Enduring love

Which clothes have you stuck with through the years?

As the seasons change, I'm always thinking I should be shopping and buying my new ward robe. I rarely do, of course. The last time I had a big clothes shopping spree was about two years ago and my bank was so alarmed it called me up saying that there had "been some unusual activity on your card". "Oh really?" I said. "Like what?" "You've not been in your usual shops," they replied, "but places such as Fenwick and Jigsaw and . . ."

The magazines are full (as I said a few weeks ago) of what to wear this season. This, of course, is very interesting, but what I find most interesting is not what people are going to buy, but what they've bought that has really proved itself useful over the years. Fashion is always more interesting to me retrospectively.

I bought my biker boots, from Shellys, 19 years ago. I wear them each winter and they've seen me through every look I've had during that time, and lasted through five major relationships. God, the times they've had . . . Best not go on about it here, though. Going back a bit further, when I was at secondary school, Marks & Spencer started doing wool-rich long socks (but for one winter only, so they became highly covetable). These socks were so long that we could get away with wearing them during netball (the school had this rule that we had to wear our skorts - yes, half skirt, half shorts - for PE, no matter how leg-mottling the weather) by having them pulled up to mid-thigh just before and just after, but crucially lowering them to below knee level when the teacher was on the pitch. I still have them, and they are fantastic to wear when you want warmth without resorting to claustrophobic woolly tights.

About ten years ago, when I first started fish-ing, I bought a Patagonia fleece gilet in cream. This is probably the single most useful thing I've acquired in recent memory. It has four huge pockets, so it's fantastically practical, and it's also windproof, so even if your arms freeze, your core stays toasty. And because it's the super-cool Patagonia label, you don't feel dowdy in it. It's ex cellent to pack for "not sure what the weather will be like" holidays, because it folds down fairly small, yet does the job of handbag, coat and cardigan.

Last year I got a dress from Whistles that I already know is one of the best things I have ever bought. It's a very good fit but - crucially - it's cut so cleverly that it's never restricting (well, not unless you've really, really eaten too much). It also looks superb and everyone thinks it's Dior (I rarely disabuse them of this, either).

Really good items of clothing that enhance your life don't always make themselves apparent immediately, but, rather like good friends, you look back at them years later and think: "I'm really glad I found you."

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 15 October 2007 issue of the New Statesman, An abuse of power