Tool of the Trade: A Shopping Equation

fashion mathWe’ve talked before about how to get great deals on clothes, but we’ve never really delved into The Shopping Equation.  (Pictured:  Big trouble, originally uploaded to Flickr by jakerome.)

Basically, before we buy any piece of clothing, we do a general assessment:

How many seasons can we wear it? – Is the fabric or color going to leave you stuck in one season only?  Is the quality of the piece high enough that it’s going to last you (if you take care of it well)?  Is the piece too trendy? Subtract $5 for each season you expect to be able to wear it in.  So, for example, the $295 BOSS skirt from earlier today — we would expect something like that to last at least three years with proper care, and it can be worn for all four seasons.  So we’d subtract $60 from the perceived cost of the piece.

How many compliments will you get on it? Add at least $5 per compliment.  (This comes in handy if you’re considering a new bag, or a trendier piece like a Balmain blazer or the like.)  (In practice, we find this works better in the reverse — after buying an item of clothing we’ve found some pieces to be absolutely irreplaceable because the actual cost of the clothing was so dwarfed by the number of compliments we received on it.)

What is the care for the item? If it’s a natural fiber like wool, cashmere, or silk, we will almost always take our chances and wash it in Woolite eventually — and so far, with good results.  On the other hand, “dry clean only” labels should really (probably) (so they say) be taken at their word — meaning it adds a cost of $5-$10 for every time you have to dry clean it.  Sometimes there’s no way around this, and it doesn’t add that much to the cost of the item because you don’t have to dryclean it more than once or twice a season.  (Winter coats — wool suits — etc.)  However, if you’re considering a rayon “dry clean only” sweater shell for $20, be aware that the actual price to you will be much higher.

How many DAYS will you wear it? We did this math when we were considering buying a fancy watch.  Let’s say you wear it 5 days a week for five years — it’s a statement piece and you’ll be glad to have it every day you wear it.  Let’s say that you’re so glad to wear it, that you’d be willing to drop $2 in a bucket for each day.  We’d subtract $2600 from the perceived cost of the watch.  ($2 a day, five days a week, for 52 weeks, for 5 years.)  (The corollary here:  how long have you wanted it?  If you had put $2 a day aside every time the thought crossed your mind, that Vuitton bag starts looking downright reasonable.)

What interest will you incur on it? Finally — we talk a lot about splurge items on this site (every Monday!) but part of the equation when buying clothing or accessories should always be:  do I have the money in my bank account to pay for this right now?  Your clothes purchases should never put you in debt.  If there’s some circumstance you just can’t resist, you should add your credit card’s interest rate onto the purchase of your clothes.  That “deal” may start to look a lot less appetizing.

Readers, those are some of our factors — how do you decide whether to buy something?  When to splurge?  When to snap the deal up?

Suit of the Week

1For busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

We are loving this suit from Andy The-Anh today — we love the pleated neckline on the dress, as well as the almost shelf-like pleats on the waist of the jacket — it looks fun and modern, but still likely to flatter any woman’s body. We’re normally not fans of beige, but the contemporary design is particularly great when paired with the muted tones. The jacket is $620 (Peplum Boyfriend Jacket), and the dress is $515 (Pleated-Neck Dress), both available at Neiman Marcus in sizes 2-14.

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Previously, on Corporette…

corp-square-logo-2-aug08 This time last year, here’s what was on our minds…

Wednesday’s TPS Report: Woven Jacket

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

. Classiques Entier Woven JacketReader T writes to us to recommend this gorgeous blue jacket: “I had been stalking it online for weeks and it just went on sale, so I made the plunge and bought it. The color is a gorgeous vivid blue and while I am normally not a fan of the current ruffles trend, the fact that it is on the bottom of the jacket makes it look classy. The jacket runs true to size.” That blue is absolutely gorgeous, we must agree, and the cropped, ruffled bottom would be particularly striking on a woman with a longer torso. We might try it with a dash of a pale, pale yellow thrown in, or perhaps a mint green. It’s on sale for $135 (was $228), available in sizes XS-XL at Nordstrom. Classiques Entier Woven Jacket

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P.S. Please remember, we’ll be in Louisville, KY all day today for our event with AK Anne Klein and InStyle, so comment moderation may be slow (or, at least, subject to the whims of our, um, staffers). (Hi Dad!) Also, remember, today is Administrative Assistant’s Day — we recommend some sort of external sign of affection/gratitude, such as a flower arrangement, for your secretaries. (However, as always, please feel free to discuss in comments!) (And — joy, it looks like the posts aren’t going up according to the scheduler for some reason… yay. We’ll do our best anyway today!)

Bargain Friday’s TPS Report: Ponte Split Neck Dress

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Merona Ponte Split Neck DressTarget has so many cute office-appropriate dresses right now that we actually had trouble deciding which we wanted to link to today.  Ultimately, we’re going with this split-neck one because we think it would be the most universally flattering.  It’s definitely a casual dress at base, but accessories will go a long way towards changing the vibe of the dress — worn with a blazer and pumps will make it feel more dressed up, while it would also feel at home with sandals and a beach tote.  It’s $25 at Target. Merona® Women’s Ponte Split Neck Dress – Black
If you’ve recently seen a great work piece you’d like to recommend to the readers, please e-mail [email protected] with “TPS” in the subject line. Unless you ask otherwise, we’ll refer to you by your first initial.

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Thursday’s TPS Report: Wrap Dress

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

We liked this dress when we saw it full price a few weeks ago, but it is selling out like hotcakes at every Macy’s we’ve been to (we featured it last week at the AK Anne Klein event in Miami and people were trying to buy the dress the model was wearing after she took it off!). It has sleeves, a nice fitted look, and discreet pockets if you want to stash your keycard — and it’s on sale. The red and black are $95, or the khaki color (“Tundra”) comes down to $90 with the 30% Off Friends and Family link. Because of the sale and popularity, limited sizes are available at AK Anne Klein — more sizes may be available at Macy’s. Wrap Dress

Also: We’ll be doing a Twitter Chat at 10:00 — hashtag #beanchat. Come join the fun!

If you’ve recently seen a great work piece you’d like to recommend to the readers, please e-mail [email protected] with “TPS” in the subject line. Unless you ask otherwise, we’ll refer to you by your first initial.

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(Disclosure: As you know, we’re doing a promotion/event series with AK Anne Klein, but we are not being paid to feature this particular dress (beyond our affiliate relationship) — we just really like it (and have ordered it ourselves.))