Tag Archives: cost per wear

via The Visual Dictionary

One night, at 1:30 in the morning, I began to try on my trench coats and other light outerwear. It wasn’t that I was particularly cold or planned on streaking in the neighborhood. I was essentially analyzing why these coats were just okay and not exactly what I wanted in a trench.

I’d been chasing the ideal trench for about seven years by that point. It first started when I saw a Yohji Yamamoto coat in either Elle or Harper’s Bazaar in 2001. It was exquisitely structured with molded shoulders and sleeves that bent inwards at the elbow. I wasn’t even close to being able to afford it on my pathetically measly publishing paycheck, so I ripped the image out of the magazine and occasionally looked at it the way a boy revisits a hidden pinup.

Since my obsession with the Yamamoto piece, I had accumulated 5 trenches or quasi-trenches that did their job, but never measured up to my ideal piece. With every purchase I thought, “This is the one.” But it frankly never was. A collarless DKNY zip up with a cinched paperbag waist is perfectly fine. In fact, I wear it often. I’ve donated or sold a perfectly acceptable jackets by Theory (with an actual trench with a storm patch), Catherine Malandrino (made of taffeta with a pimp collar and ikat print lining), and BCBG (that had a near-bespoke fit but the ecru color was unflattering). The most striking piece is a Viktor & Rolf black number that is a hybrid between the  Matrix and Count Chocula. 

One of my staple Style Therapy services, the Closet Detox, involves purging my client’s closet of anything that has gone unworn for a period time because it doesn’t suit their bodies, personal aesthetic, and/or lifestyles. I also urge clients to purchase the items they love and know they will get good cost per wear out of, even if that means saving up in order to do so. It’s hypocritical of me not to actively follow my own advice and I try to be aware of this when I shop or perform a Closet Detox on my own wardrobe. 

The truth is, if I tally the price for each of these facsimiles, I would have been able to purchase the perfect trench by now, be it something conceptual like the Yamamoto or something more classic like the Burberry. Settling often ends up as a waste of money and closet space. In Why Women Wear What they Wear, Sophie Woodward conducts an ethnographic study on how women construct identity through dress. She explores clothing’s relationship to the image women are keen on projecting and whether and how a disconnect often occurs with certain pieces. None of the trenches I owned truly pleased me and it showed whenever I would wear one. 

I can admit that my appreciation for the Yohji Yamamoto trench didn’t lie in its beautiful construction alone. I was also cognizant of the fact that the designer was the creator of an insider brand. His pieces weren’t sold at mass retailers the way Prada and Gucci items are. While these are luxury brands, they’re omnipresent—from perfume to sunglasses and keychains. This inevitably dilutes their respective cachet. Yamamoto belonged to that faction of creatives (composed primarily of Japanese and Belgian designers) that those in the know punctuated their wardrobes with. Ownership of this piece would signal that I was privy to the cultural capital of avant-garde. But in my quest to appear as though I wasn’t a fashion victim by splattering my body with logos, I ended up becoming just through supplementing a void (the Yamamoto trench) with facsimiles that couldn’t measure up. 


Cost per wear is easily one of the major tenets of Style Therapy. It’s the purchase price of an item divided by the amount of times worn. In essence,  a pair of Ann Demeulemeester boots worn throughout the year ends up costing less than the $30 floral jumper purchased at a high street store. 

Five years ago I had just started working with Tim Gunn at Parsons School of Design. Each year the school throws a benefit dinner and runway show that features the most gifted students of the graduating class. Influential people in the fashion industry attend the show with eyes on these young, emerging designers. Editors such as Anna Wintour and buyers from Barneys and Saks peppered the dining tables throughout the venue. 

While the evening is all about the students, I wanted to represent myself and the school in the best light possible. Alain de Boton note that those without status are invisible. I needed quick access into this world I was only beginning to penetrate. So I set out to buy the most exquisite shoes I’d seen in a long time: the Yves Saint Laurent Dada pumps. Before purchasing them, I called up all of the stockists that sell YSL in New York with the intention of placing the pumps on hold until I was able to retrieve them after work. Barneys didn’t have them. Neither did Saks or Bergdorf’s. I called both YSL boutiques and was relieved to find out that the second one had the last pair of size 38.5 in North America (including Canada and Mexico). There was another problem. Since I’d left a well-paying job in advertising for fashion, I’d taken a steep pay cut. I had to borrow the money from my boyfriend (now husband) and pay him back in two installments. 

At the 57th street boutique, the shoes felt like cinder blocks on a sharp incline. I could barely walk in them and I certainly couldn’t flex my feet; but I had to have them. The evening of the benefit show, I wore my beat-up flats to the venue and changed into the Dada pumps while sequestered upstairs. Bill Clinton, the honoree of the evening, didn’t notice them, but Anna Wintour certainly did. I saw her checking them out from a distance and I felt marvelous. I felt even better after the event was over and I limped over several avenues to the subway, comfortably back in my beat-up flats.

They say love shouldn’t hurt. Neither should fashion. I only wore the Dadas a handful of times after that, once to the tents at New York Fashion Week and to several parties where I had the luxury of remaining seated for the duration of the evening. I encourage all of my clients to donate or sell any items they haven’t worn in over a year. I ended up selling them to a consignment shop, with the intentions of swearing off discomfort forever. This lasted only a couple of years, as the Alexander Wang Natasha pumps lured me in with the same results in the end. Shoes hurt in the store—>bought them anyway—>wore them a couple of times on the verge of tears—>sold them to a consignment shop for far less than I paid for them.

eBay used to have an abundance of Dada pumps, varying in color and style. This signaled that a portion of the population of women (and men) couldn’t bear to walk around in the beautiful cinder blocks. My sole pair of uncomfortable shoes are the Martin Margiela Unfinished pumps. But they just need a bit of breaking in.