In a world where opposites not only attract but fundamentally complement one another, pairing fast fashion snags with your grandmother’s heirloom Vuitton clutch is not only style savvy, it’s the norm. The hard part is attempting to discern which pieces will become coveted hand-me-downs one day.

“We’ve become a pretty trend-driven culture and a lot of people have a difficult time investing money on a specific piece in their wardrobe,” says stylist Erin Nadler of Better Styled. “So I do try to explain to people that you’re getting something that’s going to last forever if you invest wisely.”

We’ve asked Nadler to take us back to basics—well, those iconic designer must-haves—and how to invest in a timeless and treasured wardrobe (and how to find worthy alternatives if you can’t splurge on the real thing just yet).

Investment piece: The trench coat

Fashion inspiration: The iconic Burberry trench

Why you should invest this season:
“I always tell my clients that a trench is a must-have in their wardrobes. What’s great about the Burberry trench is the fit and the fabric, which is why everybody goes back to it and it is a key piece to invest in. It’s also the kind of piece that never goes out of style and if you by something that is better quality, you’re going to have it forever,” says Nadler.

Fall 2012 twist: “One of my favourites is a Canadian company called Rudsak, and they do beautiful trench coats and all of their details are funkier, so they’ll do a leather embellishment, those aspects that make it unique. Staples like Banana Republic and J. Crew always have a trench coat every season, with varying weights depending on what season you’re in.”

Expert shopping tip: “For fall, I would suggest getting something slightly thicker that has more meat to the fabric so that you can layer underneath. Make sure you think about if you want to wear a suit jacket and leaving yourself room so that you can do that.”

Investment piece: Ballet flat

Fashion inspiration: The quilted Chanel ballet flat

Why you should invest this season:
“Open up any magazine this season— ballet flats are everywhere!” says Nadler. Even with this iconic fashion inspiration, be discerning among the delicate pack: “A good, comfortable pair of shoes, something with a good cut and a good fit but that you don’t have to spend a lot on.”

Fall 2012 twist:
“The Chanel quilted has been around forever,” muses Nadler. “In fact, Stuart Weitzman and Tory Burch flats are just as popular as the Chanel ones and they’re at a lower price point.”

Expert shopping tip:
Fall fashion inspiration? If you’ve already invested in a Chanel flat, update the look for a glam holiday party by adding a sparkly shoe accessory, suggests Nadler.

PHOTOS: Top 10 pieces to invest in this season

For more Fall 2012 runway trend investment pieces, read on to the next page…

Investment piece: Leather bag

Fashion inspiration: The Prada bag

Why you should invest this season:
“A good
leather bag is important, especially with the higher-end leathers, you get a better quality—especially if it’s pebble leather. You avoid any of the scratches you get with the softer leathers.”

Fall 2012 twist:
Michael Kors and Roots are doing the same kind of look for less money.”

Expert shopping tip: “EBay is fabulous for bags, even companies like Gilt are great places to buy designer bags at a lower price, even on sale. Sometimes at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom that ship to Canada you can
buy end-of-season stuff at a slightly reduced price,” says Nadler.

Investment piece: The wrap dress

Fashion inspiration: The Diane von Furstenberg signature wrap

Why you should invest this season:
“This is a huge investment piece and it’s worth it,” says Nadler. “The reason that her wrap dresses have been around forever is because she uses the thick jersey fabric— they’re figure flattering and her patterns are always big winners for people and her patterns are very personal.”

Fall 2012 twist:
“The wrap dress is an easy thing to find in any store—like Banana Republic every season! The most important thing is the fit and that’s really why Diane von Furstenberg has been so successful and it’s the dress she repeats season after season.”

Expert shopping tip: “Try to find a wrap dress with sleeves because it gives you the versatility of wearing in winter without something over top if you don’t want to—easier than sleeveless and having to worry about layering.”

Investment piece: Silk scarf

The inspiration: The patterned Hermès silk square

Why you should invest this season: “It’s stunning—it’s the kind of piece that if you buy it, you could give it to your daughter or granddaughter. They’re popular because it’s the best silk and they’re the greatest, most interesting patterns.”

Fall 2012 twist: “The Bay, Coach, Holts—you can pick up funkier pieces for each season and each trend that comes out for the season that you love at a lower price.”

Expert shopping tip:
“I’m not a huge advocate of investing in a scarf,” says Nadler. “A scarf, like any accessory, does tend to be or can be trendier and in that case you do want to have an assortment to choose from. And if you’re investing in something expensive, you wont necessarily be able to pick up as many options.”

Read more:
Fall 2012: High-tech fabrics

Weekend style: Brunch fall fashion

Gift guide 2012: The 10 best holiday gifts under $250

8 staple pieces for holiday parties