Cost-per-wear: Closet Calculations

Picture this: you’re walking past a shop window when you see the cutest black embroidered top. You saw the same one labeled as a must have in the September issue of Vogue, and you needed one after seeing Gigi Hadid wearing it on Instagram. The price tag is even more appealing: $20. When you’re a college student trying to stick to a budget, spending $20 on a trendy top may seem like a good idea. But how in love with it will you be in a few months when another top is all-the-rage? How can you utilize your limited budget today while still remaining fashionable tomorrow?

The answer is here: CPW, or cost-per-wear. You may have heard this acronym floating around your favorite fashion blogs and magazines before. It’s crafted for people who enjoy being fashionable, but whose bank account can only withstand so much. Cost-per-wear is a brilliant solution to the age old question of quality versus quantity, involving very little mathematical skills. The equation looks like this:

CPW = total cost of the item/number of times you’ll wear it.

Simple, right? Now let’s try applying this model using the embroidered top example. You’ll probably abuse the top at first, show it off to all of your friends and wear it to every party and other social event you go to. But after the fifth wear, you can’t hide the wear and tear your once cute shirt has endured. If you’re wondering whether or not your $20 was put to good use, consult the CPW equation:

$20/5 wears = $4 per wear. That may seem ok, but the numbers do add up. If you’re on a budget, you probably can’t afford to put another $20 down on a shirt that might last just as long.

Here’s a scenario I found myself in last year, using the cost-per-wear model:

I had been looking for a good leather jacket for months. The leather jacket has been a fashion staple for decades, and my last jacket had recently bit the dust. I suspected divine intervention when I stumbled across my dream jacket in Topshop. After I tried it on a hundred times and decided that this leather jacket was sewn just for me, it was time to face the dreaded truth. I looked at the price tag, and saw $100 printed in bold black letters. This was pricier than I had anticipated, but this jacket was the perfect design and was very well-made. I decided to purchase it, and I’ve worn it at least three times a week since. Let’s do the math:


$100/183 times = $0.54 per wear.

Now the jacket doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, does it?

Being fashionable doesn’t always mean keeping up with all of the latest trends or spending money you don’t have to look like your favorite celebrity. Being fashionable means being creative and utilizing the good clothes that you already have in your closet. Next time you’re deciding how to spend your next paycheck, use this model to make your life 100 times easier (and more stylish).  Go forth, shoppers!

Featured image by Audrey Stiffle.

Michaela Hoffman is a contributing writer. Email her at

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