Cost Per Wear

When you see the price tag, you may think the item of your desire is too expensive at first glance. However, consider how many times you might wear or use an object. Let’s talk about the handbag in these photos as an excellent example.

When I saw this Saffiano leather Calvin Klein bag at T.J.Maxx about four years ago, the color and the style captivated me. The name Saffiano comes from the crosshatch print pressed into the wax that coats the leather, making it water-resistant, if not waterproof. This handbag was my first purchase of a Saffiano item.

I have used this one more than any other bag in my collection, yet it is still in excellent condition.

My hesitation in making the purchase came when I saw the price tag. I had never spent more than $150 on a handbag in my life. My sister and I were browsing through the store after lunch one day, so I didn’t purchase it at that time. The register’s line was too long, and I didn’t want her to have to wait for me.

The little voice inside my head kept reminding me of that bag for the next couple of days. Now, I don’t know about you, but when that happens to me, I take it as a clear sign that the universe is telling me to do something. I’m glad I took action! The bag was still there waiting for me when I returned to the store. When I think back to the number of times I have carried this bag, it turns out to be one of the best fashion investments I ever made.

Let’s do the math. The original cost of $150 divided by 100 times used equals $1.50. (I know I have carried it way more than that, but for the sake of this exercise, we will use 100.) There is another bag in my collection with a purchase price of $35, but I have only carried it two times, which equals $17.50 per use, making it much more expensive thus far. I have become a devotee of the slow fashion movement in the past year, so I don’t buy anything now unless it is a well thought out investment that I know I will use for the long term. I have no interest in the latest’ It’ bag or shoes. I budget for and only purchase what I need and then plan to use it and love it for years to come. I have the same thoughts about home decor. The items surrounding me have been with me for many years, but they still bring me joy when I look at or use them.

My blazer is from Neiman Marcus Last Call. The jeans are by Liverpool Jeans Company. My first layer is a soft, warm white Covered Perfectly long sleeve top here. The white cotton shirt is from Everlane. The boots are from Antelope Shoes a couple of years ago. (Their website is here.) The scarf is old. I folded the scarf in a triangle, then rolled up the long edge until just a bit of the triangle remained and then draped it around my neck. The jacket holds the remaining small triangle shape firmly so that the scarf stays in place.

  1. I did not realize until now how a gray bag could be such an enhancement to silverish hair! Worth every penny you paid for it. This is a great looking outfit for anyone but the bag makes your hair color the best possible color for it. You look positively “cool”, which I did not think was possible after 60. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I read it first from you, Susan, and I totally agree: “If you are buying a bag to wear with many outfits, choose one to coordinate with your hair color.”

  2. What you say here makes a lot of sense. I will keep this in mind from now on.

    What do you think about having a garment, particularly a blazer, taken in to be tailored. I’ve got this blazer I haven’t worn for a long time due to the large shoulder pads, but still love the piece. It wasn’t particularly expensive and so I have to wonder if I should put the money into getting it tailored which is not cheap. What is your take on this?

    1. The result may be a more modern fit if you have the tailor put in smaller shoulder pads. I have taken too large ones out in the past, only to realize those shoulder pads gave the garment its shape. It was slouchy looking without them.

  3. At your recommendation I bought a pair of Liverpool jeans. They are the most comfortable and flattering jeans I’ve ever worn, and I’m going to ask Santa for another pair for Christmas!

  4. Thank you for being realistic about handbags. I don’t think $150 is too much to pay for a quality leather handbag in a classic style. Your handbag is a workhorse. Like you, I would have to think about it, even at that price.

    I do get tired of blogs that feature handbags costing several thousand dollars. That just isn’t realistic for most women.

  5. You are so right! Women will pay a lot of money for a dress they will only wear to one or two occasions. I will need to remember your thoughts the next time I see something that i think costs too much. Thanks, Susan.

  6. I feel the same way about the Mark Fisher boots that you recommended last year. I ordered them last year and they have been my go to pair Always! I have certainly gotten well more than my moneys worth out of them already!

  7. So true. I explained to a gentleman once the economics of certain brands. For the example, I used a $200 Ann Taylor dress vs. a$200 Lilly Pulitzer dress. The Ann Taylor was a very trendy style in the latest color. If purchased at the beginning of the season, I might wear it ten times before the end of that season. Since it is so on trend, the cost would be $20 per wearing with little residual value for the next year. On the other hand, since Lilly Pulitzer sells classic styles that repeat year after year, there is a large secondary market for Lilly. So wearing the Lilly ten times that season, I had two choices -sell it on a re-Lilly site for half price or wear it again the following year or more. In the end, the Lilly dress cost at most $10 per wearing. A much better bargain.

  8. Susan, I am absolutely with you on purchases that are investment pieces at bargain prices. My hair is your color naturally, but I occasionally use a box blonde color, for a change. I wear a lot of gray, and before turning gray, taupe was one of my best neutrals, so I have a tendency to want to go back to it. I have ordered a taupe pair of shoes and handbag. Now I’m concerned if I shouldn’t stick to one neutral, in order to get the most from my investment? In your opinion, is this making life more difficult? TIA

    1. Mix and match your neutrals with wild abandon — Navy, burgundy, gray, taupe, black, cream, tan, beige, or even olive. You can’t mess up if you stick with neutrals because they work so well together.

      1. Hi Susan, your reply on using neutrals made me wonder about hair and bag colours.
        I am originally dark blonde -or mousy – getting greyer haired now but not all over, with blue eyes, I wear a lot of blues and navy…What colours for bags?
        Or should I mix and match according to mood?
        Tending to have one on the go then change from time to time and want to review the number and type to use. Looking forward to your advice on this. Thanks.

        1. You would likely use a dark gray, granite or charcoal bag often. Brown and wine colors also look great with your favorite colors and your hair. You can also go with your mood. It’s fun to have options and be flexible, but if you can only afford one good bag, it’s smart to go with the color and shape that best suits your wardrobe and colors.

  9. The advice is spot on………..the outfit one of the best ever! I think that a blazer, white shirt and jeans is the perfect, classic (& classy) look! You look fabulous!

  10. Very good blog, thank you. I find I use a good leather bag more in cooler months and in the summer go to inexpensive straw type bags as leather often looks too heavy. A classic leather bag will last for years and years. That works for me as I am not trendy.
    By the way, I tried to order the zebra print top you featured at Covered Perfectly but they had such a demand after your article that they will have to restock in my size. It just shows how much we readers pay attention to your excellent advice.

  11. Susan, I just love this outfit on you! It speaks to you and you look so comfortable! Thank you so much for all the advice & inspiration you give me.

  12. I completely agree with you Susan and I feel so confident and wise when I make well thought out purchases I know will serve me well for years to come. I had never considered price per wear until I read about the concept in a fashion article a few years ago. It clicked and made practical and good sense to me. Though I’m still learning, I’m making better decisions with my money and in my closet! Your style is very classy, which I love. Thank you for your educating expertise!

  13. Susan, your views are so similar to mine. I am not a total minimalist but I am moving much closer to minimalism. Your advice about only buying what you love that is excellent quality fits with my views. More quality and less quantity. That is my motto! I enjoy your blog and look forward to your postss

  14. How’s this for a cost per wear bargain? I bought my waterproof and windoroof dog walking jacket at a motorhome (RV )show sale price £10. It’s now entering its 7th winter. Still waterproof. I calculate it as probably 1.4 pence ( cents) per wear. So far!

  15. Susan,
    I love the white button down shirt from Evergreen that you are wearing. I am looking for one. The issue I have with most shirts that button in the front is that i am large in the chest (size 38/40 DD) and the buttons tend to pull or the area between the buttons across the chest pull open and I don’t like that look. In order to get the bust area not to pull, I have to go up a size and then the shirt is too baggy. Did you have this issue with this shirt? Does the size run true to size? Thank you.

  16. Your hair is really looking pretty here. Do you still finger style it during the winter? It looks more polished than finger styling will lead to, for me :(. I really like this total look here…very nice!!

  17. The problem is that I never know what I will wear and not I will not wear when I buy it… I have things that I wear over and over again and did not at all realize it when I bought them. And things that I thought were excellelt cost-per-wear ratio (for example, MY grey bag), that I hardly ever wear. So how do you know it when you are standing in the shop – that’s the big question.

    1. I keep notes (mental or on my phone) of the things I would have worn if I had them. For example, for about a year, I kept thinking, I need a jean jacket with this as I got dressed in several different looks. I knew from all the jean jackets that didn’t work for me, what I needed. When I found the right one for me, I recognized it right away. (Not too oversized, not too fitted, not too faded, absolutely no holes or rips, larger breast pockets, and side slanted pockets were requirements for me.) I don’t shop for sport anymore, but I do shop with purpose when I identify a need.

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.