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In a world of mass production and budget-conscious buyers, a problem has been bubbling under the surface. And that problem is inferior-quality clothing that often doesn’t offer value for money nor quality for money.

However, the idea of slow fashion is beginning to catch on, and there’s no better time than now to start shopping by cost per wear, rather than a “hard to beat” price tag.

What Does Cost Per Wear Mean?

Cost per wear (CPW), is the value of an item related to how much you wear or use it. The mathematical equation is simple yet effective for seeing the value in something that may have an initially higher price tag than something else.

All you need to do is divide the price of the item by the number of times you think you will wear it. The more versatile that piece is for various occasions, the lower the cost is likely to be.

For example, you may be on the fence about buying a NZ$250 classic NZ made quality wool jacket. Given its versatility, you may envision that you will wear it at least two days of the week. Over six months with 30 wears, that jacket costs you NZ$8.33 per wear.

That might seem like a lot, but the quality materials in that jacket mean it’s likely to last you several more years of wear. Even if you averaged 45 wears from a single garment, it might have only cost you NZ$5.55 per wear.

But, then let us look at a lesser-quality knit jacket of a wool and synthetic blend for NZ$89. After an average of six wears, it might look a little fluffy, pilled, or tatty. It may have even lost some of its shape.

Those six wears at NZ$89 cost you NZ $14.83 each.

Then, what about those impulse buys that looked okay at the time, but really only appealed to you because the piece was on sale. That $89 jacket you may have worn once or twice all of a sudden cost you between $44.50 and $89 per wear. 

The $250 quality, classic NZ-made wool jacket with the durability and style to last for several years suddenly looks quite affordable. And that is how cost-per-wear works. It’s not necessarily about what’s cheap and what’s expensive. It’s about what garment you will get the most wear out of and what will stand the test of time.

Synthetic/Inferior vs. Natural Fibres

Cost per wear is quite an important consideration when choosing clothing of a particular material type. As a rule, the higher-quality the material, the more wear you tend to get out of it. The happier you are with your purchase of exquisitely manufactured garments, the longer you’re likely to keep them, too. Choosing classical pieces that hold their own through trend and season changes may also play a significant part in their value.

People experience a wide variety of other benefits when they spend a little more on natural materials like wool. Merino wool and possum merino knitwear have your wellness, comfort, and convenience in mind.

The wool tends to be wrinkle-resistant and durable, and it’s also resistant to soiling while being gentle on skin. All these features promote a long-lasting product that well and truly epitomises the meaning of cost per wear.

The news isn’t so great for cheaply-sourced or produced materials and synthetic fabrics. For example, a poorly manufactured cashmere or merino blend garment may be more affordable than its higher-quality counterpart, but not in the long run.

Given its likelihood of pilling, fibre breakdown, and stretching in the wash, it’s not going to last the distance. Thus, that “bargain” price tag didn’t end up being cost-effective after all.

Designers Promoting the Slow Fashion Concept

Cost per wear is catching on, but leading the way are designers who are promoting the “slow fashion” concept.

Typically, designers release four ranges per year – one for each season. Now, however, many are focusing on two versatile ranges for summer and winter. Often, the goal is to promote quality clothing and classic, timeless pieces as investments.

Asking the Question: How Often Will I Wear That?

It’s now time to start asking the hard questions when shopping. How often will I wear that, and does it co-ordinate with anything in my existing wardrobe? It’s too easy to fall into the trap of buying something because it’s on sale, or because it looked cute on the model.

It makes more sense to shop based on how much you expect to wear an item, and how long it will last. Factoring cost per wear into the decision-making process can result in significant monetary savings you never thought were possible.


Are there any specific materials I should avoid to maintain a low Cost Per Wear?

It’s generally advisable to avoid poorly manufactured, cheaply-sourced materials and synthetic fabrics that tend to wear out quickly. These materials may have a low upfront cost but can lead to higher overall costs due to frequent replacements.

Why is Cost Per Wear important in slow fashion?

Cost per wear is important in slow fashion because it shifts the focus from immediate price tags to long-term value. It encourages consumers to invest in higher-quality, versatile pieces that can be worn multiple times, reducing the overall environmental impact of fashion consumption.