Wardrobe investing – the true price of clothes

Wardrobe investing – the true price of clothes

Whether you love shopping or loathe it, you are ultimately investing in your wardrobe. If you do it wisely, your money will bring high return on investment. If you buy randomly, you are spending money but not getting much in return.

To a certain point clothes are a bare necessity since walking around in the nip in public is frowned upon. Which means, whether we want it or not, we have to buy clothes. However, WHAT you buy determines whether your money was spent (I was tempted to say wasted) or invested.

Let’s look at the concept of spending vs investing closer.

For example, you buy a blouse or a top. You loved the colour/cut/fabric/whatever. You bring it home, wear it with a pair of jeans once. Then you think you’d love to wear it with a skirt but somehow it doesn’t work with any of the skirts you have. Or it does, but then there are no shoes to go with the look. You decide you could put a blazer over but the collar looks funny with a layer on top. You’re thinking maybe a pair of trousers could work but it’s not much different to the look with jeans. You eventually get bored/tired of trying to play around with the new buy and just stick to a pair of jeans. In the best case scenario you’ll be pulling this look out on a regular basis and wearing it with the same pair of jeans or whatever companion you found for it. In the worst case, that top will see the day light once or twice more and will end up buried in the deep bowels of your closet because you’re having a fling with the next ‘fix’.

Did you spend money? Well, obviously.

What did you get in return? Another questionable addition to the wardrobe that gives you buyer’s guilt every time you come across it (you feel bad for not wearing it yet can’t bring yourself to put it on) and takes up space in your wardrobe.

Did that top solve an issue in your wardrobe? No, it created a new one.

Let’s look at another scenario. You buy a blouse that you can wear with a pair of jeans, heels and nice accessories for dinner. You can team it up with a skirt or trousers for work and throw a blazer over it to give more structure to the look. You can pair it with skinny jeans, chunky cardigan, sneakers and head off running errands over the weekend.

What do we have there? Did we spend money? We surely did.

What did you get in return? An item that works well with your current contents of the wardrobe, easily dresses up and down and is an easy piece to layer with for pretty much any occasion (within reason).

Did that top solve an issue in the wardrobe? Most definitely! It is bringing dividends every time you use it by giving you outfit options you didn’t have before, making you look and feel great, taking hassle out of dressing, saving time and letting you focus on things that truly matter.

Amount of wear and versatility is the currency of wardrobe investing.

The difference between spending money on something and investing it lies in the Practicality and Versatility Land which seems to be the unknown or hardly explored territory for many women.

Here are two concepts that will help you to make reasonable calls of judgement when it comes to buying clothes. They are guaranteed to give you permanent residency in the above mentioned land.

Don’t buy anything unless you have at least 3 pieces in your current wardrobe to go with the new buy AND you can think of at least 3 colours that would work with it (again, that are already present in your wardrobe).

Use this as a filter when looking at anything in a shop.

Will shopping get more difficult? Well, you can say so. But at least you know you won’t be buying useless one-trick ponies and one-night wonders.

I tell my clients to stick religiously with this rule and everyone says what a difference it makes to the wardrobe! Try it and you can thank me later! 😉

Cost-per-wear is the second concept that I always work with when shopping.

The cost per wear approach calculates the cost for each wearing of a garment based on its total cost over its lifetime.


To be able to calculate the garment’s cost per wear you will need the following:

–    Price of the garment

–    How long you will keep it for

–    How often you will wear it in its lifetime

How does that translate into figures?

Let’s take a navy blazer that costs €200 and you can potentially wear it once a week 9 months out of the year. Let’s say, you’ll have it for 2 years before it gets worn out.

1 wear per week x 4 weeks a month = 4 wears per month x 9 months = 36 wears per year x 2 years = 72 wears

€200 / 72 wears = €2.56 per wear


Now let’s take one the biggest trends this summer – ruffle tops. You could get one anywhere from Zara to River Island and Topshop for around 40-50 euro. Let’s say, 45 euro.

Let’s do the maths. You’d wear it once a week for 3 summer months which brings us to 12 wears.

€45/12 wears = €3.75 per wear

It’s not that big of a difference, but keep in mind that it’s a top that cost a lot less than the blazer and you got a lot less wear out of it. Yet you ‘spent’ more on each wear.

Let’s also look at something that figures don’t tell us.

Would have worn this top as part of a variety of different looks? Depends on your styling skills but the answer is probably no. The cut of these tops make them pretty much impossible to layer with so they are always one-trick ponies. The only way you can capitalize on them is by going for different bottoms. I’d be also quite skeptical about the once a week wear count – what about the days it’s not that warm and you can’t put much over it? What about next summer when new trends overtake the market and these one-season wonders become dated?

As you can see, not only is the cost-per-wear higher on items like this, they really lack in the practicality and versatility department.

If you combine the cost-per-wear approach with the common sense outlook from the point above, you will see how drastically your shopping skills are going to improve. What you will find is that some expensive garments make very wise investments while some cheap clothes can be very expensive in the long run!

Does that mean there is no room in the wardrobe for trendy items or something with a bit of character and detail to it? Of course, there is. You just wouldn’t be allocating half of your wardrobe for them.

If you think this approach is too much hassle and takes all the fun out of shopping, think of all the garments sitting in your wardrobe with tags still on or worn once/twice. What is their cost per wear? High enough to make you cringe!

Not only there is an expense for what you wear, there is also a meter running on what you leave home in the closet. The most expensive clothes are the ones you don’t wear, ladies!

What does it cost YOU to get dressed every morning?

Don’t forget to share this post with your friends!

Natalie xx



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