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Image / Style / Fashion

CPW: the simple formula that will change the way you shop


By Louise Slyth
22nd Sep 2021
CPW: the simple formula that will change the way you shop

I no longer have “the guilt” about investing in good basics.

I had no aptitude for maths at school. I knew from a young age that my career path would be paved with words, not numbers. Pythagoras and Trigonometry sounded to me like strange diseases you might pick up in Cairo.

So, it’s as much as a surprise to myself as I’m sure my old maths teacher, that I have a natural aptitude for arithmetic. Without the aid of a calculator, I can work out the discounted price of any sale item, and even convert currencies if there is a bargain involved. Why am I telling you this? I am about to share a fashion tip with you that will change the way you shop forever. What if I told you that you could buy a Mulberry handbag and it would cost you less than one from M&S?

Now that I have your attention, let me introduce you to the concept of cost per wear (CPW). CPW has become in-vogue lately with personal shoppers and bloggers alike, but my friends will attest that I have been using it for decades.

This simple formula will change the way you shop forever. Simply divide the cost of the item by the number of times you wear or use it, to establish its true cost. Do this mental calculation before making a purchase and it can save you from some expensive mistakes.

Applying a cost per wear lens to your shopping habits has two key benefits. Firstly, investment items that you use for years, are justifiable. I must have bought about ten handbags in neutral colours before I finally bit the bullet and invested in a tan Mulberry crossbody. It goes with everything, and as such it has now cost me about €2 per wear. Likewise, my 7 for all mankind jeans have been worn so many times that they must be practically free.

Secondly, you find out what you use and what sits at the back of the wardrobe. I am a self-confessed fashion geek: I track everything I buy and how often I wear things. This isn’t as onerous a task as it may sound – I make notes on my phone when I buy or wear something and then tally up once a week. Doing this for over ten years has been illuminating and has revolutionised the way I shop. Tracking my shopping sprees means that I can easily see the items that turned my head in-store but have not been a hardworking addition to my wardrobe. Reviewing previous purchases also gives you a chance to “shop your own wardrobe” in a way you might not if you were simply scanning through your rails.

I have an eye on sustainability, so I’m always looking for ways to use items in multiple ways, and again, keeping track of my weekly outfits helps me do this. I am a devil for sparkles and my head is easily turned, but I’ve now made peace with the fact that a great neutral sweater will get way more use than a sparkly top. On the flip side, I no longer have “the guilt” about investing in good basics, because I know they will earn their keep.

If you are planning your autumn wardrobe, you might want to consider a CPW approach. A few well-chosen pieces like a neutral bag, a great coat, and jeans that suit your body shape, will always be good investments. Think about things you can wear in multiple ways, to multiple occasions.

Whilst I am a huge CPW advocate, I strongly believe you should always make room in your wardrobe, and your life, for joy. If something just speaks to you, then you should buy it. Just make sure you wear it.

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.