Everyone knows the importance of investing wisely for a strong financial future and smart women carry that practice over to their wardrobes. In flush times, it’s easy to justify the indulgence, but when leading indicators begin pointing south, the case becomes a little more difficult. Many women will argue the merits of investing in their wardrobes either as a result of, or in spite of, market performance. Borrowing a page from the Dress for Success tome, many believe that great apparel is literally a personal investment, an investment in career and in the way the world perceives them.
There may be some good news ahead for these bullish shoppers. With analysts predicting an overall surge for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, women may likely be able to indulge their urge to splurge on fashion and in particular, luxury apparel, with a little less guilt.
The majority of women are positive about the economy. Accordingto theCotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, 64.9% of female respondents stated that they were “somewhat” to “very optimistic” about their own financial situations. This is encouraging news for the upscale apparel market, which will likely enjoy some robust interest from female consumers looking to spread the proverbial wealth.
“It’s almost a rite of passage that once you come into a little more money, you will be upgrading your wardrobe,” considers Linda DeFranco, a senior trend forecaster with Cotton Incorporated. “It seems only natural.”
Many women build their wardrobes in much the same fashion that they build their portfolios, diversifying a good mix of blue chip stocks with classic investments, says Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of Luxury Institute, an independent and objective research organization that focuses solely on the top ten percent of America’s wealthy. “There’s certainly no question that women will be looking to buy luxury goods this year,” he anticipates. “A stronger stock market is always a driver of consumption for more luxury goods. Women will be trading up to higher and higher brands to differentiate and diversify their wardrobes.”
Women’s Personal Financial Outlook:
“This season, I anticipate people moving toward purchasing more aspirational items; they are more willing, able and wanting to purchase items that are known for exceptional fit, quality and style, versus purchasing a cheaper version that does not wear or fit as well,” observes Alle Fister, stylist and spokesperson for ShopBop.com, a chic web destination.
The experts point to several hot commodities in apparel this year, ranging from premium denim to coats to luxury knitwear to suits to lingerie. “It’s about that feeling of showing off, whether it’s something obvious that everyone can see, like a great overcoat or a well-cut jean right down to something that only you know about, like a truly sumptuous undergarment,” DeFranco the forecaster maintains. “It’s about how these items make you feel that makes them luxurious and indulgent.”
It may also be somewhat about a sense of effortless wear and easy elegance, asserts Lynn Cohen, proprietor of Runway, a boutique with locations in Manhattan’s Flatiron and Soho Districts. “Women want to get dressed once and look really pulled together for the entire sphere of events in a given day from work to meetings to dinner out,” she tells. “They want to be taken seriously and having the right look is critical to that.” Cohen may clearly be on to something. Nearly six out of ten female respondents said that they prefer to wear one comfortable outfit for all the different activities in a day, versus changing clothes to fit a range of different events, according to the Monitor.
One garment getting women through their varied activities is denim and the penchant for premium denim shows no signs of abating. “Ninety percent of the jeans we are selling at the moment are above the $250 mark,” Cohen continues. “With embellishment and slight details, women are basically wearing denim works of art.”
A pair of premium jeans is a true investment piece, analyzes Paige Adams, owner and designer of Paige Denim. “As consumers become more savvy and educated about premium denim, they realize that they get what they are paying for. They recognize the difference in the fabric, fit, construction, and length of wear over time. They see how they fit and feel on the body and how it’s worth the price.”
“Denim has become the new black pant; we wear jeans everywhere,” contends Fister from ShopBop.com. “Investing in a great pair is well worth the money since we wear denim all of the time.” Another item to get a great deal of both wear and attention is a fabulous coat, observes Kim Johnson, owner of Johnson. The retailer, who sells her designs via the web and through a store located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, observes that her customers are willing to shell out the bigger bucks for their outerwear. “Classic and simple coats last a few years and feel like a permanent piece of your wardrobe. In fact, regardless of the economy, a good coat makes for a good style investment.”
Such introspective justification of prices is yet another indicator of the emerging and evolving savviness of today’s consumer. And women are becoming increasingly savvy as they learn to trust themselves and their personal style, says Cohen from Runway. “Any time that you make a purchase that expresses or highlights your individuality, you are making a great investment.”
This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Appearing Thursdays in these pages, each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.