Hey guys, sorry for the delay on this week’s essay! I’m still working on my writing schedule for the new posting format, so thanks for bearing with me while I work out the kinks. Also, the pictures for this post were taken in my “new” photo spot (aka my in-laws’ dining room) with my handy dandy new tripod. I’m going to try to shoot in this space more often, especially for my product reviews, so I hope you like it!
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dig in to cost per wear.
For someone who calls herself a wardrobe scientist, I don’t keep very much data on my closet. I sort of know how many pieces are in my capsule, how often I wear them, and what I add and subtract each month, but that’s about as exact as I feel like getting these days.
I first saw the concept of cost-per-wear pop up on Instagram (the birth place of all intensive wardrobe tracking trends, it seems), and basically, you take the dollar amount that you paid for your garment, divide it by the number of times you’ve worn it, and the number that you’re left with is the cost per wear (cpw). The obvious goal is to get the cpw for any individual item down to as small a number as possible – but when you do that, what exactly do you have?
I think most people who advocate for cpw calculations would say that they have a better idea of whether or not their purchases were worth it, if they’re wearing certain items in their closets often enough, and a metric for determining which items should stay and which can go. I don’t disagree that it can be helpful, but it’s not for me, and I don’t think it has to be the be-all-end-all of determining the value of your clothing. Here are a few reasons why:
ONE: It’s time consuming
Ya’ll. I’m tired. I have BUSY days full of commuting, working, exercising, cooking, cleaning, writing, and so many other tasks, and all the while trying to maintain my relationships and set aside time for myself to read books and watch a little Masterpiece Classic (#selfcare). I do not have room for yet another chore in my life.
If data entry and analysis is fun for you, I’m not here to stand in your way, but there are a lot of other ways I’d rather be spending my own time, and one of the primary reasons I pursue a minimalist wardrobe in the first place is to spend less time thinking about my clothing overall.
TWO: Competitive transactionalization is not healthy
I think that a cpw project can start innocently enough, but at the heart of the exercise, you’re turning every single wear of your clothing into a transaction. You think, wearing these boots right now is costing me $50, if I wear them again tomorrow it will cost me $33, and so on. I don’t think it’s good to frame so many of our daily activities as an exchange for money.
The cpw on my wedding dress, for example, is still at its original $400 (RIP J.Crew bridal), but I didn’t think about that when I bought it. I thought about how my mom was crying in the dressing room, how my partner was going to look at me when I walked down the aisle, and how it was the most perfect, beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The argument I can’t justify spending X amount of dollars on a dress I’m only going to wear once! has always bothered me for that reason. When you only think of wearing your wedding dress in terms of a monetary transaction, it sucks the joy right out of it. That’s an extreme example, buy you get what I’m saying.
Further, when you start transactionalizing competitively, with yourself or with strangers on Instagram, it can breed feelings of guilt or shame. Maybe you aren’t hitting your goal cpw for an item you paid a lot of money for, or maybe people on the internet are doing a much better job than you and you’re jealous of them. It’s a slippery slope to anxiety and regret if you aren’t careful.
THREE: Value can (and should) be measured in a variety of ways
Going back to the wedding dress example, there are more ways to measure the value of something than its price in dollars. If I had a nickel for every annoying person who told me how many laptops or student loan payments or whatever they could buy instead of paying for a fancy wedding dress, well, maybe I wouldn’t have so much credit card debt left over from my wedding (ha ha it’s a joke but still sort of true…). But the value of my wedding dress was not based on the amount of money I paid for it. It’s based on something else. Something intangible but just as important.
We live in a system of capitalism, so of course we’re taught to believe that money is at the center of everything. It’s hard to uncouple money and value, especially when it comes to something like your closet. I’m not saying don’t budget for clothes and I’m certainly not encouraging you to spend more than you can afford on something, but I am saying that it’s okay to want things and value them just for their beauty or specialness in your life, regardless of the cost per wear you can calculate from them.
Do you calculate cost per wear? Why or why not?