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/ 29 May 2016 / Leave a comment


Do you think about the cost per wear when you shop?

Simplified, cost per wear (CPW) is the price you pay each time you wear a certain item.

The idea comes from a good place. Cost per wear is "a better way to be fiscally responsible about your fashion"*, but it has a dark side too: it's easy to fall into the trap of using CPW reasoning as a justification for unnecessary purchases.

The way I see it, there are two different ways of using CPW.
This is a good definition of one formula, by Zady, inc:

"Think about how often you'll wear a new garment or accessory in a typical month. Now multiply that times 12 (six if it's a seasonal piece), and then multiply that by the number of years you think it will stay useful in your closet. Divide the cost of the piece by the resulting number."*

Ex. 1: The sandals you like cost 158$. In a typical month, you'll wear them 8 times. Summer lasts 4 months where you live, not 6. That's 8x4=32. 158$ divided by 32 wears is 4.94$. Now of course for 158$ you'd expect the sandals would last you a while! If they're well made and you look after them, you could wear them for 5 (or more) years, bringing the CPW down to 0.98$.

That was easy, right? Now you can go get those sandals and feel good about it. Well, perhaps not. This formula invites false justification. It bases a lot of its result on estimates. You don't know if you'll wear the sandals 8 times a month. You don't know you'll really wear them for 4 months. You don't know if every year you'll wear them for 4 months for the next 5 years. It's guess work. And while I don't condemn the formula completely, I think it makes it really easy to put your decision process on the wrong track. (Especially for us less disciplined or more emotional shoppers.)

"Cost-per-wear is not an excuse to purchase something. [...] You shouldn't be using your estimated cost-per-wear to justify spending any amount of money on something. That's not the point of cost-per-wear [...]."**

We don't need more excuses to buy things. Which is why it may be beneficial to think about this from the other end.

  *source    **source

What's your CPW number?

You'll find this question is quite common when you google "cost per wear." And it's legitimate. How much money is too much to pay per one wear? It can be different for everyone. There's a blogger who set her number at 4$. A thrifty shopper may want their number to be as low as 0.30$. Think about it, what would your number be?

I set my number at 1. 1$, 1€ or £1, for all everyday clothes. Like flat rate for shipping no matter where you deliver, it's a fixed, ideal cost per wear for me. I don't go through the formula in my head when I'm in the fitting room. I don't use CPW to determine whether I should get something, rather, I use it as a guide if something is worth the cost to me and if I'll use it enough.

Ex. 2: The sweater I like costs 30€. Instead of using the formula a tricking it to my advantage, I ask myself a few questions. 30€ should equal to 30 wears.

Q1: Can I see myself wearing this 30 times over the coming years? 
(If yes → proceed to Q2, if no, the sweater goes back on the shelf)
Q2: Is this item well made and will it last long enough for me to wear it 30 times? 
(If yes → Q3, no, item goes back) 
Q3: How often a month will I wear this item? 
(This question is just a check back to Q1, a fail safe.) 

Q2 is especially crucial when purchasing a more expensive item. You want to get as much out of it as you can, you're spending your hard earned cash! The biggest difference between these two approaches is that the first plays on your ego and asks you to be a yes man, while the second forces you to check with your gut/intuition.

+ of course there are other questions to ask yourself when shopping for an item, like: does this fit into my wardrobe's style, etc. CPW is not the sole reason why you should or shouldn't buy something.

I don't apply my set CPW in thrift shops and for occasion wear (for opposite reasons). But I do apply it for "normal" clothes shopping and I'd apply it to ethical purchases too. If I pay 140$ for a supposedly well-made pants, I better damn well make sure I can get my 140 (or so) wears out of it. If I buy a fast fashion top for 6$ and it lasts for the 6 times I wear it, I've got my CPW down! (And even fast fashion can be of good quality, as my friend Kate points out, so in the end the real CPW could go down to pennies. Though, the environmental and ethical impact my 6$ top has is a different story of course.) If I buy a 6$ fast fashion top and wear it twice, that's not acceptable. You could even keep a page in your diary / note on your phone, to mark how often you're wearing things. I found this helpful!

Low CPW should not be the reason you buy something, though it should play a role in your decision making. It should help you decide and not decide for you. Can you see yourself wearing this item x amount of times in the coming years? Don't say yes, just because you want to. Think about it, but don't reason with yourself. That way you're making a better decision for you, your wallet and your wardrobe.

Do you ever think about CPW? What would your ideal cost per wear be?

Have a lovely day!

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Hi, I'm Kat! A colourful wardrobe advocate and a capsule wardrobe graduate. Need any help finding your personal style and curating your closet? Advice on how to make most of the clothes you have? Or how to pack for an upcoming trip? I'm your girl!


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