What’s the ideal wardrobe?
For me, the ideal wardrobe is filled with only things I love, but also contains nothing superfluous or unnecessary. It’s entirely practical and fits my lifestyle, which means whatever setting, occasion or weather I encounter on a regular day, I can find exactly what I need in it.
How to avoid unnecessary purchases? How to know in advance if a purchase is worth it? Apart from following your gut feeling when it comes to differentiating between just OK and things you really love, these questions may most easily be solved by thinking economically.
Have you ever heard of the term ‘sunk costs’?
‘Sunk costs’ is a term taken from business and economics, but quite simply speaking denotes investments that you can’t get back once you’ve spent them.
[Read here how sunk costs influence our decision-making in real life all the time – it will surprise you.]
This sounds awfully logical. After all, 1 – 1 = 0 is no rocket science. If I spend €€ on a blouse, those €€ are unavailable to me later on. But at least I get a nice blouse in exchange. That’s nice, no?
Well, here is where our logic is usually flawed.
Let’s say you buy a blouse and that blouse cost you €€. You take it home and add it to your wardrobe. You have no idea what to wear it with yet, so you try around, pair it with this and with that. However, it doesn’t allow for a lot of outfits to your liking, so apart from the few times you wear it, the blouse mostly hangs around unworn in mint condition.
A couple of months pass by and you don’t give the blouse much thought, maybe even forget about it. Until you rummage in your wardrobe one day and there it is – again. You feel guilty for having neglected it for so long, so you try around, pair it with this and with that. However, it doesn’t go very well with the rest of your wardrobe, so why not kick it at last? You could set up a fleamarket stand to sell it or take pictures to put on ebay. But getting back your money’s worth for it is tough and time consuming. So eventually, it just lands in the dust bin. Or if not that, it rots in your wardrobe forever. But those precious €€ you will have spent? All that wardrobe space, all that time, all those thoughts wasted on it? Gone. Those are your sunk costs. And as you can see far higher than just the initial €€.
Still think that blouse is worth it?
When it comes to decluttering, I’m saying trust your heart. When it comes to shopping smarter, I’m saying trust economics. It already helps to remind yourself that any prospective purchase is a sunk cost in the making. If you visualize your opportunity costs in addition, this will make things even clearer.
‘Opportunity costs’ is yet another term taken from theoretical business and economics, and basically encompasses all the nicer things you could afford instead.
In case of the blouse, remember, it was €€. On the surface, it’s not much. Then again, it could be the equivalent of a train ticket to the beach, a really nice three-course-dinner with your lover, or a skirt that is far, far nicer if only you save up a little more. It is possible to buy happiness, as numerous studies have begun to point out. But mostly if you invest in experiences or things that enable you to have them. Not by purchasing material objects just for the sake of themselves. So for the price of a blouse, you’re potentially missing out on real happiness and other cool stuff in exchange, in short. Now still think that blouse is worth it?
Cost per wear
Last but not least, we can safely say that even bargains aren’t bargains if you hardly ever wear them, because then the cost per wear exceeds the value they hold for you.
If that’s the case, the next time you declutter it’s certainly one of the first things to go. And all the while, it didn’t contribute anything to your life – neither sparks of joy nor value, only losses all the way!
The red thread running through ideal wardrobe building is taking into account your unique personality and tastes at every step of the way. You want to build a selection of clothes and accessories that you love and feel positive when you use them. That’s why you should definitely hone your ability to tell if something is “just OK” or if it’s “perfect!!” But if that is still too vague, thinking in entirely economical terms is very useful.
It’s like flipping a coin. It doesn’t tell you what to do, it tells you what you want it to tell you what to do. Makes sense? In short, it helps you uncover what you really want. Because if at the end of the day, you did your maths and it is still worth it, then well, that’s it!
You know what’s definitely worth it? Sun protection! Yes, I’m serious. Other things that are worth it: My cosmetician in Berlin and those little spray bottles of thermal water. What was worth it for you the last time? Have any interesting love-at-first-sight shopping stories to share?