## Tuesday, June 28, 2011

### Cost Per Wear: A Useful Calculation?

I've read lots of articles about using cost-per-wear to determine if a clothing purchase is a good value. The basic idea: even if an item is expensive at purchase time, repeated wearings bring the actual per-wear price down to something quite reasonable. The Budget Fashionista has a nice simple explanation here.  And Serene from the Elegant Bohemian wrote about cost-per-wear today (though she looked gorgeous, she wasn't thrilled with her investment yet).

{For us math-challenged shoppers, here's a fun calculator to speed up the decision making -- the Skinny Cow Cowculator.}

Yippee, I love to analyze! (The opposite of my personal philosphy is probably, "Well, that's the way it is.") So here's my take on cost-per-wear (CPW): The concept is a reasonable one for certain categories of clothing.

A good leather handbag is worth a few dollars IMHO. Handbags are such a personal choice, though, and you can rotate through lots of fun, inexpensive bags in a year for the price of one "good" one.  It's amusing to apply CPW to a super-high-end handbag. Here's a fetching one for a cool \$5,450. If I wear it 7 days a week for 5 years, that's only Three Bucks a Day for my handbag! But . . . I know I'll never want to wear the same bag every day for five years, will you?

So Question #1 for you, Do you prefer variety, or one/two higher-end handbags?

Shoes are a no-brainer for me -- my middle aged feet can't tolerate cheap shoes anymore. And a great-fitting pair results in a very attractive cost-per-wear for me, because I will wear them to the nub, and keep them for years. I'm not talking about Louboutins for my modest life, but a great pair of Kenneth Coles, Calvin Kleins or Indigo by Clarks and my feet/wallet are happy. The math works.

 Clark's Sandals - Pretty and Practical
Question #2 - What's the oldest pair of shoes you own and still wear regularly? Mine are probably a pair of Naturalizer peep-toe wedges, about \$80, purchased four years ago. They are burgundy, and gosh darn it, they really do go-with-everything.

A couple of cashmere sweaters and a high quality wool coat are the only other items I'd permit myself to spend a bundle on. Cashmere lasts for a long time and keeps its good looks, if washed carefully. A nice coat or jacket will do me for a decade in Florida, and makes any winter outfit look more special.

 Calvin Klein wool coat - I don't own it, but I wouldn't mind.

After handbags, shoes/boots and coats, the CPW starts to lose its power for me. For example, I used to think suits should be purchased with the "investment" philosophy. But I never really did get my money's worth out of the wicked expensive ones. The styles changed just enough that I looked dated, or I got tired of the cut/color long before the CPW was reasonably low.

Everyday pieces -- cardigans, shirts, knit tops, skirts, jeans, et al -- I just can't spend too much on these and justify it with a CPW. Consignment and thrift shopping have spoiled me for full, high-retail on these pieces. For example, I'd have to wear this beautiful skirt about 75 times to get it down to a comfortable CPW of \$2.50. My lovely floral thrifted skirt gets the job done in one and a half wears.

What's your take on cost-per-wear and Investment Dressing?

1. I'm always calculating cost per wear--but most of the stuff I buy is so inexpensive that a couple of wears and its cost effective! On the other more expensive items, I'm usually in the black. but sometimes I make a mistake. oopsey.

2. Well, I do think about cost per wear sometimes, but since most of my clothing is thrifted to begin with...I think some of it is down to a quarter per wear. I do like good shoes, but I've found designer bags for reasonable prices in thrift stores.

3. I don't actually calculate CPW, but I think it's a useful concept. The problem is, you never know for sure how much you will wear something until you've tried it out for awhile.

In general, I am willing to spend more if a) something makes me feel great, and b) it seems versatile -- because it will mix with what I own, or because it has good crossover potential between casual and professional contexts.

I agree with you 100 percent about shoes. Bags are harder because, again, it's difficult to tell which ones will be great. I try not to spend too much on them, which isn't easy!

4. Now you pull a string here!I don't seem to decide where I want to splurge and where to save!
But I think you have a point when you say that bags and shoes have to be investment pieces but the rest can be thrifted or bought much cheaper.Maybe that's where balance lies.
Plus in my case I begin to make some of my clothes myself and this brings another element into the equation.

5. Paula - we all some oops-es in our closets. You always look great!

Terri - a quarter per wear is hard to top! I agree about designer bags - there are bargains to be found.

Anne - good points. It has to make you feel great or it's not a good deal, no matter the price.

Angie - you are a skilled seamstress for sure. That does introduce a new dimension. Is fabric getting expensive too?

6. I totally agree with your reasoning.

My suspicion is that CPW is used by magazines and fashion writers to convince the impressionable that they can spend more than they should.

7. I personally think there is a happy medium... When I buy cheap I regret it when it distorts in the wash or shows wear too quickly..... I must admit, I'm too poor and too practical to go for a super expensive option. My cost per wear for my leather biker jacket is getting pretty good though :)

8. Rose - Thanks for visiting! Yes, the magazines cannot be relied upon to give us good financial advice, can they?

Amber - Great point about a leather jacket - you can wear it for a lifetime!

9. I've posted on this topic too; I find a can be *incredibly* optimistic when in the dressing room: "Oh, I'm going to wear this forever!" But in reality I get tired of many things (especially pattern) in a few years. For me, the best value has been, as you said, in cashmere.

And though you *could* wear leather for 20 years, the styles do change.

10. I would "wear"--I like to say "carry"-- a super fabulous bag every day for five years, but I can never make myself spend the up-front money on a Kelly or Birkin or even a Mulberry Bayswater--I do believe a great bag can elevate an outfit. The biggest problem, aside from cheapness, is that I have not settled on what style and size I prefer--I'm close to saying a Mulberry Bayswater--top handle, large enough for mu Rx glasses and sunglasses, makeup bag, a paperback maybe--but not so large I can't tuck it under a seat or carry it comfortably for a while...

Shoes: I, too, have to spend enough to get ones that I can actually wear--I agree with your minimums--but here I find that what is comfortable changes, rather annoyingly, a pair of Eccos I loved for years suddenly rubs my outer toes, say. One of my oldest pairs is a lovely Stuart Weizman kitten heel, pointy toed tassled loafer--I've had them at least since 2005.

11. The iPhone App COST PER WEAR is available in the App Store. That's free.

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