Wardrobe consultants have long endorsed the value of establishing a cost-per-wear calculation to assess the true value of an item. Divide the price you paid by the number of times you wore the garment over its useful life. The result = CPW.
Problem is, with this season’s crazy clearance price, a low CPW isn’t an adequate filter. And it’s speculative anyway. Who knows how many times you’ll actually wear a new item? Here’s a new way to think about value: CPO.
Cost Per Outfit. Before swiping your credit card, think about how many outfits you can build by pairing the new purchase with items already in your closet. I set a personal minimum of 3 ways to wear any new addition, and as my closet gets more crowded I’m inching that up to 4 or 5.
Divide the price by that number to find CPO. Here’s an example:
I recently purchased a red lightweight linen-blend cardigan from Ann Taylor. Before finalizing the order, I looked in my closet for possible coordinates. Here’s what I found:
- It’s great right now with dark-wash jeans & navy/red/pink print cami. Can substitute navy ponte skirt, navy dress pants or jean skirt.
- Or with the same jeans, off-white ruched tank and patchwork crinkle scarf.
- Works with black/gray/red paisley shell over black or charcoal skirt or pant or jeans
- Or gray skin print sweater shell and all those same bottoms. Leather “flower” repeats the gray of the shell.
- Or multi-color tropical print shell and all those same bottoms. Well, maybe not so much the gray.
- Not pictured: Works with black leggings, black top & red/silver necklace (hot red sandal optional)
- Hey, that mix also works over black pant or black skirt!
- And it will be great fun with black/white tweed trousers, black shell and this whimsical Cabi scarf of a very similar tweed. (If you’re a Cabi buyer, don’t miss your Stylist’s sample sale this month!)
- I can wear the cardigan into spring/summer with off-white denim and the tropical print shell.
- Or off-white denim, turquoise tank & sailboat print scarf (Note how both the print and the scarf repeat the lighter pant color in the upper part of the outfit for balance.)
That’s 29 outfits covering at least 9 months of the year. Even if I paid full price (which I didn’t because – you know – COVID markdowns) that would be $2.50 CPO – a bargain by any standard.
Of course not every item will yield that many options. The red family is extremely versatile. And having 3 bottom options in each of my basic neutrals – skirt, pant and jeans – lets me wear a combo for casual or dressier situations.
If I can find 3 or 4 potential outfits from a new purchase, I consider it a win — whether in my own closet or for a client. And hopefully this method will make it easier for you to make wise choices as you take advantage of the current price reductions. .
TIP: Looking at my print garments and scarves for bits of the cardigan’s color gave me the roadmap to some color mixes I might not have thought of. Try that in your own closet and then share what surprises you discover.