As I mentioned before, I’ve been tracking the contents of my wardrobe for a long time; this year, I also started tracking my actual usage. In the process, I’ve accumulated a fair bit of data … all just begging to be analyzed. I hate math, but I’m an inveterate number-cruncher. Contradictions, I haz them. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to start a “wardrobe analytics” series, and play around with all that data.
First up: this summer’s most worn pieces, and some cost-per-wear lessons.
You will remember that I spent my summer at home, chasing after two kids under 3. I could describe my experience in any number of ways, but I’d be hard-pressed to call it the height of sartorial glamour. Or even the foothills of glamour. Really, I wasn’t anywhere near glamour territory. Casual, with a side of sweatpants. Keep that it mind as you feast your eyes on my most worn summer clothes.
This analysis doesn’t include the stuff I wore around the house, aka so-called lounge wear (although who are we kidding, there was no lounging involved).
Honestly, when I first drew up the list, I was disappointed. All of the pieces are so … boring. No real prints (stripes don’t count), and not much colour. When I think of what I consider “my style”, it’s all Bright and Colourful and Loud and Prints, Hurrah! Except, maybe not. I obviously rely on basic pieces in neutral colours far more than I realize. Considering that I’m (technically) an adult and not a toddler, this probably counts as a positive.
However, this made me realize that I’m really crap at guesstimating what I actually wear. For example, I could have sworn that I “lived” in my floral Anthropologie skirts this summer:
Not so much. I wore them a total number of 7 times, combined. You might think: so what? After all, these skirts are still in great condition, and I will get to wear them again next summer. This is where the cost-per-wear thing comes in. The tulip print skirt cost me $8. After one year (barring any additional wear this fall/winter, which is unlikely), the cost-per-wear is still a whopping $2.66. I will have to wear it for 2 more years (assuming a similar rate of wear) before the cost-per-wear will be under $1. My general goal is to have a cost-per-wear for most of my clothing – except special occasion pieces – at around $0.50. With that goal in mind, this skirt won’t “break even” for another 4 years, unless I start wearing it more often.
And consider the other skirt. It cost me $39. Not a terribly high price, right? Except that its current cost-per-wear is $9.75. Even I start it wearing it twice as often as I did this past summer, it will take another almost 4 years for the cost-per-wear to reach $1. The odds that I’ll get tired of it before then? Pretty good.
Maybe I’m just being unrealistic about what a reasonable cost-per-wear should be. But I know that when people talk about something costing “pennies” on a per-wear basis, they’re either (a) delusional, or (b) wearing the same dozen pieces all the time. If, like me, your wardrobe is considerably more extensive, then cost-per-wear is mostly irrelevant when it comes to determining what’s a reasonable price to pay for things other than the most basic of basic (i.e. black pants you wear every week). I’d caveat that statement by adding 3 exceptions: outerwear, bags, and shoes.
If you live in a climate that requires outerwear for a significant portion of the year, then paying more to get the best quality you can afford makes sense, and cost-per-wear will bear that out. Ditto if the weather or your lifestyle necessitates certain footwear investments. (In my case, that’s mostly limited to boots; I cycle between a lot of pairs of “indoor” shoes, so few of them get weekly wear.) Bags are a special category, because they tend to be the one item that gets used every day – whether you have only one bag, or 20, that still translates to a lot of wear. Here’s one example: I’ve already worn the brown MbMJ Mag bag I bought back in June 35 times; its current cost-per-wear is $3.4, and I’m still using it all the time. I’m certain that its cost-per-wear will be closer to $1, or less, before I get tired of it and sell it along.
If you’ve made it through this entire post and are still awake, first of all, congrats. And secondly, tell me: have you ever used the cost-per-wear idea to justify a purchase, and if so, have you ever calculated your actual costs-per-wear?