How much is too much to pay for a party dress?


‘Read this before handing over your credit card’

Apologies for being (sort of) late with this week’s post. Unless you’ve been living under an undecorated rock, you too have been attending party after holiday party and don’t have a lot of time for relaxing pursuits like blog writing.

Part of the fun of these parties, for me anyway, is dressing up. What’s the fun of going to a party if you can go “casual?” Since I retired, “casual” is how I dress pretty much 24/7. I like a little duding up.

Speaking of “duding up,” here’s his Dudeness looking extremely spiffy in black tie. Dressing up is so easy for guys

I was at a party last week where I admired a woman’s earrings. (Hi, Elizabeth!)  Coincidentally, we were both talking to another woman who was also wearing stunning sparkly earrings. (Hi, Kim!) Turns out they both got them at the same time, from the same jeweler. And they both spent outrageous sums on them. (No, I did not ask how much.)

I’ve worn this fur hat so much it’s now practically free. Read on to see what the heck I mean

Their Spending Guilt prompted me to reassure them with my CPW Theory. Simply put, CPW (Cost Per Wearing) means that the true cost of an item of apparel is not how much money you spend on it. No, the true cost of that item is how much money it costs each time you wear it. In other words, it’s the cost of the item divided by the number of times you wear said item.

This taffeta skirt is the same taffeta skirt in the previous shot of dressed-up peeps in an elevator. The elevator wearing was 22 years ago. But there was a glitch this last time: read “Skirting the Issue” to find out what it was

Say you spend $500 for a coat. (Is this expensive? It’s been years since I bought a coat.) Anyway. If you pay 500 bucks for a coat and wear it once, well that coat cost $500. But you usually don’t wear a coat just once, do you? I have a black plaid Burberry that I’ve owned for 20 years that I’ve worn, oh gosh, 20 years. That’s 20 winters at 4 months a winter at 4 weeks per month times 3 days a week. That’s 960 times. Even if that coat cost a thousand bucks — which it didn’t; I got it on sale — its true cost is about a buck a wearing.

Too bad you can’t see the rest of the Burberry coat here. Trust me, it’s a keeper

On the other hand, say you pay a mere pittance for something like a bargain at Target or TJ Maxx. Something like a spangly top for $20. (Yes, I have done this.) I fell for the spangly top, wore it once, then gave it away. It was sort of itchy and hot, and very very spangly. So guess what? According to the CPW Theory, that was not a cheap top. It cost me $20 per wearing. So. More expensive than the Burberry.

(Notice that I am wearing a sort of spangly top in the photo of The Child and Me admiring ourselves in the mirror while drinking Birthday Veuve. That’s not the top. This one I got on e-Bay. For 80 bucks. So far I’ve worn it twice. But it’ll get out there again. You’ll see.)

The only downside to practicing CPW is that, if you wear an item enough, people start to recognize it. As in, “Oh! I remember you — I recognize that dress.” Which happened with this one. So I finally gave it away

Back to that Burberry coat for a sec. Every time I wear it, I get a compliment. So there’s that. In fact, I told my earring-bedecked friends that even if they didn’t wear those pricey earrings lots and lots of times, they could modify the CPW Theory to be Compliment Per Wearing. So. Still a good investment, I say.

I’ll close with the ultimate in CPW, as practiced by the one and only Child.

New York City. December 2022

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14 thoughts on “How much is too much to pay for a party dress?

  1. Hard agree to you CPW theory! Also, never skimp on a good coat, I say. I’m still wearing the same long black wool dress coat I’ve been wearing since my mom bought it for me when I was in my 20s. A steal! Happiest of holidays–and wear all the pretty things! (I did fall for a spangly, sequined skirt at Marshalls. I’ll probably only wear it once, but then it was only $20!)

    • I would love to have a spangly sequined skirt! I bet you look terrific in it. And you are so right; at $20 per wearing, you’re going great CPW Guns. And I bet you’re ahead of the game on Compliments Per Wearing! Merry Christmas 🎄 xoxo

  2. Debra Fried

    I love this theory and love getting swept up into your world!!
    And I think you owe it to your fans to show us a full shot of that Burberry coat! Coincidentally, I’ve been working on a piece about a pair of Chanel boots that my then-boyfrind-now-husband bought for me a good 25 years ago. I feel like a smarty-pants every time I wear them.

    • Oooo, Debra. Can hardly wait to read the one about the Chanel boots! I’m also a big shoe-resoler. Given the right care, you can feel like a smarty-pants (er, smarty-boots?) for years and years. As for the Burberry coat, I swear I had a photo of me and Youngest Younger Brother Doug taken after a trip to the Late Lamented Il Vagabondo, but heck if I can find it 🙁

    • My sister often says she pictures me standing over her while she’s packing: “You don’t need THAT; you need THIS!” Just picture me behind me as you look into your closet: “Get rid of THAT; now THIS you need!”

  3. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Staying the same size (like you do, Alice) is necessary for wearing the same outfit for umpteen years! You do it so well,too🥰

  4. roy edroso

    I am adopting CPW, making the black suede jacket I got at Barney’s 14 years ago an even more spectacular deal, thanks!

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