Cost Per Wear for Smart Shopping

Cost Per Wear

Happy Monday, ladies!  Let’s begin with a style talk on cost per wear for smart shopping.

I noticed in the comment’s this past Saturday for Would You Wear It that some of you are beginning to reference cost per wear in your decision making.

That is good to know, because in this current financial climate, it just makes sense to include cost per wear for smart shopping decisions.

Cost per wear is a component I always think about since it does involve mini-decisions when making a purchase.

I am featuring a variety of garments today that I will explain the cost per wear as we go forward.


cost per wear

A standard definition of cost per wear is: “a methodology of breaking down the initial upfront cost of a garment by how many times you’re actually going to wear it.

In 2018,  Glamour created a cost per wear calculator and I find it to be very helpful. 

Allow me to demonstrate how it works on the first picture in today’s post.

The silk Eileen Fisher jacket I am wearing is perhaps one the of the expensive items in my closet.

I purchased it for special occasions in 2014, and it has served me so well.  I wear it with dresses, skirts, jeans, and in today’s picture cream colored JC Penney jeans.

Every single time I wear it, I am asked, “Where can I buy that jacket?” 

So, was it worth it?  Follow on this calculator with me:

Initial Cost:  $425

How Often: Special Occasions (This is where the CPW goes higher since I do not wear it for everyday wear)

Which Season:  I have worn this jacket in all seasons where I live in a warmer climate

Dry Cleaned:  Well, yes, but since I have washed it in a delicate cycle before, I picked NO

How long will you consistently wear it: At least 4 years….I have know worn it for 8 years (so actually the cost per wear is probably lower, of course higher quality garments have more longevity)



Cost Per Wear

This is the highest cost per wear item I own, but I can live with that since I love and have worn the jacket so often.

Now, let’s go to the JCP jeans I styled with the jacket and see the cost per wear:

Cost of the Item: $20

How Often:  Once a week

Which Season:  Again,  I wear these all seasons

Dry Cleaned: NOPE

How long will you consistently wear them:  At least four years…(Unless my desire to lose more weight makes them too baggy)

The Cost Per Wear?

cost per wear

Almost every purchase I have made at JCP in the last year calculates with a zero and yes, I do look at the fabric quality when I purchase.

In the second picture, I am wearing an Eileen Fisher jacket I purchased on sale at Dillard’s a few years ago and again, I wear it often!

My cost per wear on the jacket is $2.  On the lace Ralph Lauren top, it is $1.

Though I purchased it at a consignment shop for $16, I do not wear it that often.

Of course, we want that cost per wear to be as low as possible to justify our purchases.

I really believe the pants in my wardrobe that have the lowest cost per wear and have withstood years of wear are my Eileen Fisher pants.


cost per wear

We often discuss here how to be smart shoppers with the goal to lower the cost per wear.

I am completely different from other bloggers over 50 with my systems, but they do lower my cost per wear.

When I do not follow them, I spend unnecessary money.

Here is an outline of how I make smart shopping decisions in order to lower my cost per wear:

cost per wear


  1. The decision to only wear my best colors has had the largest impact on my cost per wear.  As a vibrant autumn palette, my wardrobe now works together, in every season, as a team. I no longer have colors sticking out in the closet that don’t belong or that don’t help me to look my best.  If an item is not in my color palette, I do not think twice about purchasing it.
  2.  I wear and shop my style adjectives.  The garments I purchase have to tell the world that I am approachable, joyful, current, polished and creative.  If they do not communicate these messages about me, I am not going to wear them and that drives the cost per wear higher.
  3. I keep in mind who I am and what my real life is now.  I no longer need a professional work wardrobe, but I do need a few outfits for special blogging occasions or family occasions.  I am a real woman over 60 living in a suburban neighborhood.  Not a high flying lifestyle…but a life of fun, grandparenting, activity and joy.  If I am going to experiment with fashion and creative style, I am most likely going to do that at Goodwill SA in order to lower the cost per wear….since the number of wears would be lower.  Also, when I purchase items specifically for colder weather, I am always going to buy them on clearance/sale prices in order to lower the cost per wear.  We have a short cold season here and I must do that. 
  4. The fit of any garment I wear often has got to promote confidence and flatter my curves.  Fit is so important for smart shopping.
  5. Bottom line….your cost per wear will be lower if you feel CONFIDENT in what you are wearing.  If you don’t….the garments sit in the closet and you wasted money.  Just remember: color, style adjectives, fit and lifestyle for cost per wear success.

If you do not understand who you are and what you want to tell the world about you at this stage of life, the style adjectives are the best way to get there.

I do calculate my shoes and every pair in this post has a low cost per wear…in fact, it is almost time to retire the bronze ballet flats…so sad.

cost per wear

Also, be creative with how you use the garments you own.

I lowered the cost per wear of this kimono from Soft Surroundings by taking it from out of the house daywear, to a robe over a nightgown at home.

I found I like it better the second way and decide to keep it in the last wardrobe purge.

I hope these guidelines are helping as you consider cost per wear for your wardrobe.

It is by far more than simply looking for a great price.  

You can buy that sale garment, but if you never wear it, your cost per wear is the price of what you paid. 

But, spending $100 on a perfect pair of pants that you wear 100 times takes you to $1 cost per wear.  

The calculations matter, but so do the reasons why you wear garments more than others.

Any questions or comments on Cost Per Wear?  Please share and I hope this assisted many of you….now go out and about and….


By Pamela Lutrell

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cost per wear


  1. I have started to think more about cost per wear as well as multi-seasonal. I love coats and winter clothing but am trying to live in the world of Houston weather and approaching retirement. Comfortable shoes are more important to me. Agree, my Eileen Fisher pants are my favorites.

  2. I was so happy to see this delved into. Cost per wear has been on my mind since I donated three full bags to Goodwill last week and have two more packed. I am embarrassed to admit that at least a third are in my colors. I need to pay more attention to style personality and fit now, as well as find a few dressier items so that I don’t panic for weddings, funerals, etc. My wardrobe is very casual and I unfortunately donated too many items that would have worked when I retired. . Finding a straight dress or a pencil skirt in my colors has been a frustrating journey with current styles being not mine! Thank you for your post, and hopefully this week will find you getting back to normal.

  3. Great advice. I think I have finally gotten it in my head that I don’t need office wear. Took three years, lol. What I’m working on fixing now, is the fact I do not need as many sweaters and jackets as I have. Which kind of ties in to the first objective because that office was always ice cold. And shoes……I know I’m not going to wear heels anytime I’m walking more than a quarter mile, so I must stop falling for the, but it’s a great price self argument.

  4. I struggle with this concept since I tend to not buy things until they are on sale. Then if my size is gone, I rationalize by saying I did not need it or HAVE TO HAVE it anyway. Since I have to order most of my clothes online because of my location and size, I do not want to order something costly, and then return by carrier. I do spend more money on my shoes but often find even more expensive ones still hurt my feet. I do have one or two expensive handbags that I have used for years so I’m getting a good cost per wear from them. But you have given us a good explanation and something I will consider when looking for items in the future.

  5. I’ve been working remote since early March 2020, and since then we’ve gone from, “We’ll get back to normal soon,” to “We’ll switch to 2x/week in the office in a few months,” to finally, “OK, if you don’t want to come back into the office ever again that’s fine.” Even now, I still find myself buying clothes for an office that is still there, but I just never go to. My wardrobe needs are also slightly different than a retirement wardrobe, because I still spend 40+ hours/week sitting in front of a computer. I’ve also recently lost weight, so I’ve needed to replace most of my wardrobe.

    I am still trying to figure what should be in my closet. The denominator of cost/wear has changed suddenly and unexpectedly for me over the last couple of years in ways that I’m just now understanding.

  6. I lived in Houston for a couple of years and it is rare when you wear sweaters and coats. Thanks Nyla.

  7. When I finally decided to live according to my style adjectives, my wardrobe came under control. I donated less and wasted less money. It really helps…you are on the way Deborah.

  8. I understand! I worked in an office or school setting most of my life and it takes awhile to change the mentality. You can now begin to check yourself with CPW formula and ask…how many times would I honestly wear this?

  9. At least you are becoming more mindful of your needs in a new work reality, Julie. I am not fully retired, but no longer need the professional attire I once did. I am trying to work some of those pieces into my new life. I hope to join you soon with new needs from weight loss! Good for you!

  10. Hello Pam,
    Thank you for that useful and thought provoking article.I have a price ceiling in my head, being self employed, as to what I can afford and the life style I lead, but recently i went to my son’s wedding and after a long time searching, found a dress that was around the $370 mark which is high for me. I loved the peacock color and the gorgeous pattern and the fact that it was a real stunner, everyone noticed it. I can wear this dress again and again when I want the wow factor. it was so worth it.
    Hope you are feeling much better. You look terrific !!

  11. I am glad you bought that dress, Francesca. We all have those special events and moments when we want to feel our fabulous best! Thanks for sharing this story.

  12. My first introduction to cost per wear came while shopping with a friend. She looked at the price of a pair of shoes she was admiring and said “I don’t think I’d live long enough to get my money’s worth”! I was amused, but then thought about it. For certain items, it makes perfect sense.

  13. That gorgeous silk coat is something that you will have for the rest of your life, it is so timeless, with perfect set in sleeves and no dating embelishments. I have been using the cost per wear for a very long time, perhaps from Glamour in the past too, but there are times where I have fallen off the wagon so to speak. I still have many dresses and skirts that are well over 10 years old, and they come into rotation when appropriate. Hems have been adjusted and some seams taken in but if I still love the item, it will be worth the cost to adjust. I have had to get rid of my high heels and that made me very sad, but there are beautiful alternatives out there, so I am getting there. { found out that leather paint can work wonders on a beautiful fitting bootie in the wrong colour.} Thrifting works really well with CPW.

  14. I have one Chico’s top in my wardrobe that I have owned for over 30 years…it still looks new and I always get compliments on it. Pieces that are not “trendy” will extend the CPW.

  15. Pam, such an interesting and helpful concept. You have opened my eyes. A light bulb went on! This is probably a silly question….but when you are in the store, how do you know how much you will wear something? Different occasions come up unexpectedly. And sometimes I’ll buy something that I think I’ll wear a lot, and it doesn’t happen. Maybe just give it your best guess??

  16. It has taken me awhile to begin to do this, but I actually play out in my mind now all the different ways I can wear a garment and for how many seasons I can wear a garment. If it is a special moment, like Francesca’s wedding, then I perhaps can justify the expense. But, any other garment has to withstand my lifestyle and time. I think too often, many of us shop too quickly. Smart shopping does take time and evaluation. How many ways can we wear a piece…how many occasions will it work for…and how long will it live. Also, if we stay true to our style messages and what we want to say about us in our clothing we are going to wear those garments more. If I pick out something that is not me, or my style, but I have seen it look great on others….it will sit in the closet. I hope this helps

  17. I love this! I have used this concept for decades on my “weakness” for nice handbags. It keeps me in check and I have bags that are 30 years old and still going strong.

  18. Pam, this column is excellent. I watch CPW but haven’t really had a system to evaluate it — more of a “gut” CPW than anything else. As an organized person, I really appreciate your explaining a more formal evaluation method. Thanks!

  19. These are some good thoughts on Cost per wear. I kind of have been doing this for years because I’m married to a CPA and it has always been something I’m mindful of. Now this doesn’t mean I always follow it!! Haha!
    I do agree with knowing your colors and style because I’ve have purchased many things that just aren’t right.
    Also I’ve made a few of your recipes. They are great and easy. I’ve tried the peanut butter protein and the stew so far. But I want to try others. Thanks for these ideas!!
    Have a great day.

  20. Pam – It’s ironic that you mentioned an “over 30 year-old” sweater which you still wear. I have a Chico’s cardigan (with a touch of wool–so cozy in cold Midwest weather) and I love wearing it. I recently saw it in a resale store that refuses to consign anything over two years’ old….yup, there was my sweater and I thought “ha! you say nothing over two years’ old!” I still chuckle when I think of that and wear my cardigan.

  21. I love this concept, and I think it works great for basics that you are contemplating spending full price for (I agree trends should be low cost, and for me, that “low cost” also includes patterns and prints). Do you actually calculate this, logging each time you wear them, or do you estimate? I have so many clothes that other than loungewear/nightwear, few of my clothes (tops) are worn more than once per week. I agree on Penney’s … recently with your link I ordered 9 different colors of v neck, long sleeve and 3/4 tees from St. John’s Bay for under $10 each. They are not quite as good as higher end brands, but are fine and launder well. I wear them around the house, layered under something when out, and while traveling they are also pajama tops. In a pinch, they can be a workout top. Cost per wear will be zero in a few months! I too made the early-in-retirement mistake of just ordering more workwear.

  22. Good morning! Pam I have to begin by telling you how very beautiful you are in all of these autumn pieces you’re modeling for us! I love how you’ve incorporated the beloved third piece into each outfit. Very nice!
    I think that CPW is integrated into my DNA. By now I find I know exactly where to shop for quality pants (fabric) and fit. Because I’m a minimalist in attire I find the same shops and stores carry what I must like and that flatter me. These are the clothes that get the most wear- week by week. So, I do I go off that path but not too often. I have a few splurge pieces but not many. I’m very careful.

  23. Climate plays a big role in these decisions. For me, it is worthwhile to spend money on a good quality down coat and warm boots for winter. It’s not common to find these items on consignment, since most people wear them daily for five to six months of the year. Many donate their used items to the annual used winter coat and boot drives.

    I have too many summer clothes. Even though these items are much less expensive than winter gear, I don’t think they pay off for me in terms of cost per wear. A good winter coat can last many years.

    It is good to consider real life priorities, so my best cost-per-wear items are jeans. We no longer attend indoor cultural events or dine in restaurants, with the exception of patios, so special event clothing has no place in my life right now. Things change, and we need to reassess our needs as life goes forward.

  24. I have a rule for most of the clothes in my closet. If I haven’t worn it in the last year, it needs to go. Sometimes I’ll wear it for a day just so I can keep it. For fancier clothes that I don’t wear often, I keep them anyways waiting for the special occasion to happen. This summer I went to a wedding and wore a dress that I’ve had for 8 years and never worn.
    It was perfect for the occasion.

  25. At last .. a blog that addresses the reality of most Simeon’s clothing budget. I love seeing stylists choices and how to wear things to look current but so many times one outfit totals close to 500 -1000 .. I know no one who spends that much regularly on outfits .
    We shop gradually one item at a time to add to our existing wardrobes .
    . and as a mom of four and a (now retired ) teacher I always bought sale , or thrift and clearance items and now I can spend a bit more on quality items at times . I love the cost of wear concept ! I think many of us have treasured items we wore for years And still do .. . Thanks for this calculator !

  26. I immediately recognized your brown Eileen Fisher jacket because when it appeared on your blog back in 2019, I dug into my closet and found a similar one that I hadn’t worn for a long time. I still have it and was just looking at it the other day. It must be time to wear it again soon!

    Though I rarely calculate cost per wear very precisely, it’s a concept that I keep in mind when adding anything to my wardrobe.

  27. Hello Pam and all. Thank you for this thoughtful post. One thing that needs to be remembered in CPW is the quality of the fabric. Even a high quality cotton in a high quality brand, if it is not a sturdy weave may wear out especially under the arms with vigorous use. I have had this happen with several well-loved blouses which were in perfect shape except for the underarm stains. Also, many items that say they need to be dry cleaned can be carefully hand washed. An item (except a wool winter coat) that requires dry cleaning usually makes me think twice because it will just keep asking you to pay for it.

  28. I’m also in Houston. Went to HEB and Hobby Lobby today in white jeans, a dark indigo jean button up 3/4 sleeve blouse and white sneakers. Good cost per wear on these; however I made some purchases in the spring that I regret. Always learning.

  29. Have you looked into Kettlewell? I believe they do free shipping to the USA above a certain amount, but it just reminded me because they do basics in each season’s colours specifically.

    They have pencil skirts & sheath dresses too, such as the Joanna dress. Otherwise many people find success in matching their precise shades for a column of colour, such as the ruched skirt with the Betty cowl top for a pencil dress look.

    (I’m not sponsored or affiliated with Kettlewell in any way by the way, just wanted to spread the word about shopping by season-specific colours!)

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