I think we can all agree that there is a unique satisfaction in purchasing a piece of clothing that you still find yourself wearing YEARS later. On the flip side, we likely all have a piece of clothing (or a few) that we spent way too much money on, and have barely worn. As a sustainable clothing brand, we want to help you avoid the latter and ensure the pieces that you buy get worn many times over many years - saving you money and the planet at the same time!
This brings us to the cost per wear formula. This formula will help you decide which clothing purchases are worthwhile, as well as help you build a wardrobe of pieces that you love and wear - a lot.
Cost Per Wear Formula:
The most simple way to use this formula would be to take the price of an item and divide it by the number of times the item is worn or the number of times you estimate it will be worn. But we encourage you to go a step further (trust us, it’s worth it). The true cost of cheap clothing goes beyond the price tag.
You’ll want to consider the environmental cost, the quality, and how the item was produced.
The Human Cost of Fast Fashion
It’s no secret that ethical and sustainable fashion is more expensive, but for good reason. Firstly, fair trade/ethical production is significantly more expensive, especially if an apparel company is producing in North America, or Europe. In many countries, the average monthly wage that garment workers are paid is not a living wage. For example, in Ethiopia the average monthly wage is a mere $26, while the monthly living wage is $110. By purchasing ethically made clothing, you will likely pay more than you would for clothing from a fast fashion brand but this cost ensures a safe work environment and fair compensation for workers, which is always a worthwhile cost. At Encircled, all of our ethically made clothing is locally produced in Toronto, Canada. We work with factories that are located less than 60km from our studio, and not only are our factories subject to the high labour standards of the Province of Ontario, but we also have each factory sign our Ethical Code of Conduct checklist, to go above what’s required by law. For more information on our factories, visit our “Made in Canada Clothing” page.
The Cost of Fabric
Second, the fabrics are inherently more costly for us as designers to purchase. One of our core fabrics, Modal, which we use for our Dressy Sweatpant, Chrysalis Cardi and more, is about 2.5-3x more expensive than a standard cotton weave. However, not only is it much more sustainable, but it will also last longer, not fade as easily and it is much softer than many of the synthetic fabrics that fast fashion clothing is typically made out of, such as polyester and nylon.
Quality Over Quantity
When you combine better materials and construction, you end up with a high quality piece that should last you a very long time. While it may seem like the $5 basic cotton t-shirt will ensure you a low cost per wear, the reality is that this shirt won’t last as long, whereas you’ll be able to wear the more expensive Modal t-shirt 10-20x more. The Modal shirt is also biodegradable and was much less environmentally harmful to produce. So, not only will the Modal t-shirt provide you with a lower cost per wear, but you’ll also feel good knowing your shirt was made ethically and with a much lower environmental cost.
How to Apply the Formula in Your Life:
When using the cost per wear formula, we recommend setting a cost per wear goal for your clothing. You’ll likely need different goals for your everyday clothing and clothing for special events. For example, a basic tee-shirt will probably get worn a lot more than a formal dress, but the formal dress may still be a wardrobe essential for you. When considering a clothing purchase you can then use your different goal to determine whether the purchase makes sense for you. We understand that it's not easy trying to estimate how much we will truly wear an item once it’s in our closets. One thing that can make it easier though is having a good sense of your personal style as well as what your lifestyle requires clothing wise. Checkout our “How To Define Your Ideal Style” blog post for tips on this!
While some of us love the idea of having a quantifiable way to make purchasing decisions and optimize our closet, some of us also don’t want to do the math, totally understandable! In this case, the cost per wear method can be used more as a philosophy. A reminder that less is more when you invest in quality pieces you love, and that the cost of our clothing goes beyond the price tag!
What pieces in your wardrobe have the best cost per wear and which have the worst? Let us know in the comments below!