Will I Wear It? How to Analyze a Potential New Purchase
A couple weeks ago, Janice at The Vivienne Files answered an "I love it but will I wear it?" question from readers about a green velvet paisley skirt from Boden. "Do you think that I could wear this skirt enough to justify buying it?" And Janice responded "Well, yes, I do!" and showed a variety of lovely styling options to wear this skirt from early fall through the dead of winter, creating a neat little capsule wardrobe around the skirt...demonstrating that the accompanying pieces to wear this skirt do exist in the marketplace. Of course, one would certainly want to do a similar exercise using the items they already own to see if the potential new item can be styled multiple ways. (Knowing that an item could be worn if 28 more pieces were purchased with it is not very helpful, but Janice uses new items for illustrative purchases. I absolutely don't interpret it as her suggesting "buy this skirt and an entire wardrobe to go with it!")
This post got me thinking...when we are considering a new item for purchase, it definitely makes sense to determine whether you could style it in various ways with your current pieces, either because you value mix-and-match opportunities in your closet or you want to wear it across a range of weather/temperatures.
But the analysis really shouldn't end there. After all, the larger your wardrobe, the easier it is to put together outfits with just about any item that is in your basic range of preferred colors and silhouettes. Even with this velvet skirt that has a color scheme that isn't the most represented in my wardrobe, I could probably put together a dozen different outfits without trying too hard. At this point, asking yourself if you could wear it will often result in a resounding "Yes!"...and the larger your wardrobe already is, the more often you will answer "Yes," growing your wardrobe out of control.
I offered a comment on the post, which I am repeating below.
In Janice’s capsule, the skirt is a brilliant and gorgeous print that binds the wardrobe together. But for deciding whether to add the skirt to one’s own wardrobe…for me it’s a tricky decision balancing the emotion and practicality. What helps me with this decision is thinking not just “Would I (theoretically) wear this skirt?” because the answer to that is so often “Well yes, of course, I love it and it’s my style and I can thinking of a dozen ways to wear it!”…which doesn’t capture the reality that the number of days in a year is limited to 365/366 so we have to consider opportunity to wear as well as willingness/desire to wear.
I might start with: How often would I be willing to wear this bold and distinctive skirt? Once a week? Once every two weeks? Once a month? Etc. Then calculate how many times that is in the year (based on what months of the year you would wear the skirt). Then multiply by how many years to get a ballpark number of wears. What’s the estimate of your best-case cost per wear? (I say “best-case” because I think we tend to overestimate how often we’ll wear something and there are a lot of ways that a skirt you think you’d wear for 5 years doesn’t make it that long, including lifestyle changes, weight changes, lack of durability.) Is that reasonable to you? If not, then it’s probably a no.
But if it passes the first test, then: if I’m wearing this skirt every two weeks (or whatever), what items will I *not* be wearing the X times I wear the skirt this year? Because your new garment, however beloved and however many ways you can imagine wearing it, is in direct competition with the clothes you already own (and are hopefully wanting to put through their paces and rack up a good number of wears with). But also: will this skirt make me wear some of my other items more? For example, if you had a bright pink sweater and a dark green blouse and a yellow top that you are prioritizing to wear this winter, the skirt could increase your wears of those items. It’s a balancing act.
For me personally, I have a pretty full closet and am committed to 30+ wears and a cost per wear of $1 or less, so it’s hard for something like this $180 skirt to make the cut. Others may accept a much higher cost per wear in general or for special statement pieces they love.
I just wanted to add a bit of focus on the different between “would wear” and “will wear” because it’s so easy to fall in love with a gorgeous print and all the possibilities while forgetting the rest of one’s closet! Ask me how I know. ;)
I think it's extremely easy to talk yourself into buying something because you can make it fit (physically and stylistically) into your closet when you consider the item in isolation. It's when you think about the limited opportunities for wearing a type of thing...a sweater or a fancy dress or a pair of tall riding boots or a velvet paisley skirt...and the other things that you won't be wearing if you wear the new item that the full reality of the decision becomes apparent. I know math isn't everyone's favorite thing, but if you run the numbers (and they are simple ones), I think you might be surprised!
But even without doing the math, you can take a stab at whether a potential purchase is adding something new to your wardrobe. Considering the Boden skirt (which is really pretty!), I grabbed the five main colors in the skirt...well, the navy neutral plus 4 accent colors...and looked in my own wardrobe to see whether I already have skirts that cover this range of colors. And I quickly found these four skirts that together are already doing the job of the Boden skirt! (I just realized that I left out the blue from the Boden skirt in my photo, but it's there in my navy pleated skirt, so that's covered too.) Plus I can actually cover several additional colors with these skirts as well, including black, brown, teal, olive/sage, maroon/burgundy, and lime. So in my case, the Boden skirt would be an expensive substitute for skirts I already own that I like, that fit, that I enjoy wearing, and that cost me nothing!
Do you look at your wardrobe in terms of how many opportunities you have to wear items? Or in terms of cost per wear? Do you ever ask yourself whether the item is adding something new to your wardrobe? Or what won't you wear if you buy this new item? Do you think "what won't I wear" could be helpful for you as a step in analyzing a potential purchase?
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