"Sure, slow fashion is a nice idea, but how can I justify spending £50 on a single item of clothing, when I can go somewhere else and buy three for less?”
Most of us have probably thought that on more than one occasion, and it’s a difficult statement to argue with.
We’re regularly told about the cost of fast-fashion to the environment, but when it comes to shopping for what we need, our compassion for the planet can only go as deep as our pockets.
But what if you were to stop and add-up the costs of wearing your clothes, only to find those purse-friendly garments filling up your wardrobe are actually much more expensive?
Here in the UK, we buy more clothes per person than anywhere else in Europe. And if more proof were needed that we buy too many clothes, you only need to read the rest of the 2019 government report, Fixing Fashion.
Two years ago, the average lifespan for a garment was seven wears – now this has been reduced to five. One in three young women consider garments worn once or twice to be old, and it's thought that 17% of young people won’t wear an outfit again if they’ve shared a picture of it on Instagram.
So, if much of the low-cost clothing offered up to us has been made with this near-single use disposability in mind, is ‘affordability’ just a fallacy we’ve been sold by increasingly dominant fast fashion brands?
The True Cost of Your Clothes
For the consumer with a conscience, the cost per wear (CPW) formula is considered the most revealing metric for measuring the value of your clothes.
If you were to buy three £10 ‘disposable’ garments and wear each of them no more than 5 times before consigning them to the rag pile, you’d be paying £2 per wear.
And for the single use garment bought for a specific occasion and then forgotten about, the cost per wear is as high as it’s original price tag.
Quality Not Quantity
It’s not always the case that more expensive clothes are good quality and conversely, there are some mass-produced fast-fashion clothes that are.
But if you were to find a genuinely high-quality garment, it’s highly likely it’ll cost a few times more than the disposable fashion equivalent.
And assuming you’re investing in a classic item that will never go out of style, you could reasonably expect to be able to wear it many more times before it’s only fit for rags.
According to the Clothing Longevity Protocol issued by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), a national organisation that aims to improve resource efficiency, a t-shirt should be able to withstand 112 wears and 56 washes.
So a £50 t-shirt that meets this benchmark would cost just 45p per wear – a stark contrast to the disposable ‘low cost’ t-shirt.
Save Money Over Time
Shopping for clothes with a cost per wear mind-set means finding high quality items you know will stand the test of time, both in terms of style and up-keep. And the result will be a more streamlined, longer-lasting and lower cost wardrobe that also has a lower carbon footprint.