If you do a lot of reading about wardrobe planning, you’ll run into the concept of cost per wear. It’s a pretty simple idea – you just remember what you paid for something, and then you figure out how many times you’ve worn something, and you divide.
If you get something expensive and don’t wear it very often (like a $200 sweater that you wear 4 times – a CPW of $50), your cost per wear is pretty poor. Conversely, if you get a great tee shirt for $30, and wear it every week for two years your CPW in 30/104, or teeny little pennies… So it’s only logical that if you’ve got something that has a great, low cost per wear, you can say that you got your money’s worth, much more than the expensive sweater…
Of course, there are other factors involved. Wedding dresses don’t generally get calculated this way – lots of money is spent on something that is only worn for part of a day, and nobody is too upset about that!
But despite these kinds of exceptions, the idea of CPW is pretty useful to compare the utility you get from your wardrobe’s various items…
The other sort of interesting “statistic” that you can draw from your wardrobe is keeping an eye on how old the average garment is in your closet, and how long it’s been since you’ve worn the average piece. If the vast majority of your clothes is only a year or two old, you can conclude that you’re churning through things pretty quickly, and you don’t have a lot of long-term investment garments. This might be your preference, or you might take this information as a hint that you want to look for things that will last longer…
Last thing: it can be handy to keep a list of your clothes, and actually note down when you wear things; if there’s something lurking about that hasn’t been worn since 2013, you might want to consider donating, or sell, or digging out the lovely thing and getting some use out of it!
But many of you don’t love Excel…
So I built you a worksheet!
Using this will accomplish two things – you’ll have a lot more insight into your wardrobe, and you’ll be able to put Excel on your resume…
The worksheet has 3 pages – one that has 50 items on it, one that has 100 items, and one for a 200 item wardrobe. I’ve filled in the fields, and all you have to do is overtype them with your own things. The statistics about garment age, cost per wear, and wears per month will all fill in automatically! You just keep the statistics in the 2 pink columns up to date, and your numbers will all be current…
For any item that has a CPW under $1, the appropriate cell in column H will turn green. If you’re between $1 and 2 CPW, the cell turns yellow, and if the CPW is over $2, the cell is red. At a glance, you can how your overall wardrobe is earning it’s keep.
And at the bottom, I provide averages for each variable, and the total amount spent on your entire wardrobe! This is often a pretty sobering statistic…
This lovely gizmo is now free, and you can get it here:
If you have questions, let me know!
2014: Inspired by a Blue and Beige Hotel Room
2013: A Navy and Yellow Summer Wardrobe, with Accessories
Tish Jett says
I knew it before, but now you have confirmed it: You are brilliant!
I tend to keep my things for—ev—er ! But currently I am replacing worn out or oversized ( I'm losing weight –yaaay) neutrals. This brings to mind a question –in a given wardrobe how many accent colors would you limit it to ? I know that you usually demonstrate two –a warm and a cool, but I love color and find my closet stuffed with tops, especially for summer. I know if that I should pare down, but I really do love them all, so the cost per wearing will have to be considered, as well as the "do I really love it " factor. I don't have Excel, but will on my next computer –ingenious idea, Janice, as always !
In my opinion, you have have as many accents as you want, so long as they play nicely together and all go with your chosen core neutrals. In my wardrobe, I have accents in red, hot pink, a full range of blues, pale ballet pink, and cognac leather. They ALL go with my indigo basics! Plus, I have fun mixing them up. Yes, some days I wear a hot pink sweater under a red peacoat! Ballet pink and cognac leather are lovely together. I think the trouble comes in when you have pieces that only go with certain other pieces.
Janice Riggs says
What Suzy said!
This looks great. If I can figure out paypal, I'll buy it! I have thought about cost per wear many times. My garment that I have most gotten my money's worth out of? It is my Eileen Fisher black ponte knit pants. They have been a workhorse–and for four years now! I am thinking about replacing them with the same item–which is still available! For some reason, I have never been as pleased with my EF gray pants which are supposedly the same–but they are not.
Janice Riggs says
Sometimes, in order to get the tweedy, sort of melanged fabric look in grey clothes, the fiber content will be slightly different. It's not a big change, but sometimes it's enough that you can really tell!
Rhonda Buss says
My good pieces live with me :) I have found that I may not wear something for a number of years and then all of a sudden, it becomes a favorite garment. But I do clear out t-shirts, white shirts and anything that just doesn't hold up to long term wear. I have a skirt I've worn since, well, a very long time ago. I bet that piece when averaged out would be in the minus range!!!!
Janice Riggs says
Well, your good pieces SHOULD live with you, because they're more like works of art than just clothes! If I sewed clothing the way you do, I wouldn't get rid of things…
I'm sure I'll get waaaay more than my 99 cents-worth from this ;) And it's a small give back for the huge reward I've reaped from this site. Thank you so much for sharing your insights into our closest and our lives. Carolyn in VA
Janice, you never cease to amaze me.
Madame Là-bas says
Ever since I was a girl buying clothes with babysitting money, I have thought about cost per wear.Your worksheet is ideal for weeding and for acquisition. Merci.
Numbers (usually) don't lie. I've found that people (including me) use CPW prospectively, to rationalize a purchase. Your way is the "right way": looking backward and in the present.
Yes, you are a genius. Now, do I have the self discipline required to entry the information and the data? Second question is, can I face up to my finished list, especially my shoes?
Deb from Vancouver
Thanks for this worksheet. I'm going to start tracking my purchases – the good the bad and the ugly LOL. I hoping this will help with wardrobe planning and know where to make smart (expensive) purchases and where to spend for a less expensive tendy items.
i, too, have thought about CPW, but have not gone to this much effort. Yes, the effort to enter the date you wore each piece is probably more than I want to do, but approached with discipline, you'd probably learn a lot. I do something much simpler to even out the wear of my clothes. When I hang up my clean clothes, I put them on the right side of the pole. When I get dressed, I choose from the left side of the pole. I have some empty hangers in the middle. That way, when I see something on the left side, and it is 'time' for that to be worn, and I don't want to wear it, I know it's time to either go ahead and wear it, or just get rid of it. It forces me to deal with the decision right then and there, and not fool myself into thinking I'll wear it 'later'. Again, you've done an amazing job, Janice. I look forward to your posts.
I love this idea too! Another well known trick is to turn all of the hangers backwards at the start of a season. Whatever didn't get turned didn't get worn.
Janice Riggs says
There are as many different approaches are there are people. What matters is that we do TRY, and remain cognizant of where there's waste in our lives, our wardrobes, and our budgets. The backward hanger things works really well…
Was there really a black silk blouse from Lands' End that cost $204? I don't remember ever seeing that and I know their stock quite well…
I must say that I must now owe one pair of Lands' End cotton/lycra knit pants money because they must be over 10 years old and I have worn them at least 3 times weekly if not more often. They look as good as new except for excessive fading and are in the "house wear only" category.
Janice Riggs says
OH NO – those items are all fictional – I just typed stuff in, and then used a random number function in Excel to come up with prices, dates, and numbers of times worn. You're right though, Lands' End might have the occasional $200sweater, but NEVER a silk blouse. Good eye!
Melissa Hebbard says
What a great idea. I have a love of Hermes scarves and own quite a few of them. When I buy one, I write down how much it cost, when and where I bought it. When ever I wear it I write down the date so I can work out the cost per wear. Despite starting out at AUD$520 I am down to $9 per wear for some of my favourites.
Janice Riggs says
I've never done it with scarves – THAT'S where I'm probably the most wasteful. That's why, from time to time, they turn up here on the blog for sale… I admire your discipline!