Most of us have at least one treasured item in our wardrobes that belonged to a parent, grandparent, or great aunt or uncle. A classic trench, a beautiful necklace, a gentlemanly watch, or a perfectly tailored blazer – these are the items, the heirlooms, that we covet and treasure, not only for their sentimentality but also for the fact that they simply look good.
Granted, our elders probably didn’t buy these things with the goal of eventually passing them down to future generations. But back in the days when things were crafted to last a lifetime – long before the idea of fast fashion was ever conceived – it was simply a given that they could be passed along through the family.
In our consumerist era, where trends arrive and vanish within weeks, our purchases have become more impulsive and are often made with only the current fashion season in mind. But have you ever thought of the idea of modern heirlooms – investing in items now that have the potential to not only last your lifetime, but that could be passed down to your children and grandchildren? You’ll not only be reducing your consumption, but you’ll also be earning some serious style cred with your future offspring.
Go for a classic
A fail-safe way to make sure you will want to wear something for more than just one fashion season is to make sure it’s classic. There are certain things that will always be fashionable – a well-tailored shirt or jacket, a cashmere sweater, an elegant coat – and it’s also a good idea to go for neutral or classic colors (think grays, blacks and blues) rather than crazy patterns or prints. Think about also investing in classic accessories that will always be stylish, such as a leather weekender.
Quality is key
Look carefully at where and how the garment was made. Choose high-quality fabrics and check the seams and stitching to see if they are likely to unravel easily – small stitches and wide hems are often a sign of good quality. Also look at how tightly buttons are sewn on and whether they are properly aligned on the garment.
Think of it as an investment
Aside from the prestige of a brand name, there’s often a reason why some types of clothing are more expensive: because it’s made from high-quality materials, often by hand or in small batches. While the price might seem a lot to pay at first, think about how many times the garment will potentially be worn – especially if it’s going to last long enough to pass along to your children. If you divide the cost by that number, it’s a lot more economical than something that’s going to fall apart after being worn only a few times.
When you buy something that is meant to last a long time, you’re more likely to take good care of it. Make sure you launder things correctly (use a dry cleaner when necessary) and store clothing in garment bags to keep it away from moths and dust.
Look beyond your wardrobe
Modern heirlooms can be more than just clothing and accessories. The next time you’re in the market for a piece of furniture, invest the extra money in buying something handmade or high quality. Just make sure the aesthetic isn’t so extreme that you’ll tire of it in years to come (or that your grandchildren might find it hideous). Also look at investing in the work of emerging designers who you think have potential – after all, Charles and Ray Eames were once fledgling designers themselves.
Mikki Brammer is an Australian writer, photographer and self declared wanderer currently living in New York by way of France.