The Real Cost of Crappy Clothes

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Girls: Tell me the truth. What do you do Friday after work when you know you have a jam packed weekend ahead? What do you do after a recent breakup or terrible week? I hope you have a better answer than I do, because I go shopping (and occasionally dye my hair too, but that’s another story).

Anyways, yes-I go shopping. The girl who writes about putting money into your 401(k), building an emergency fund, buying a home and paying off your credit card debt.

There’s just something about a quick $20 fix that holds me over and distracts me from reality. I don’t feel guilty at the moment because of course I justify that a $20 top is way cheaper than buying one from a nicer store which could cost almost $100. For $100 bucks I could buy 5 new things AND new earrings from a store like Forever 21! Right?

Well, last night I started cleaning out my clothes in preparation for my upcoming move. As I went through my stuff, I realized that I hate half of my clothes and could care less if I ever see them again. Where are all these clothes I hate from?  Cheap stores that shall remain nameless.

They have not held up to my washing machine, the colors fade, the stitching comes out, and after a few months they look dated and cheap. Dare I use the term “disposable clothing” in a time of economic despair?

Then I think about the skirt suit I am wearing today. It is from White House Black Market and I’ve had it for well over a year and I wear it all the time. It has great thick woven fabric that makes it look like a Chanel suit, a skinny white belt and a great fitting jacket. Every time I wear it, it feels like a new suit and I feel great. I wouldn’t even THINK about throwing it away or replacing it.

So now my brain is curious. What is cheaper: buying a $300 outfit and wearing it for 2 years, or buying a $60 outfit and wearing it 3 times?

Let’s say I wear my WHBM suit an average of 3 times per month over the period of 2 years. That is 72 wears. The cost per use of this fabulous suit is $300/72= $4.17.

Now let’s look at the cheap outfit. Let’s say you wear a $20 top, with a $30 cropped jacket over it and $10 worth of cheap jewelry (which will undoubtedly break or change colors immediately). Let’s say I wear the outfit a total of 3 times before it breaks/fades/goes out of style. $60/3=$20 per use. Fine, maybe I’m being a snob. Even if you wear it 4 times, the cost is still $15 per use, which is still more than triple that of my $300 outfit. Plus we should add the “cost” of feeling like the outfit is lame by the 3rd time you wear it.

So, I guess the financially savvy conclusion is to choose quality over quantity when buying clothes. Which means next time I’m having a bad week or want to look fabulous for a night out I will need to find a new “quick fix” other than shopping to satisfy my need for something different.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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