What’s Your Cost-Per-Wear? A New Way to Evaluate Your Closet

You paid $50 for your favorite pair of jeans, but if you want to know how much they're really worth, the sales tag isn't the only thing to consider. The true price of an item of clothing could hinge on how often you actually slip it on.

Call it the "cost-per-wear” quotient, which you can figure out using simple math: Divide how much an item of clothing costs by the number of times you've worn it.

There’s nothing quite as revelatory as taking a cost-per-wear inventory of your closet. You’ll see which items are the sartorial all-stars, the ones you go to again and again—and which are the benchwarmers, the things you keep around but that never see any real action. It might turn out that the $200 dress you've worn 20 times was a better buy than the $20 tunic you wore once.

RELATED: How I Did It: I Cut My Clothing Budget to $600 a Year

“Cost-per-wear is not only a concept that I share with all my friends and clients, it’s also something I do all the time in my own life,” says personal stylist Lindsay Weiner, who has worked on TLC's “What Not to Wear.” “It can help you save money by figuring out which pieces are actually the most important to you.”

As it is, Weiner says most of us only wear about 20% of the contents of our closet regularly, though, ideally, that number should be at least 50%.

The next time you're out shopping, put the theory to the test: Is that trendy top on sale for $19.99 really a total steal? How about that classic trench you think you'll wear for years to come?

Here, we asked 10 LearnVest readers to tell us which item in their closet has offered the greatest return on their investment—and which has yet to earn its keep.

To view the slides in one long list, click into the slide show and select "list view."

View Slide Show

  • 20smthgirl

    That cost per wear for the suit is not taking into account the cost of dry cleaning it every other wear. I’m sure that drives up the cost per wear significantly.

  • imdb

    I think the dress for Lindsay needs a lighter color on top (not black) as this dress is more of a spring/summer color. Even a brown to match it would be good. Also, I don’t think $40 is ‘super cheap’ for most clothing. That being said, I have pairs of black leather boots and shoes that I’ve had for years. Each day as I sit down to put my shoes on, I put a little bit of leather polish on each one and shine away in 5 seconds flat. As the heel wears down I have them resoled. Buy simple styles with out a lot of bells and whistles, and those things will last you a good, long time. You can add zing with jackets, scarves, and jewelry.