When only the best will do...
June 14, 2007 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me revamp my wardrobe. I need suggestions for the best quality clothing and accessories in each category, i.e. t-shirts, suits, sandals, umbrellas, whatever.

What I'm looking for is quality, not bargain pricing, or designer label cachet, just the best of whatever clothing item you've ever come across. What are some brands you've bought again and again or items that you've had forever but still love and wear on a regular basis (for example, my closet has not been without at least one pair of Converse All-Stars since I was in junior high)? What I'm looking for is great value when it comes to price per wear. My goal is to not have to go shopping again for a very long time.

One requirement: the clothes have to be reasonably stylish (though not trendy). A pair of Carhartt coveralls might be of exceptional quality but they're not exactly what I'm looking for.

Oh, and I am a female of 30 years and would need casual, work and dressy clothing. Also, suggestions from men's brands would be fine to as long as they carry a women's line too.
posted by Jess the Mess to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of the following: suit separates from Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren - I have pieces that are 6-7 years old and are still "go-to". Handbags from Coach or Kate Spade. Ladylike shoes from Kate Spade. Trendy-ish shoes from BCBGirls. Sandals from Birkenstock. Travel-type walk-y sandals and shoes from Clark's/Privo. Frye boots. There are lots of wildly expensive denim brands, but personally, I think you can't beat Levi's. Accessories, to me, are the most reflect-your-personality part of work dressing. I wear my own jewelry designs or those of other independent designers almost exclusively - exceptions are my wedding rings, a nice sterling silver men's watch, and the occasional present from Tiffany & Co.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:15 PM on June 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

ersatzcat, I don't know about your "can't beat Levi's" comment. I don't think that's been true for many years. I'll still choose a pair of vintage Levis over new spendy jeans, but new Levis are just skimpy.

Let me put it this way; my grandma has been altering my jeans for many years (short legs). Usually I bring her Levis. This winter I took her a pair of Seven7s (not 7 for all mankind, the other 7s) that I got at TJMaxx and she told me her sewing machine's needle was barely up to the task. "Be proud to wear these," she said. "This is a quality pair of jeans."

My grandma pretty much detests every consumer product made after 1960, so this is high praise. I would unhesitatingly recommend these jeans to anyone, regardless of the cost. They fade beautifully and look great, and they are at least twice as thick as Levis. I mean it helps that I didn't pay full sticker price, but even if I had I don't think I'd feel cheated.
posted by crinklebat at 6:02 PM on June 14, 2007

Ditto on the Coach bags and Kate Spade shoes; those, and these, are all 'bought again and again' (albeit with limited frequency given durability & non-trendiness) --

wool sweaters, chinos, from LL Bean
cotton khakis from the Gap
linen shirts from Talbots
suits, cotton shirts, from Brooks Bros
basic cotton 'grubbies' from Lands' End (also worth peeking at: their small numbers of higher-end offerings. If they're selling something for a lot more than most of their stuff, it's almost always worth the price and then some; if not, there's an excellent return policy)
silk scarves from Liberty

Reliable habits I got from my grandmother: Ports, Jaeger, Pringle -- even 2nd-hand stuff from them will look good and last.

On preview: I agree Levi's are crappy -- look around at legs on a subway or something; the seams just aren't straight on a lot of them -- and, given the two grandma references already -- do you have a grandmother whose closet you can peep in? Ask MetaFilter is clearly in need of grannies, here...
posted by kmennie at 6:11 PM on June 14, 2007

I'm a big fan of Petit Bateau t-shirts, but they run small (damn the French!). If you're pretty narrow-torsoed though, check them out.
posted by padraigin at 6:34 PM on June 14, 2007

might be too casual, but teva makes the best flip-flops ever. they are so comfortable, last forever, and i like to wear the plain black ones with lots of different things.
posted by lgyre at 7:31 PM on June 14, 2007

I like trousers from J Crew. I've got a pair of black, lined wool pants from J Crew that I've had for several years and they still look great. I swear by Dansko shoes because they are sturdy and comfortable.

For the most part, I really like wearing high quality vintage clothes from the 30s-70s. I'm not talking about the uber flamboyant, wild stuff, but I have lots of vintage designer dresses, suit, coats and jackets that I wear regularly. I like the cut, quality and look of the garments and feel like I get more bang for my buck when I buy a nice vintage piece for my closet.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:07 PM on June 14, 2007

agnes b make classic pieces that will last a very long time. at bluefly.com you can usually find some simple, classic shoes by delman at a good price, ballet flats or heels, and they make a wide range of sizes. I like a.p.c. (french label, they have a store in nyc too). see by chloe makes very nice trousers i hear, i don't have any myself. club monaco has lots of decent quality basics in neutral colors, mainly black, white, and grey. if you really want to spend serious money, maybe jil sander? (I wish I could..) J Crew do make nice t-shirts and chinos. ralph lauren is very classic american (polo ralph lauren and the higher end lines, not so much lauren ralph lauren that you find in every department store). Polo shirts by Lacoste are 100% classic and you'll wear them for many years.

second the recommendation for pringle, jaeger - scottish cashmere in particular - even if it's vintage, it will last and last.
posted by citron at 9:06 PM on June 14, 2007

Vans slip-ons. Classic, simple, so fucking comfortable. If you like the converse, you'll love these as well. (And they come in like, a million colors.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:55 PM on June 14, 2007

Basic knit tops from Splendid
Fancier knit tops, etc. from Cynthia Steffe
Shoes from John Fluevog, Camper, or Faryl Robin
Fancy going-out jeans from Deener
Good, basic skirts from Sunhee Moon
Basics with flair from Zoe D.

And you may already know this, but the care you take of your clothes is almost as important as the quality of the garment, when it comes to keeping them nice for a long time.

Don't ever put good jersey in the dryer. Always dry it flat. And the gentle cycle is your friend.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:00 AM on June 15, 2007

Get some Nudie jeans. They are awesome.
posted by thelongcon at 12:14 AM on June 15, 2007

Your wardrobe requirements sound a lot like mine. I've noticed that over the years Gap's clothing has really declined in quality, aside from their Khakis (the new Boyfriend Khaki is absolutely outstanding and I have four pairs) and their basic oxford.

J. Crew is great for casual t-shirts. Go with the classic style, since the tissue t's tend to pill after a few months of wear. J. Crew also has nice oxfords, even if their sleeves run a little short (I solve this by almost always having them rolled to 3/4)

Banana Republic has fantastic pants - I love the martini fit. They stand up to a lot of wear and I've never had to get them tailored (I'm 5'10, so pants usually run short on me) and the pants I'm wearing right now I've had for... hmm... four years? And they still look very nice.

I stay away from prints. I like classic, clean, almost "preppy" look of oxfords and a nice slack. Just pair it with some basic accessories and you're good to go.
posted by banannafish at 7:06 AM on June 15, 2007

Shirts from American Apparel
posted by orlick at 9:52 AM on June 15, 2007

As a warning, I'm younger (mid-20s) so you might find my suggestions a little trendy/silly/young/naive. But maybe not; I don't consider myself that flamboyant... :)

I say it on AskMe so much I'm a broken record, but Lerner New York and Company's northeast-region stores have excellent office-wear basics in flattering cuts, cute colors, comfortable fabrics, and lasting silhouettes. My oxford shirts, office dresses, basic black pants, and pencil skirts all have come from there; many I bought while I was in high school and they're still going strong. Avoid the catalog and the stores outside of the northeast though; for some reason, the selection entirely different and horrible. Think of them as a less spendy Ann Taylor. My favorite blazer, the only one I've ever found that fits perfectly, was from Lerner, by the way...

Not a brand, but a resource: Zappos is hands down the best place to buy shoes online. The service/shipping policies are amazing, and every pair of shoes I've bought from them have been amazing and long lasting. But maybe just 'cause I did lots of research on the site before choosing. You can also have them email you when brands you like roll out new stuff, or when the shoes you want go on sale. Some of my favorite shoe brands are Seychelles, Simple, Steve Madden, Kenneth Cole, Dexter, Born, Sigerson Morrison, Marc Jacobs (!!), Taryn Rose, Magdesians, Ros Hammerson, Madeline, Franco Sarto, Me Too, Kenzie, and DKNY. I've never owned a pair of Delman shoes/boots but I hear good things about them. I also have a huge thing for Irregular Choice, but they're not remarkably durable or practical, just whimsical and fantastically unique and pretty.

For bras/underwear, I'm loyal to Wacoal, Calvin Klein, and DKNY. But I'm also petite, so mileage may vary depending. Calvin Klein makes good classic loungewear and swimsuits too.

I really hate saying this because I'm so conflicted about the company but it's true; for easy to find/common t shirt/breathable cotton style wear, a reliable name with a variety of modern cuts and colors is American Apparel. I feel squicky just admitting it, but everything in my closet that has their label has lasted well through repeated washings, even the "raw edge" and seamless stuff like their skirts.

For fancy hosiery, I love Stockingirl and Sock-dreams.com. Expensive, but unique and high quality.

I don't have one myself, but for unique and durable messenger and handbags and wallets, I've heard good things about Queen Bee.

Banana Republic has good quality handbags as well, though oddly enough, the best handbag I've ever owned was from Urban Outfitters (whose stuff in general tends to be very flimsy). They don't sell the one I had anymore,

I am too broke to know if it's worth the hype, and you may laugh and gawk at the whimsicalness of the stuff, but Anthropologie's catalog has always fascinated me. Some of their shoes and skirts, when not totally crazy/fairyland, look like they must be the most beautiful stuff one could ever own. But that's just me...they also have some nice housewear stuff, as does Urban Outfitters when it's not too trendy/stupid.

Again not a brand, but Bluefly has seasonal specials on lasting classics like cashmere sweaters in great colors. Yoox is a similar type of thing as Bluefly, though their stuff seems more flashy/celebrity-wannabe-oriented.
posted by ifjuly at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2007

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