Dressing for an autumn hike

Dressing for a hike is all about comfort, not style. I don’t want to look terrible when I’m on the trail, but I’m much more concerned about wearing clothes that are comfortable and well suited to the conditions. When we set out last Saturday morning, the sky was overcast and the temperature was 17ºC (about 63ºF). We knew that it was likely going to get warmer as the morning went by, so as always, layering was the key.

I started with a long sleeved grey and white striped Breton tee and a comfortable pair of jeans that used to be black, but are now faded to a dark charcoal grey. (Any tips for keeping black jeans from fading would be much appreciated.) Both items are several years old. Next, I added a lightweight athletic jacket that I bought at our local thrift store back in January. It was like new and was definitely one of the best $3 investments I’ve ever made! It’s been to Mexico and Europe with me and I’m sure its cost per wear is already just a few cents. The final layer was my Uniqlo ultra light down vest.

I wear a ball cap to shade my face. There’s a good reason for that. I have no depth vision. I never have had so I don’t know what I’m missing. My brain has other ways of compensating, but wearing sunglasses removes whatever sense of depth I have and makes walking on uneven ground treacherous. As a result, I never wear them when I’m hiking.

Being surefooted on the trail is important, so good sturdy footwear is vital. My Merrell hiking shoes may not be particularly glamorous, but they’re comfortable and provide excellent support.

One thing I’m not wearing is makeup. Why would I? I admit that I look a little washed out in the photos, but I was hiking! I did wear sunscreen though. Even when it’s overcast, I want to protect my skin.

As the morning progressed, the sky cleared and the temperature rose. Layers came off and by the end of our hike the jacket was tied around my waist, the vest was tucked into it’s little sack and tied to one of my belt loops, and my sleeves were pushed up.

Fashion math… thinking about cost per wear

LogoIf you’re like me, there have probably been times when you’ve stood in a dressing room trying to decide whether or not to buy an item because the price seems too high. It fits well, looks great on you, and you love it, but can you really justify spending that much?

That’s when you need to think about cost per wear (CPW). I was never very good at math, but this formula is so simple that even I can handle it!

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The simplest version involves dividing the price by how many times you estimate that you’ll wear the item. Of course, there are other factors to take into consideration. For example, does the item need to be dry cleaned. If so, it’s a good idea to factor that cost into the equation.

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Obviously, no one knows exactly how many times they’ll wear a particular item, but here are some questions that can help you estimate:

  • Where will I wear it?
  • Is it a single season item or something that I’ll wear year round?
  • Is it a trend that will likely disappear quickly or something that I’ll probably wear for several years?
  • Is it well made? Will it keep its shape and colour through multiple wears and washes or will it wear out quickly?
  • Will it play well with other items in my closet?
  • Will I get tired of it?

Let’s look at a couple of examples. I’m planning to buy a new winter coat this year. Imagine that I find the coat I want for $250. I live in a climate where winter lasts from late October until March. Unless I slip away to somewhere warm for a couple of weeks, I’ll likely wear that coat at least once a day all winter long, so let’s estimate that I wear it 150 times over the winter months. If I keep that coat for just one year, the cost per wear would be $1.67, but I’m likely to wear it for several winters so let’s multiply the number of wears by 3. Now I’m dividing $250 by 450 and the CPW is only 56 cents! On the other hand, if I spend $250 on a dress to wear to a wedding and I only wear it a couple of other times, the CPW is over $80! In my mind, the coat is a good buy, but the dress probably isn’t.

Here’s another way to look at it. Let’s imagine that you’re shopping for a basic black sweater and trying to choose between buying a high quality one for $120 or a cheaper, poorer quality version for $24. Which one is the better buy? As counterintuitive as it might sound, sometimes buying cheap is actually more expensive. If you would wear the more expensive sweater 200 times over the next few years, the CPW would be 60 cents, but you might only get 20 wears out of that cheaper sweater before it starts to pill, stretch out of shape, or even unravel. In that case, the CPW would be 83 cents. Clearly, the more expensive sweater is actually the better buy.

For CPW to work to your advantage, you have to love and enjoy wearing your clothes to such an extent that you’re willing to continue wearing them long term instead of constantly buying new ones; you have to be willing to make fewer and more intentional purchases. That’s the whole idea! Rather than forking over more and more of your hard earned dollars for cheap quality pieces that won’t last, you’ll spend more for clothes that will last longer.

Cost per wear isn’t a hard and fast rule. Splurging on something trendy that you won’t wear long term isn’t all bad. Getting dressed ought to be fun, so achieving a low cost per wear isn’t always the desired end, but it’s a handy tool to use, especially when you’re considering a major purchase or when sales racks tempt you to buy on impulse.

So next time you go shopping for clothes, shoes, or accessories, why not do the fashion math?

How much is too much?

LogoIf you know me or you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you already know that I’m not a Trump supporter, but what does that have to do with fashion?

Earlier this week, while traveling with her husband, Melania Trump stepped into the Sicilian sunshine wearing a colourful appliquéd jacket by Italian fashion house, Dolce & Gabbana, that sells for $51,000 USD.

Excuse me?

$51 000! 

And that probably doesn’t even include the matching clutch!

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For those of us north of the border, that’s almost $70 000 CAD!

Contemplate for a moment the fact that electing Donald Trump was considered a triumph for the common man. He fashioned himself as a proud champion of the ordinary American who was fed up with big money running the country. Then consider that his wife’s jacket sells for just $5516 less than the median household income for the United States in 2015 (the most recent year for which data is presently available) which was $56 516. I don’t know of any common man, or woman, with a clothing budget like that one!

I can’t help wondering what the common American would do with that $51 000. Pay off their mortgage? Send their kid to college? Pay for health insurance? $51 000 would buy a lot of groceries!

One of the things to consider when trying to decide if the price of a garment is too high is cost per wear. It makes sense to put more money into an investment piece that will be worn many times season after season than an item that will only be worn a few times. If Mrs. Trump wore her jacket once a week for the next five years, it would still cost almost $200 a wear!

Unbelievable, and in my opinion, inexcusable!