very gently.
posted by Elysum at 1:16 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

The traditional answer to a question like this has been to buy a Chanel suit, but that may not suit your particular workplace or style.

For myself, I've found some long-lasting things in the strangest of places. Winners was one such, not a place I would have thought to look for such things.

My rules of thumb when it comes to clothes, are:

1) Avoid cotton, unless of insanely high quality, and even then, tread carefully. Most articles of clothing made of cotton will look faded and worn reasonably quickly, and anything knit will fall out of shape.

2) Look at seams and other finishing details. This is what really makes a piece of clothing last. You're looking for something other than a serged seam, preferably a french seam or something similar. The neater and more well-done those kinds of details, the better the garment will be.

3) Learn how to be good to your clothes. Hand wash, cold water, hang to dry or roll in a towel. Treat your clothes carefully and they will last longer. Consider the men's suit trick - could it stand two or even three wearings before needing a cleaning? As soon as you get home, change out of your nice clothes, hang them up to air, and switch into something more comfortable.

4) My secret for purses is to know your purse style and buy accordingly. Mine is to fill my purse with all sorts of crap, so I buy a purse with straps that go all the way down to the base seam of the purse. The strap bears the load of the purse, thereby solving the problem of ripped loops and broken straps. I paid $60 for mine, btw, so construction is a far better determinant of value than price alone.

5) I beat the living hell out of shoes, so I would be interested in recommendations in this area.
posted by LN at 1:17 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also, I never, ever, ever want to buy a pair of pointy black leather heels ever again. Ditto skinny jeans, black tee-shirts, and purses.

As far as shoes go, that may be possible, and I'm sure others will recommend some brands. Though I wonder whether anyone really makes heels to last the way they make men's dress shoes to do so.

But as far as the rest of it? Not likely. The first two and frequently the third on your list are generally made of cotton or some cotton/poly blend. Cotton just isn't that durable a material. Jeans and t-shirts just don't last forever, even assuming the minor miracle that your body never changes shape.

So you've got two things going here. First, there are only a few items, even in menswear, that are really appropriate for this sort of long-lasting construction, and that's shoes, suits, and outerwear. You can make those of leather or heavier natural materials, unlike, say, t-shirts or jeans. Second, those are the sorts of clothes least likely to be affected by changes in your body. Everybody gains and loses weight over time, but your shoe size generally stays about where it is once you stop growing. This is actually one of the reasons these sorts of items are good uses of more durable materials.

So I'm afraid that you're probably just going to have to keep buying jeans and t-shirts. Which is actually a reason not to spend too terribly much on them, and the latter in particular tend to be pretty cheap.
posted by valkyryn at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2012

As far as jeans, buy APC jeans. I'm currently sitting in a pair I bought five years ago. Not crazy-expensive (well, as far as jeans go anyway...) they hit the sweet spot of price vs wear. If you wanna spend more, look at Sugar Canes, Kicking Mule Workshop or Samurai. Wanna spend less? Look at Levi's Vintage, GAP denim, Carhartt and Wrangler. Things to know: you want at least 14 oz selvage denim, with button fly (I have no luck with zippers) and riveted pockets. Wash them sparingly, never put them in the drier. They will last.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:39 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Quality may vary highly across brands and is not really dependent on price--e.g., one pair of my Bruno Magli heels got trashed disgustingly quickly while another is much more durable. Make sure you hear good reviews about each individual item of clothing before purchase.

In general, Frye boots are incredible and last forever. Bloch ballet flats are great. I can't help you with jeans because my body type requires that I buy less-durable-more-stretchy varieties. Besides the boots, flats, heels, and jeans--do you have any specific clothing items you'd like brand recommendations for?
posted by 200burritos at 1:42 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

With jeans, avoid trendy and blingy, distressing, etc. Do not even utter the words Seven for All Mankind or True Religion around serious denim people. What you're after, as mentioned above, is heavy weight, true indigo dye if possible, raw denim. Minimal decorative stitching, nothing else fancy about them. A.P.C. and Nudies are the gold standards, and they need to be purchased on the too-small side and stretched to fit.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:46 PM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

LN is right that you need to look at seams and finishes. Details like french seams, nicely done and well interfaced facings, hong kong seam finishes, blind hems and so forth or more often found on good quality clothing. You also get an eye for just looking at something and telling how durable it will be based on the quality of the cloth and the construction techniques. I've taken a few garment construction sewing classes that have helped so much with this.

If you want to look really well dressed fit is actually most important. Get a good tailor or learn to sew. ;)

What are the brands that are expensive but not well-made and thus not worth paying a premium for?

My personal recommendations - Hugo Boss (hello nordstrom half yearly sale!). Super $$$ but very well made. Eileen Fisher for basics like knit pencil skirts that will actually keep their shape. Cynthia Steffe - I have a black shirt dress by her that is 5 years old, I wear constantly, and looks brand new. DKNY -- some pieces. Some of them are horribly made. I have a few 10 year old DKNY blouses in great shape and some that disintegrate after a year. Tahari also is generally great quality especially in pants and dresses. Nanette Lepore, although that's dressy and not really good for office wear.
posted by lyra4 at 1:59 PM on January 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I read that question as the inverse - my last paragraph was brands that are expensive but ARE well made.
posted by lyra4 at 2:00 PM on January 16, 2012

Response by poster: Besides the boots, flats, heels, and jeans--do you have any specific clothing items you'd like brand recommendations for?

Hmmm, a gray interview/important meeting/funeral or wake suit.
Neutral-colored (black or gray, who knows maybe I'll go wild with moss) business office/funeral or wake appropriate dresses.
Winter boots.
Work pants, maybe, I usually wear jeans because I take pictures and thus sit on the ground a lot.
Man, I guess I didn't mean tee-shirts- slightly nicer than that, where if you wear a scarf and earrings and nice boots you can wear them to work. Not button-downs, but often in stores near them in the ladies who work in offices sections. Blouses, I guess? Although I hate FRIPPERY. I am currently wearing a version of this sweater with less BUSINESS on the sleeves and a little more detail on the neckline to work most days but they are super cheap low-quality and they don't last. Although with aforementioned accessories and dark jeans I THINK they look okay for work but again my job involves a lot of sitting outside on the ground, so who knows.
Did I mention winter boots? My feet are so cold and wet.

On jeans- I do have the body type where my jeans wear out in the thigh (NEVER along the seam where they could be repaired, just behind it where apparently my WOMANLY GIRTH is too much for $40 mall jeans), usually in a few months- maybe eight to ten? Do I just need to buy five pairs of cheap jeans every year? (Please say no, I seriously hate shopping.)

Thanks for all the good brand recs, please keep them coming!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:16 PM on January 16, 2012

Jeans that one wears and washes once or twice per week (and especially when you're doing stuff like sitting and kneeling on the ground or on pavement) just aren't going to last more than a year or eighteen months, max.

One way to cut down on the number of shopping trips you have to do per year is to buy multiples of whatever you encounter that works well for you. If you find a pair of jeans that fits well and seems robustly constructed, buy five pairs right there. Then you're done for the year. Similarly, if you find a sweater or knit top that you like, buy it in all the colors you like. (And maybe buy duplicates in your go-to colors; I usually buy two black and two gray of shirts that work for me.)

As for winter boots, let me recommend some of the Canadian brands like Blondo, Martino, Maxine, and Santana of Canada (which is not the same as Carlos Santana--yes, the guitarist, who also has a shoe line, whatever). They are attractive and usually waterproof and last really well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2012

God, Snarl, I have the same problem. My solution has been to buy jeans at Marks Work Wearhouse and get a couple each year.
posted by LN at 2:23 PM on January 16, 2012

Response by poster: In my defense, I wash them more like once a month or every six weeks, although that's starting to strike me as slightly unhygienic and I tend to drop them on the floor rather than hanging them up to air out/get their shape back. :)

Also, I have a pair of wonderful Blondo boots that I wore every day for nearly a year (um, I guess I shouldn't do that?), but right now the zipper on one boot needs to be replaced and there's a hole in the heel of the other, and the local shoe-repair guy can't fix them so I have to see if the not-so-local place can take care of them. If I can get them back in the rotation, I will.

Maybe I am just sad that my favorite jeans and favorite boots went at once and am trying to off-set the grief. :)
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:31 PM on January 16, 2012

Women's shoes? You want to figure out how to get shoes made by the old UK shoemakers - Tricker's and Crockett Jones in particular, both of which have women's lines that are hard to find in the US. If you have biggish feet and can wear the fancier kind of men's shoes, you can get a shoe like the Tricker's jodhpur boot. Alden loafers (made in the US) actually look androgynous enough for summer wear by women. These are not girlie shoes, but women's shoes in general are absolute crap - glued soles, cheap corrected-grain leather, flimsy fabric lining, etc. You might also try a German brand called Trippen - they make very good hippie/avante-garde shoes and the Vivienne (which is an ankle-strap shoe, though a robust one - is a great shoe. I can testify from experience that both Pediwear and Trippen ship internationally with great promptitude and accuracy. Both run a bit wide, especially Tricker's country line. I wear a large men's 8 US/women's 10 (that is, if a US shoe runs a little narrow or a little short, I have to size up to an 8.5 or a 10.5), a 41 in international sizes and an absolutely true men's 7.5 in UK sizes, and I take a 41 in Trippens and a 7.5 in Tricker's.

In an ideal world, you could go to the UK or to Italy and actually choose from shoes in front of you.

Heels are almost always cheap crap that won't last, no matter how expensive. Chie Mieharas are about the most robust ones you'll find.

That whole "shoes that will outlive you"? That's a total canard. What that means is "I am a rich dude who doesn't walk too much, I have a ton of shoes and wear each pair twice a month, and I have special "country" shoes for tramping around". But you can get a couple of pairs of heart-stoppingly expensive shoes (and Aldens, Trippens and Trickers do turn up on Ebay - in fact, if you wear a 41, memail me because I am selling some), take really good care of them and be set for the better part of a decade.

If I were starting all over with shoes, here's what I'd want: three pairs of shoes suitable to summer and three for winter, each pair of which went with most of my clothes. A pair of snow boots or overshoes. A pair of house shoes (dressy, shoe-like slippers) for wear at home.

What I actually have: for summer, most of my shoes are suede, gently used from Ebay. I expect to replace my summer shoes every few years because they are suede and because I often wear them without socks. I have two pairs of Alden loafers, two pairs of Fiorentini Baker lace-up oxfords and a pair of Ralph Lauren Crockett Jones loafers. All of these go with my very simple pants-and-button-down summer wardrobe. For fall and winter, I have several pairs of clompy shoes and boots from Tricker's via eBay and Pediwear, plus a pair of jodhpur boots and a pair of chelsea boots in reserve in case I need to be dressy. I put more money into my fall/winter shoes and expect them to last longer. I have a pair of really beautiful UK-made house slippers from Peal that I got as deadstock on Ebay.

I wear my shoes on a three day rotation so that each one is worn a little more than twice a week, letting each pair dry out completely between wearings. I try to condition and polish every two weeks. I have a shoe guy with whom I am on a first name basis for resoling and minor repairs.

I try to buy a new pair of shoes or boots every year (actually, I usually buy one of each) so that I can swap out the oldest pair and so that I can take advantage of really good deals on Ebay or elsewhere. Of course, because I know what I like and I buy from venerable makers, it is likely (no guarantees in this tragic age of globalization) that I can easily replace a worn-out pair with a similar one.
posted by Frowner at 2:51 PM on January 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh, you might try those Wolverine 1000-mile boot, which is now available for women. I bet they'll be increasing their women's line too, and of course if you wear men's sizes they have some nice detailed-enough-to-look-girlie brogue and stitched boots. There are other small US makers, many of whom either do western boots (you can get some really choice work) or riding boots. If I were a femme-y woman who wanted truly durable boots, I'd get a pair of custom riding and custom paddock, chelsea or jodhpur boots from Dehner. They also now have the cutest darn monkstrap oxford I've ever, ever seen that would totally work for a feminine person.

Now, these are absolutely not cheap. Good shoes are really, really expensive - my shoes were (to me) kind of spendy and I got them used. But they're good quality and they're repairable, which most women's shoes are not. Honestly, if the appearance of your shoes isn't super important to you (in terms of looking worn out) it's probably actually cheaper to buy cheap shoes, wear them into the ground and replace them yearly. The idea that you save money by buying really, really expensive durable things isn't precisely true given how cheap and disposable a lot of stuff is right now.
posted by Frowner at 3:01 PM on January 16, 2012

Best answer: It's true that anything cotton will need to be replaced, as others have said. But when it comes to shoes, if one is willing to buy leather goods, quality absolutely does matter, same with certain other articles of clothing I will mention below. I'm a dietary vegan and opportunistic/freegan/recyled/as-little-retail-as-possible shopper. I buy all my animal-product clothes second-hand as I think it's better to use what already exists rather than buy the cheaply made synthetic new stuff that doesn't last, so my recommendations are for what YOU may like to buy, rather than what I woud probably buy, my ethical considerations being what they are.

Repetto makes the best, and the original, ballet-inspired versatile flat shoes. These are the original Parisian-style flats, made in limited edition by a French house which also supplies prima ballerinas.

Black pointy heel, well, the best thing going are Manolo Blahnik's, quality-wise. They are handmade and classic, and can be endlessly refurbished as necessary. Open-toed D'Orsay pumps are probably their most iconic shoe.

The cream of the crop in sweaters- Loro Piana, and these are so well-made they can definitely be inherited- check Ebay, these are otherwise crazy-expensive. You can buy a bespoke, really sturdy-looking Irish aran-knit sweater here. Oatmeal is the color you want in an Irish sweater, either wool or cotton. Don't buy Ralph Lauren, their goods are too cheaply-made to justify the price, J. Crew is ok, good for everyday/hard usage, but not inheritable. Brunello Cucinelli is worth a look on the high-end scale also.

Skinny jeans are trendy and made of cotton, therefore they're not ever going to last a lifetime. Levi's are as good as any other brand, and you can get them custom-made for a reasonable-price, might cut down on the thigh-chafing, etc.

If you want a funeral suit that will last forever, Chanel is *it*. Michael's Consignment has an online store which frequently sells Chanel suits. Also, Thomas Pink has a really fine women's suit section.

If you wear leather, again, I'll recommend Chanel for purses, check link above or Ebay. I also have several Prada "tessuto nylon" purses which are insanely durable, and I recommend them very highly. Also, I have three Marc Jacobs nylon totes for everyday use which may not last a lifetime, but are very sturdy and are perfect for everyday use-- no purse will survive being used as a tote everyday with heavy, utility-style usage, so get something less-than-precious for these purposes.

Neutral-colored dresses= Diane von Furstenberg Julian wrap dress. These come up on Ebay all the time if you're patient.

Work pants, well, if you want something cotton or ground-sitting appropriate, go to James Perse (so soft, great broken-in chinos) J. Crew or Theory. Thomas Pink has very well-made dress-y trousers, and Burberry makes beautiful tweeds you could wear forever.

Blouses, umm, this is a hard one without knowing your size, but Tahari have quite a few silk blouses that are versatile, same with Vince. I'd buy some silk pussy-bow blouses, myself for the look you seem to like, but maybe that's not what you want after all.

If you want some real-deal Wellingtons, Hunter is as good as any other brand. Otherwise you're pretty much covered for outdoorsy-y winter boots from other posters.

And my favorite cotton t-shirts are from Michael Stars. They last a really long time considering they're cotton.
posted by devymetal at 3:52 PM on January 16, 2012 [19 favorites]

Thinking about the particular items of clothing I've had which have held up particularly well, I realized that fit is another important factor. Clothing which fits closely bears a lot more constant strain, and the weakest points will wear out faster than the same item would in a bigger size. Things that fit loosely will last longer than things that cling and bind.

Some minor sewing skills can also help you out. I've extended the lives of a few favorite long-sleeved shirts by turning them into short-sleeved shirts when they began to wear out at the cuffs or elbows.
posted by Corvid at 4:11 PM on January 16, 2012

As said upthread, having two pairs of boots that you rotate will last significantly more than twice as long as having one pair of boots you wear every day. This is one of the secrets of footwear longevity.

If you prioritize durability over style, let me recommend Cabela's, Duluth Trading Company, and Patagonia for hard-wearing jeans and trousers.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:02 PM on January 16, 2012

The other secret to boots/shoes lasting a long time is to GET THEM REHEELED if they show even the slightest signs of needing it. Nothing can fuck up a shoe that's otherwise in good shape than walking on worn-down heels, and vice versa -- it can prolong their life a lot more than you'd expect.
posted by dekathelon at 5:04 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to recommend Clark's brand of shoes as ever-lasting, but lately I've noticed that they are not made as well. I have found a new brand/style that's holding on strong: Sebago Plaza. These are classic penny loafers, leather, hand-sewn. I got a pair in April of last year, and have worn them almost every single day since then (which is supposed to be terrible for shoes, but there it is). I'm very hard on shoes. The shoes -- even the soles and heel -- show no wear at all. None! I had to order up 1/2 size, and they felt great on the first day.
posted by Houstonian at 5:18 PM on January 16, 2012

I dont know if these are hipster-preppy archaeologist, but it's a data point - my girlfriend has a pair of standard 8-hole Dr Martens which are soon to turn 18. You'll need their Made in England version to get exactly the same boot nowadays, but I have a feeling the Thai-made ones are likely to last just as long.
posted by cromagnon at 5:21 PM on January 16, 2012

Blondo boots! Yes! I wore blondos for years. I did switch to Columbia this year, though.
posted by LN at 5:25 PM on January 16, 2012

Oh, and my tailor (this is a new thing and I've not had to say it before - fun!) is adamant that a lightweight worsted suit doesn't need dry cleaning more than once every 6 months even if worn every couple of days as it absolutely destroys the wool. Paying for a sponge, steam clean and hand press every month extends the life of the suit more than it costs, especially if you get your own steam cleaner (and have the time, which I don't alas).
posted by cromagnon at 5:29 PM on January 16, 2012

Doc Martins Boots. OK they are not exactly pretty but look great with jeans and if are young enough look cute with flowy flowery dresses. They last for ever I've had a pair way over 10 years and wore them every work day for a good 5 years and they still look as good as new. They are a great casual boot/shoe and come in a range of styles and colours. Make sure to get the ones made in the UK though oh and those suckers are super comfy.

Learning how to care for leather shoes is important too you have to learn how to polish and buff your shoes to keep them looking good and to keep them waterproof. Getting your shoes/boots resoled as needed will help too.

Ack I've just done the math and I've had the boots almost 16 years . . .when did I get so old.
posted by wwax at 6:45 PM on January 16, 2012

You didn't mention socks, but SmartWool socks. Seriously. They're obnoxiously expensive (for socks) but worth every penny.
posted by desjardins at 6:57 PM on January 16, 2012

Also, many of the outdoors brands are extremely tough and durable. Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Patagonia and Royal Robbins come to mind. The last two especially have clothes that are suitable for a business-casual environment.
posted by desjardins at 7:04 PM on January 16, 2012

Do you travel? Do you have any friends who live in European countries? Send them your full body measurements and have them buy clothes for you. There are some good catalogs, if you'd rather buy online.
It's quite difficult to find good quality clothing and shoes in USA.

In my family, clothes were passed down through siblings, and I have clothes from my sister. It's been more than 10 years since I've seen my sister, and the clothes passed down from her still look good as new. They still fit, and I still wear them often. I'm talking about clothes sold at regular stores, nothing high-end.

My mom, an immigrant as well, still wears all her old country's clothes because she can't find anything that lasts here. And the materials feel very cheap, so... :-) can't blame her. My mom knows how to care for clothes and shoes, so that's not the issue. Like her, I also learned to to properly care for garments, so that's not an issue either. American clothes simply suck, no matter how well you care for them. Nowadays I'm busy and I treat even my old clothes badly, and they still look really good.

Cotton jeans, dress pants, skirts, jackets and coats, blouses, even underwear! They all look pristine.

I'm also looking at this thread for suggestions, because clothing here is simply disgusting. I'm sick of having my sisters pay so much to mail me clothes across the ocean.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 7:31 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Snarl Furillo: I wash them more like once a month or every six weeks...

I wash mine once every six months if they're my everyday pair, once a year if they're one of the less worn pairs. The everyday jeans live on the floor at night, next to my dog's bed, so I certainly don't baby them. In between, if they fail the sniff test, they get put in the freezer overnight (in a plastic bag, to keep the food safe) if they get visibly dirty, I soak them in cold water with a drop or two of laundry detergent for a few hours, then hang dry. No one has yet accused me of looking like a hobo because of my pants (my hair and beard, on the other hand...).

FWIW: I buy one pair of jeans a year, so I can budget to buy good jeans. I currently have five pairs to alternate between, so there's the newest pair for semi-formal occasions, and two pair for day-to-day wear, and two for house/yard stuff. Like I said, my oldest pair is 5 years old, and currently fits quite poorly due to my own weight loss in the past two years (which is a great reminder of how far I'm come) and is just starting to show some wear in the crotch, and I'm on the fence about getting them patched, as I feel like I've gotten plenty of wear out of them.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:05 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

So, what are the brands in women's clothes and shoes that will outlive me? What are the brands that are expensive but not well-made and thus not worth paying a premium for? I'm looking at Land's End Canvas for tee-shirts (fits my style of "hipster-preppy archaeologist")

Expensive but not well-made: J Crew, LL Bean, Land's End. Back when I was a teenager in a NH boarding school, these actually were affordable but durable and quality brands. No longer! The sweaters from when I was fifteen -- they cost $40 at the time and they're still keeping me warm; the sweaters I've recently purchased are thin and let the wind blow straight through.

Expensive and well-made: I can really only answer with regard to shoes. Moderately-to-somewhat-expensively priced, last-you-forever shoes: La Canadienne, Born, Mephisto, Beautifeel.

If I were a sample size and lived in NYC, I would also direct you there, because my friends who are a size 2 live very well, for several seasons, in the clothing they pick up for next to nothing at these once-a-year rummage sales of clothing straight from the workshop, or Paris...
posted by artemisia at 10:28 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, a little advice from someone who spent just a -bit- too much money on a shoe sale from a site like those mentioned here, I can recommend that you make sure you recognize the brand of clothing.
It's not a deal if you can't recognize (or research and find reviews for) the shoe or clothing brand as being of quality make. For example, I rather like, but they sure try to pass off a fair bit of marked up scrap.
Not to say that shopping through such sites is bad (considering the hefty prices of most of the recommended clothing), but definitely make sure you recognize the label.

Ignoring a few days of sales because of style disinterest, unavailable "perfect" sizes, unrecognized (though researched) labels, and so on let me save my money so that when I bought two Calvin Klein dresses for about $120 I felt rather accomplished. Not crazy awesome clothing, but works for my budget. Multiple that by about 50 for any "shoe deals" purchases you might make.

Also, while I'm sure the poster doesn't need the advice, for those reading: if you aren't comfortable in the shoe, whatever the designer might be, for the love of Pete, send them back. They aren't worth it. Not every brand name shoe, or every heel height, or every style, fits every person, so if they're pinching you, cramping your toes too much, making your legs hurt after just an hour of wearing them, or whatever other issue you might have, then you need to find a different designer that works with your feet. They are NOT a deal if they hurt, whatever the original price.

Just my two cents.
posted by DisreputableDog at 12:09 AM on January 17, 2012

Anecdata on Doc Martens - I own three pairs of their old-school made-in-England boots (all bought in thrift stores already used!) and they're resilient. One pair's been beat halfway to hell, been resoled three times through ten years and they're still holding up. They aren't the sharpest looking boots at this point - they're scuffed and look beat, but they get the job done. The newer more fashiony boots with the see-through soles don't seem to hold up as well. Generally, these are made in China, but if the sole looks like that clear orangey colour no matter the country of origin I'd opt for the heavier, more clunky solid colour sole. Their 'made in England' line runs twice the price of their trendier fellows, but if you're willing to poke around in thrift stores and the like you can often find an old pair of kicking around. Doc Martens also offers a 'lifetime' boot - once the sole wears down, you send them back to the factory and they resole them for you.

Blundstone boots are also extremely long-lived boots - more expensive than Docs, but if you've the budget, they're comfortable, easy to wear and have nice thick full-grain leather that looks pretty nice if you take care of it. Again, they're not very fashiony looking, but if you're looking for a shoe to take you through a zombie apocalypse, they're the ones.

Heels - heels turn me into a flailing menace, but good-looking friends of mine swear by Ferragamo heels/flats. They look gorgeous and classy, and the construction looks solid.

For suits - consider getting a suit tailor-made? If a suit fits you like a glove it'll never go out of style or look bad, and a good tailor could certainly adjust some seams for weight gain/loss as needed.

And as another data point for jeans washing (dirty laundry on the internet, ho ho!) I wash mine maybe once every four to five months or until they get dirty/stink. No machine wash, just by hand and hung to dry. They seem to last longer this way - a pair of cheap Uniqlo jeans I bought last year still look presentable. YMMV, my jeans fit fairly loosely so I don't have much tension along seams when I move around, sit, etc so the method of washing may mean nothing.
posted by zennish at 12:53 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

absolutely true men's 7.5 in UK sizes
Note that there aren't separate women and men's sizing for shoes in the UK (I have US 11 feet, so I know this). The kind of British shoes being discussed here are outwith my experience, but in terms of high street stuff, I really like Clarks for durability and for making shoes that I can a) walk in b) fit into. For me, I need some flat-ish shoes that will look goo d with a dress or skirt (I have Hush Puppies for this purpose too), a pair of dark brown boots for a similar purpose, and 'everyday' shoes. I work in a casual office, though, so you may have different needs. I've heard good things about Duo, but they are expensive. Also, Dr Martens are making a range of boots that are more 'feminine' than the classic version, so may suit you if the regular ones don't...but echoing the posters above who have said women's shoes in general are crappy. After all, women buy shoes like men buy manly cigarettes, right?

For bras - and I'm the underwear equivalent of plus size so this may not be relevant to you - I like Fauve a lot. They're expensive (though as with any bras, check your size then check eBay) but are well-made, pretty without giving a bad line under clothing, and fit really well.

I never put anything in the dryer. I don't think it's very good for most fabrics and I rarely need something clean so quickly that I can't wait to get it off the airer in a couple of days.

As far as clothing that lasts forever goes - even 'classics' do change - take a look at the Armani Suit episode of Seinfeld, where the suit that Jerry and the other guy are fighting over looks horribly dated 15 years later. The important thing, I think, is to work out what suits you in terms of cut and colour and go from there. Most of what's considered 'classics' or 'must buys' don't actually suit me at all, because I am a very curvy hourglass meaning that some jackets and 99% of shirts/blouses won't hang properly at all. And also, if you plan on having children, or change contraception, or anything else hormonal, you will change shape and size and that change may stay there even if you lose any excess weight. Buying good quality stuff is a good plan and something I'm trying to do more than cheap stuff, but it doesn't necessarily mean you'll never buy clothes again. After all, ten years ago I was 19 and current me and 19yr old me have very different styles.
posted by mippy at 5:03 AM on January 17, 2012

I know Levi's jeans probably aren't hip or whatever, but I am wearing a pair that I bought used two years ago that I wear constantly because they are *the* perfect fitting pair of jeans for my hard to fit body. I wash them about twice a week, and I put them in the dryer. They receive no special treatment and they are just now starting to thin where my ample thighs rub together. Best money I ever spent on a pair of pants.
posted by crankylex at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2012

Fascinating conversation. A few data points to contribute:

As a woman with insanely hard to fit feet, when I do find shoes or boots that actually WORK for me, I have preemptive maintenance done. On smooth-soled shoes or boots I have vibram soles installed, for instance-- helps with both wear and traction. Since I don't work in a field requiring devastating attention to fashion detail this works very well for me, YMMV.

I have found a few cases where it absolutely makes a difference in quality when you pay more. I generally avoid synthetics, specifically acrylic, in low end clothes because it pills and fails so quickly. However once upon a time I bought a beautiful plum-colored acrylic shell by Absolutely Misook and, swear to god, I will probably be buried in that thing. Still totally sharp and in excellent shape. Likewise with luxe basics by labels like Eileen Fisher-- I have two stretch silk long sleeved tees that feel like a million bucks, are wearing like iron. Took some deep breathing to pay upwards of $100 apiece for a tee or a tank, but man, they have been totally worth it and are classic enough to work for a long long time.
posted by Sublimity at 9:34 AM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is late, but I swear on my Blundstones. I just love and adore them.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:02 AM on March 2, 2012

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