In the first half of the 20th century, the average U.S. citizen spent about 12-14% on clothing. Today, we spend only 3%, and yet we own about 5x the amount of clothes. In the vein of fast food, economists are calling this "fast fashion," and like that extra value meal, it's not very good for us. Keila Tyner, a stylist with a Ph.D. in textiles and clothing, recommends a switch to "slow fashion." She says,
One option is to reconsider our approach to clothing by taking a cue from Europeans who have historically been more more focused on quality rather than quantity. Much of the cheap clothing we consume in droves is like our fast food diets—high in calories (quantity) but low in nutrition (quality). We are a culture that buys a lot of junk. Think about your own wardrobe—consider how many items of clothing you own and how often you wear each of those items. My guess is that most of us wear about 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. That is a lot of wasted space and wasted money.
The average American household has a median annual income of approximately $50,000. If it spends 3% of their income on clothing, they’ll have $1,500 a year, or $125 per month to spend. Instead of buying five fast-fashion, low-quality items costing $25 each, they could invest in one or two quality items at a higher price point ($125 or $63 respectively).
To the thoughtful reader, this comes as no surprise, and in many ways, reflects the "buy it for life" approach that we recommend on ManMade constantly. But its certainly interesting to see things laid out explicitly like this, and with actual numbers. I actually have no idea how much I spend on clothing, though I suspect its less than $125. Unless I consider other, non-daily wear items: a winter coat, specialized bike clothing, outdoor and backpacking gear. Were I to add a budget line-item for this, at Tyner's hypothetical $125/mo, at the end of the year I'd own twelve pieces I'd really love, would wear often, and would last for years to come. Sounds about right to me.
Check out the full article on Quartz: SLOW FASHION - The case for fewer—but better—clothes