Reese Witherspoon, carrying CELINE, arriving to tape Trevor Noah’s show in New York, May 28.
Statistically speaking, women are far more likely to save than to invest. While stocks and shares may not be quite akin to stilettos, we’re often overcautious about investing in timeless, big-ticket items that can become our signatures. By learning some basic fashion math, however, you can put yourself on the fast track to a well-managed closet that pays dividends.
US$3,300 ÷ (4 wears per week x 52 weeks) = US$16/wear
From left: Outside the set of Good Morning America, May 29. Making the rounds in Manhattan, May 30
Consider Reese Witherspoon’s CELINE Medium C bag (US$3,300), which does the work of a flotilla of totes. Just a few years ago, an A-lister like her would have been dripping in newly-minted swag for every photo opportunity. Butit’s 2019 and mores have shifted. Today, it’s far chicer and more sustainable to choose very, very well than to consume indiscriminately. While in New York in May to promote Big Little Lies, the actress was all business in a rust-coloured pencil skirt and heels, then she mixed things up in a trench coat, black jeans, and boots for dinner with her daughter and Laura Dern. (She also sported it two days earlier to tape a segment for The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.) “For a long-term investment, an iconic handbag from a heritage house will always be on-trend. If it has lasted 20 years, it’s going to last another 20,” says Angie Chen, curator at vintage and preloved luxury fashion site The Fifth Collection. “Thinking about how often you plan to wear a piece can also help your purchase decision.” If Reese were to wear her bag for two occasions a day, just twice a week, she’d wear it 208 times in a year. That’s US$16 per outing, which now doesn’t seem quite so steep. If your bag makes it into its second or even third year, as it shouldif you maintain it, the numbers workeven better in your favour. Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter, agrees. “An investment piece is something you would never give away,” she says. “There has to be that feeling that it can be worn for decades and passed down for generations.” Just imagine the cost per wear (CPW) when it’s hanging in your daughter’s closet.
US$4,000 ÷ (5 wears in 2 years x 5) = US$160/wear
From top: Tiffany Haddish, in Alexander McQueen, at the Girls Trip premiere in LA, July 2017. Hosting Saturday Night Live, November 2017. At the Academy Awards, March 2018. At the MTV Movie & TV Awards, June 2018. With David Letterman in May 2019.
You can also apply these rules to clothing, though Instagram might tell you otherwise. “I feel like I should be able to wear what I want, when I want, however many times I want,” actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish said of the now famous US$4,000 white halter gown she wore on Saturday Night Live: “I don’t give a dang about no taboo. This dress cost way more than my mortgage. This is an Alexander McQueen, okay?” To date, Tiffany has sported the bejewelled floor sweeper for five public outings, including a 2017 red-carpet premiere, 2018’s Academy Awards, and most recently, to tape an appearance on Letterman’s series. Five wears in the space of two years, factored over a decade, would bring the CPW down to $220. Why buy multiple high-street looks when you can have the real deal?
US$7,200 ÷ (3 wears in 7 years x 5) = US$480/wear
From top: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in Alexander McQueen, at St. Andrew’s School, November 2012; at a Christmas Day service in Sandringham, December 2013; in Dundee, Scotland, in January
No cost-per-wear conversation would be complete without mentioning the thrifty duchess of Cambridge. Kate is a serial outfit recycler, with a particular talent for styling flourishes to keep her past-season duds looking brand new. Consider her tartan coatdress, also tailored by Alexander McQueen. First worn back in 2012 for a visit to her prep school, it took centre stage on Christmas Day in 2013 paired with a Gina Foster hat before being re-spun with an emerald-green scarf and a Manu Atelier box bag this past January. A similar coat by McQ Alexander McQueen in 2012 was US$7,200. While it has had only three wears in the past seven years, if she’s following in the footsteps of Princess Anne (who has been known to keep outfits in rotation for more than three decades), it might reach five times that to 15, bringing the CPW down to a much more palatable US$480. And you could surely get even more wears.
Repeat after me: A bag that doesn’t fit your cell phone isn’t going to pay you back quickly.
To up your wardrobe equity and reduce your fashion footprint, wear your investments in as many different contexts as possible. Try a long evening dress with an open-gauge knit and boots for day, or an office-ready blazer up with a silk slip dress and stacked heels for dinner. Ethical-fashion pioneer Livia Firth advises using the #30Wearsrule: “When you find something you want to buy, no matter which brand, ask yourself, ‘Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?’ If the answer is yes, then go ahead and buy it. But you’ll be surprised how many times the answer is no.” As a bonus, even the most bijou of closets can fit a tight edit of multitasking essentials. I’d wager that Marie Kondo has a first-rate CPW.
At the end of the day, frugality isn’t about pinching pennies; it’s about extracting maximum value from every dollar spent through thoughtful purchases and unexpected styling. What you’re looking for is quality, longevity, practicality, and adaptability. When hunting for bags, for example, put your money in neat yet roomy styles. Repeat after me: A bag that doesn’t fit your phone isn’t going to pay you back quickly. Look at comeback styles —the Fendi Baguette, Chanel Timeless, and Hermès Constance—for size guidance. The coats that keep on giving meld classic with a personality twist—take Miu Miu’s navy wool military maxi cape, or Givenchy’s sharp-shouldered checked coat. Last but not least, always remember that cut is king. The best of the season’s eveningwear, like Prada’s black lace concoctions and Valentino’s spare, almost monastically minimal gowns, will last forever. If you choose pieces with the payoff front of mind, you’ll build a wardrobe of beautifully made clothes that will stand the test of time. ■
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