Advice From the Best Fashion Director Around

In this week's The New York Times' "Open Thread: This Week in Style News" column, fashion director Vanessa Friedman answers a question we all have wondered about. Read the excerpt below, the full piece originally written and posted by The New York Times available here.

Q: A few years ago, I started buying expensive shoes very occasionally, instead of cheap ones every few months. (I felt guilty about working conditions at fast-fashion factories, and about the waste I was generating.) But city sidewalks don’t know how much you paid, and they eat up my nice Alumnae boots and Louboutin flats nearly as quickly as they did the ones from Zara. What warning signs should I be on the lookout for so I can keep my shoes in good condition, without getting ripped off by weekly cobbler visits? — Alex, New York

A: First: good for you. As someone who firmly believes there is way too much stuff in the world and way too much of a tendency to see it all as disposable, I long ago made it my New Year’s resolution to buy less, but buy better, and try to take care of my things more. (I use my grandmother as my guide for this.) For me, “sustainable fashion” is an oxymoron, but a “sustainable wardrobe” is a goal.

That said, you are asking the wrong question (sorry). Don’t look for warning signs: Prevent them from occurring. Before you even wear a new pair of shoes — with their perfect, smooth soles — take them to the cobbler and ask for metal taps on the toes and rubber caps on the heels. You can also add thin rubber soles. It’s not expensive, since nothing is actually being repaired (that takes artistry and experience and costs more), but it will go far toward preserving the integrity of your shoes and they can be easily replaced once worn through. That tiny preventive measure will save you lots of money in the long run, and it will also ensure you get to keep wearing your investment accessories.

It’s like hanging clothes up after you wear them or learning to iron: one of the lost arts of taking care of a wardrobe. — VANESSA FRIEDMAN