The true cost of a garment

Using the CPW method of calculating the real worth of a piece of clothing

This is not an article about sustainable fashion. Slow fashion and sustainable manufacturing of clothing is important, but what I'm talking about here is the cost related to personal economy.

True story: A woman shopping for a dress for a special occasion.

She has been invited to a garden party and will have a chance to meet the Norwegian royal family. She is beside herself with excitement (if you knew how royal loyal we Norwegians are, you would totally get this), and feels the occasion calls for a special dress. Off to the shops she goes! The king is waiting. (not really, but it was fun to think like that)

Armed with her colour fan and enthusiasm she trawls the stores, leaving no clothing rack unturned in her quest for a party dress befitting such a once in a lifetime occasion. 

Hours later, she returns home, with a dress, and NOK 2500,- less on the bank account.

The dress was fabulous, the garden party simply marvelous (and yes, I got to shake hands with HRH Harald, the king of Norway, and managed to stutter a few unintelligent, incoherent sounds in the process, which HRH graciously overlooked). Because yes, it's my story. I'm the one who got to shake hands with the King of Norway, ridiculous how exciting that was. And this was in the pre-covid-19 times, remember those says? When we actually shook hands with other people?

The dress? Back to the dress. It was worn that one time plus one other time (Christmas party, no royal family attending, but lots of fun and definitely more relaxed etiquette).

Also true story: Same woman (also me), shopping for a sweater for work.

Needing a business casual, warmish sweater, she wants a change from her usual black, black, black wardrobe and opts for a relaxed fit sweater (in grey) from the Norwegian LEIK knitwear (this one if you're curious), who has a good selection of high quality timeless clothing in merino wool. The sweater is thin enough to layer, the style is versatile and it can be combined with almost any of the other items in her wardrobe. 

The sweater costs NOK 1980,- She has worn this sweater at least twice a week since she bought it, almost six months ago. And it still looks nice, it has worn well even after being laundered quite a lot of times.

I will now calculate the true cost of these garments, using the CPW formula.

What is CPW?

CPW is Cost Per Wear, the price of the garment divided by the number of times you will use it during a year.

how to calculate Cpw - COST per wear

Cost Per Wear:

Price divided by number of times you will use it during a year equals the true cost. 

Using the CPW formula, the party dress has a CPW of NOK 1250,-, since it has been worn twice.

The sweater has been worn approximately twice a week for six months, roughly 48 times. Cost Per Wear is less than NOK 40,- 

Let everyday clothing get a larger chunk of your clothing budget. 

When shopping for clothes, consider the Cost Per Wear of the garment. Don't think that because it's just for everyday use, it shouldn't cost much.

Better quality clothes usually hold up better with laundering and wear. 

If you wear jeans almost every day, let it be good quality jeans that sit right and wear well. If you're a sweater girl, like me, invest in top quality, timeless sweaters in neutral colours.

I'm not saying that I shouldn't have bought the expensive dress.

But of the two purchases, the sweater was by far the best investment, at least in terms of how much wear I have gotten out of it. 

And I doubt that I will ever go to enough parties to bring the CPW of that fancy dress down much further. But if I should ever get the chance to go to a Royal Garden Party again, I'd wear the same dress. 

I doubt if the King would hold it against me.

About the author, Jorunn Hernes

Jorunn is a Certified Personal Colour Analyst, founder of Nordic Simplicity and Scandinavian Style Academy™, the fresh, simple, Scandinavian approach to getting dressed. Jorunn will avoid social settings with more than three people but can be lured out with snacks and the promise to talk about books.

  • How much in dollars? I live in Costa Rica and figure twice in dollars. One friend bought lobsters, costing 50,000 colonies. He asked how much in dollars. About $100.00. He almost wrecked the car.

    • Hello MeMe, I am afraid I don’t understand what you are referring to here. Is there a currency called colonies, or is there a typo in there?
      In any case, there are several good online currency converters, which I frequently use when wondering about how much a foreign currency is in NOK (Norwegian Kroner).

      • Dollars is the currency used in the states. Colonies is the currency used in Costa Rica.Whenever I exchange dollars for colonies at the bank I give them $1000.00 and they give me about 638,000 colonies. It sounds like a lot, but is the same.

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