Raise your hand if you’ve ever had this happen to you:
It seemed like the perfect bargain. You were shopping for a basic white blouse when you came across a silk charmeuse one for only $25. Silk! $25! It was a cream color instead of white because it was silk but it was close enough. And, sure it had ruffles going across the surplice closing that showed a little more cleavage than you wanted it to. But you could always safety pin it so that it closed a little higher up. But it was such a bargain(!)…even though the shoulder seam sat about two inches below where it should have been but some shoulder pads will fix that, too. The silk is so deliciously…well, silky smooth. You buy it, giddy with delight that you found such a great steal on a silk charmeuse blouse on closeout.
But then you only wear it once. And you spent the entire time fussing and adjusting and being uncomfortable. The blouse was pretty. But it wasn’t “you.”
Total cost per wear: $25 + tax.
Today I want to discuss a topic that makes women hang their heads in shame: Rarely worn garments that were bought on sale that end up having a high cost-to-wear ratio.
Even if you buy it on sale, if it has a high cost-to-wear ratio, it wasn’t a bargain (and we won’t even get into how the ratio skyrockets if you charge the purchase and end up paying interest on it).
As we begin to build our Only Wear Beautiful Clothes™ wardrobe, a key concept to keep in mind is the actual cost of the garment over its lifetime. You figure this out by determining the total price of the garment or accessory divided by the number of wears. For example, last fall I wisely bought some cashmere sweaters when they were on sale. Now cashmere can be a bit spendy up front but it is a comfortable and warm wool. A cardigan was $104 on sale (word of advice, if your cardigan is cheaper than that going into the season, it is probably low quality or blended with another fiber). Given how frigid this past winter turned out to be, I have warn it at least once per week for the past 23 weeks (and, alas, will probably wear it for a few more weeks). The current cost-to-wear ratio is just slightly over $4.50 per wear. Cheaper than a cup of coffee.
But here’s the good part: Since I chose quality for a wardrobe staple, as Madame Dariaux advises us to do, my sweaters will last years and years (assuming I take care of them) so that eventually, the cost-to-wear ratio will be pennies per wear.
Now that’s a bargain!
Part of what made our grandmothers’ wardrobes so to glamorous was that they primary owned what would now be called “investment pieces.” The clothes had to last for a long time and were often refashioned to bring them up to date when their styles became dated. I have lots of vintage sewing books that include chapters on how to “remake” a garment.
But modern stores aren’t showcasing the quality of a garment anymore. They are touting the cheap prices. Ten t-tops for only $10! They lure us in with faux bargains and have brainwashed us into thinking that it “only cost X-amount so it is okay” when it falls apart and/or bleeds in the first wash or wearing.
As modern retro women who only wear beautiful clothes, our mantra is quality garments at a bargain price. Even if that bargain requires an investment up front. Perhaps that is why mid-century closets weren’t bulging with clothes that never got worn…
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