05 Clothing
By Insung Cho

(MONEY Magazine) – Ever since Coco Chanel invented the concept in the 1920s, the little black dress has been a wardrobe staple for women. Able to go from work to cocktails, weddings to funerals, the frock's versatile nature makes it worth an investment. How big an investment is up to you. Spend $1,000-plus on one designer dress? Or an entire ensemble? Either way, these pieces offer the longest-lasting style for your buck. --I.C.

Money $1,000 BUDGET

Black Dress

Narciso Rodriguez gained instant fame with Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's wedding gown in 1996, and remains a favorite of fashion insiders. But because he has yet to become a household name, his clothes are more affordable than, say, Ralph Lauren's. While $1,080 is still far from cheap, Rodriguez's wool crepe A-line is seasonless and flattering. BERGDORFGOODMAN.COM $1,080

Black Dress

A number of couturiers produce affordable secondary lines, like Red by Valentino and O by Oscar de la Renta. But Michael by Michael Kors may offer the most direct translation of runway looks. For example, this jersey dress is nearly identical to one of Kors' $1,000 stunners. HECHT'S, 800-424-9205 $149

Reversible Coat

Upscale designers are migrating en masse to mass-market stores, which is how this chic coat (it reverses to black satin) can sport an Isaac Mizrahi label and a Target price tag. For more deals, be sure to visit H&M in November, when pieces by Stella McCartney hit stores. TARGET.COM $70

Earrings and Ring

You couldn't squeeze into a 15-year-old's jeans, but you can save on trendy jewelry at teen sources like AlltheRageOnline.com, where we scored this ring ($12) and earrings ($9). ALLTHERAGEONLINE.COM $21

Silk Scarf

Invest in one timeless Hermès scarf and reap giant returns: It'll up the glamour quotient of all your outfits for decades. HERMES.COM $320

Dooney & Bourke Bag

"It" bags are usually "out" by the time the bill arrives. Bag Borrow or Steal solves this problem by renting out status purses for a monthly fee ranging from $20 to $175. BAGBORROWORSTEAL.COM $400 for an eight-month rental

Basic Black Pumps

Department stores' house brands, such as Nordstrom's BP, imitate designer trends but offer savings by buying direct from the factory. NORDSTROM.COM $50