Fashion portfolio a mess? Invest in khaki

Who says no one wears khakis anymore?

Oh, right. I did.

Now, thanks to Gap, Vogue, a trio of this-minute designers and a handful of leggy supermodels, I'm eating crow.

Gap has unleashed its third annual Design Editions collection, in which the finalists for the Vogue/CFDA award -- a prize that celebrates up-and-coming talents -- riff on a classic Gap item.

The past two years' collections focused on new evolutions of the crisp white shirt, menswear and jewelry. This year, though, designers Vena Cava, Alexander Wang and Albertus Swanepoel were commissioned to spin runway-worthy looks from that most utilitarian cloth, Gap's very genetic material: khaki.

I have to hand it to Gap: the results are fabulous. The collection doesn't just offer three updated, trendy takes on khakis -- there are jackets, dresses, even fedoras. The collection ranges from $39.50 to $88, which means it presents an opportunity for average-spending people to bring ultrahigh-end names into their wardrobe.
But this particular collection is more than that. The items in it would be great investments even if they didn't have famous faces behind them.

At $88, the khaki pants by Vena Cava and Alexander Wang certainly aren't cheap -- but they follow flattering, streamlined silhouettes. Paying $88 for a jackpot pair of khakis seems awfully reasonable to me when I consider how many pairs of ill-fitting, atrophied, one-wash-and-done $40 khakis I've wasted money on over the years -- and I know I'm not alone on that.

Finding a perfectly fitted, durable, attractive pair of khakis is one clothing quest I've never really conquered (see, you're starting to see where all my anti-chinos bitterness comes from). And it's a particularly tough pill to swallow, because khaki, economically, is a great investment -- you can wear the fabric all year round.

So don't stop at a pair of the collection's pants. If you can stretch your budget, pick up my choice for the collection's most valuable item: Alexander Wang's double-breasted jacket. The length is perfect, the three-quarter-length sleeves are brilliant, and the zipper details are thrilling.

If you only shop Gap once this year, do it now -- hundreds of wears and dozens of washes later, I'm still getting compliments on those Design Editions white shirts. It's not just the best high-low bang for your buck, bar none. It's a retail miracle worker -- after all, it's bringing khakis back.
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