Conscious Living

Less is more: These are the five wardrobe staples to buy for quality

Jordan Daniels wearing jeans and a tweed jacket


Author Elizabeth L. Cline reveals what five items you should always invest in – and explains how to make a savvy purchase.

Just like our readers, the FQ team are seeking to make conscious clothing choices. As we investigate how to have a more sustainable relationship with fashion, the concept of a capsule wardrobe with quality investments has more relevance than ever before; after all, why have five cheap coats when you could have one that’s well made, looks incredible, keeps you warm and will be around for decades?

Enduring, quality garments are more sustainable due to the fact they are less likely to be disposed of (they have a far longer lifespan than cheap alternatives) and, depending on their provenance, are often manufactured in a more environmentally and socially positive way.

Here, in an extract from her book The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, author Elizabeth L. Cline explains the importance of investing in quality pieces.


Your entire wardrobe will look more polished, and you’ll look and feel more put together, by buying high-quality versions of these five wardrobe staples. If buying for quality feels out of reach, [consider] resale and secondhand shopping, and scale up slowly, piece by piece, over time.

1. Winter coats

Coats are complex garments that need to be sturdy enough to be worn on the daily and taken on and off repeatedly for months on end. Buy the best you can afford. Choose something very well made, functional, and timeless. Likewise, a good leather jacket should last a lifetime. Pick a classic cut instead of something trendy. Choose leather that feels supple but durable. Double-check for very strong stitching, a heavy-duty zipper, a full lining, and functional pockets.

Shop: Isabel Marant Coat


2. Sweaters

A good wool or cashmere sweater can last an eternity. A crewneck, turtleneck, or cable-knit sweater always looks classic and chic. Good wool will feel substantial, lofty, and filled out, not thin. Ultra-soft knits can be a sign of poor quality. Good wools will soften with time and wear.

Shop: Standard Issue Cashmere Sweater


3. Handbags

Resist the temptation to buy a cheap knockoff and get a good, high-quality genuine leather handbag by a trusted brand name. Very-high-quality designer handbags can be had at affordable prices on resale websites like Tradesy, The RealReal, thredUP, and Rebag. High-quality faux leather bags are also increasingly easy to find (Stella McCartney and Matt & Nat are two popular brands making chic and durable synthetic leather products).

Read more: Re-sale is hotting up – here are our tips to navigating this fast-growing marketplace

Shop: Prada Leather Bag


4. Jeans

Most of us live in our denim, so it pays to buy the best you can afford. Skip paper-thin jeans in favour of denim with a bit of heft and weight to it. Jeans in 100 percent cotton last an eternity and are easy to mend. If you want a little stretch, opt for no more than 2 percent spandex. Blended fabrics of polyester, viscose rayon, and spandex are almost always a sign of cost cutting and can lead to your denim quickly pilling and stretching out.

Shop: Levi’s Balloon Jeans


5. Shoes

If there’s one item in your wardrobe you should always buy for quality, it’s shoes. I usually have one pair of canvas sneakers and synthetic running shoes that I burn through in a year to eighteen months, but the rest of my footwear is leather dress shoes that are built to last for years.

Shop: R.M. Williams Boots


The Concious Closet by Elizabeth L Cline

This is an edited extract, reprinted with permission from The Conscious Closet, by Elizabeth L. Cline, copyright © 2019.
Published by Plume, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. $30

Words: Elizabeth L. Cline
Introduction: Emma Gleason

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