We all love finding a great deal on our favourite style, however there is also the argument that buying a quality item that will last longer is the more cost-effective choice. A cost-per-wear calculator is the ultimate tool to find out which clothes are the best value for you in the long run.
As studies have found that UK consumers don’t wear over 70% of the clothes in their wardrobe, we’re asking if cost-per-wear calculators can help lower these statistics. And can they help us to build more cost-effective and more sustainable shopping habits?
What is cost per wear?
So, you may be asking the question, what does cost per wear mean? The concept is a simple enough one, it is the purchase price of the item divided by the amount of times it is worn. Also factored into the cost per wear is the price of mending services, should they be required.
So, for a simplified example:
You see a quality pair of jeans you love for £210.
They seem expensive but will last five years. In those five years, you’ll wear them on average twice a week, meaning the total number of times you wear them is 520.
You may also need to get them repaired once which will cost you £25.
So the cost per wear is:
(£210 + £25) ÷ 520 = £0.45
This means that every time you wear those jeans, it is the equivalent of paying 45 pence.
On the other hand, you see a trendy dress that seems a bargain in a fast fashion store for £30.
You wear it twice then stick it in your wardrobe where you forget about it.
The cost per wear is:
£30 ÷ 2 = £15
Therefore, each time you wear your new dress it costs you £15.
The final figure gives you the cost of an item for every time you wear it which helps you to determine the overall value of the purchase to you. Clearly, the lower the cost per wear, the better value the product.
Considering that the average person only wears clothing they’ve bought seven times before throwing it away, keeping the cost-per-wear formula in mind is a good idea.
Why would you need a cost-per-wear calculator?
So why do you need this handy tool, you ask? The most obvious answer is to find out the real price of your clothes, rather than just a garment’s cost at the checkout.
As most of us only wear 10%-30% of what’s in our wardrobe, realising which clothes we wear more often is highly beneficial. It means that when you do have to shop for clothes, you can shop for those that you will get use out of. Without giving it much thought, we don’t always realise the clothes and styles that we are buying and not wearing.
This approach helps to save money by reducing impulse spending on items that will go largely unused. For those of us watching our bank account, avoiding impulse buys due to not understanding our clothing habits, can help to cut down on the average £768 we spend on clothes each year.
Buy less and buy better
Understanding the cost per wear of the clothes filling your wardrobe is also a great way to support a more sustainable outlook. In the modern fashion scene, we are buying and throwing away clothes like never before.
Fashion is one of the most environmentally harmful industries there is, responsible for everything from extreme water pollution, to the logging of ancient rainforests, to contributing to microplastics littering the sea. If these clothes aren’t then even worn, it just makes the entire fashion sector all the more wasteful.
Having an intimate understanding of your clothing habits Knowing the cost per use of your items means you can shop for this, and as a result buy the clothes you actually need. This helps to reduce consumption and as a knock on effect, fashion waste. After all the most sustainable mindset is to simply buy less.
How do you calculate cost per use?
We may have already had a look at a basic cost-per-wear calculation, including the amount of times you wear a garment, the price of an item and factoring in repairs. However, to get a more comprehensive cost per use then there are a few more things to consider.
Seasonal clothing for example can skew results. However, if clothing can be worn for multiple years, even if only in one season, these clothes can still be a good investment. However, trans-seasonal items that are frequently worn are more likely to be the most cost-effective choice.
Quality over quantity
One of the overall principles of a sustainable and cost-effective wardrobe is quality over quantity. As quality items will generally last significantly longer than their fast fashion counterparts, these items often generate lower cost-per-use prices, supporting a more cost-effective choice over the garment’s lifespan.
What about the cost-per-wear of shoes?
When working out the cost per wear for a pair of shoes, the same formula and contributing factors apply. Just as it’s important to consider repair costs for clothing, added costs such as reheeling must be considered for footwear.
As with clothing, purchasing cheaper footwear can actually drive up the cost per wear. Pieces often either don’t last very long or require more frequent mending, so have increased maintenance costs.
To better understand the cost per wear of items across your wardrobe, it can be helpful to set up a handy spreadsheet. This spreadsheet should detail things like the cost per wear of different items and whether they are trans-seasonal or season-specific garments. Both Excel and Google sheets are great tools for setting these up.
How can I bring the cost-per-wear price down?
To lower the cost per wear of your clothing, quite simply wear it more. Get playful with your clothing, and try wearing it in different ways. If you have a style you haven’t worn in a while, try mixing and matching it with other items to create new outfits. Many capsule wardrobes consist of 25-50 garments, well below the average 144 pieces the average person owns.
It is possible to have fewer clothes than are worn more often, it can just take some creativity. For more ideas, see our article How to build an ethical and sustainable wardrobe.
What if the cost per wear is still too high?
If you have worn your clothes as much as you can and your cost-per-wear calculator prices are still too high, then there are still options out there. Renting clothing offers a great sustainable option. This is particularly true for items that often come with high price tags and can’t be implemented into everyday styles, such as formal wear.
Buying second-hand is also a good way to lower the cost per use of items. As you can score some great quality garments for some very low prices shopping pre-loved styles, you can create a wardrobe with low cost-per-wear items.
To find some great second-hand and rental clothing platforms be sure to check out our articles Secondhand treasures: the best preloved clothes online and Best clothing subscription boxes in the UK.
Buying the clothes we love
A cost-per-wear calculator provides a valuable tool for creating a more cost-effective and eco-conscious wardrobe. It helps us to better understand our clothing and shopping habits and to ensure that when we do buy clothes, we buy the clothes with the most value to us.
What is a good cost per wear?
There isn’t one magic number that is a good cost per wear. It depends on factors such as what sort of clothing it is (ski clothes for example may have a higher cost per wear). Rather than aiming for a magic number, it is best to try and reduce your cost per wear as much as you can by buying only what you need and wearing the clothes you own more.
Which kind of clothes should I invest in?
The best investment piece when it comes to clothes is high-quality clothing that has a timeless style. These pieces are unlikely to go out of fashion and are more likely to last for years to come. It is also important to invest in clothing that you will wear often, for example, a good jacket. And, pieces you love. After all, clothing that you love is more likely to be clothing that you will wear.
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