Two weeks ago Marketplace did a short segment on clothes-buying habits and amounts from Elizabeth Cline’s book, Overdressed. I was surprised by what they reported so I’ll share their numbers and observations here along with how they compare to our buying patterns, as determined from Mint.
Average Spending Level
Americans spend an average of $1,100 per person on clothes each year. We spent way, way less than that on clothes and shoes in the last year – $471.68 on me and $142.82 on Kyle. Actually $1,100 per year doesn’t seem outrageous to me, and if we had a higher income I would probably spend a lot closer to that level. I really like cute dresses and I want a much larger collection than I have. We (particularly Kyle) obviously can only get away with spending so little because we have clothes and haven’t been replacing them. This is a temporary measure and when we get real jobs we will have to upgrade and expand our wardrobes. I guess I would like to know what the average percentage of income is spent on clothing – for us it’s a little over 1%.
Frequency of Spending
Americans buy an average of slightly more than one garment per week – that’s over 52 for the year. In the last year, I made 11 transactions on clothing/shoes on 8 days – once every seven weeks! – and Kyle made 2 transactions on 2 days. We don’t shop for fun and we tend to shop only infrequently when we need something urgently, which sometimes requires multiple stops. For instance, two of my transactions were for a business casual outfit (pants and shirt) for an interview later that week.
Type of Clothing
Marketplace reported that most of this money was being spent on “fast fashion – that’s super-cheap disposable clothes in the latest styles.” That type of clothing doesn’t last long because of its poor quality and transient stylishness (think Forever 21 or H&M (affiliate link – thanks for using!)). I can assure you that Kyle and I are not fashionable and cannot afford to keep up with the latest styles, even if we knew what they were. We don’t often buy expensive clothing because of our income and the nature of our work, but we certainly don’t buy throwaway clothes, either. Nearly half of the money I spent was on two items – a dress for an evening wedding and a suit for an interview. The remaining $250 was a set of socks, three pairs of pants, one shirt, and three pairs of shoes. Kyle’s $150 was spent on a jacket and two pairs of shoes.
I would love to buy more clothes and have a greater variety of options in my closet – particularly after my weight loss last year, I feel pretty good about my body and don’t dread shopping! Kyle is still regularly wearing shirts he bought in high school so he is in desperate need of an upgrade. But until our income is higher, clothing is just a very low priority for us. However, when we do buy, we buy what we think will last at least a few years, style-wise and quality-wise. I don’t think we’ll ever buy “fast fashion” so we might end up spending more than the average American once our income is higher.
Do you buy cheap clothes frequently like the average American? Was your spending on clothes in the last year higher or lower than $1,100 per person?