Fashion for the Earth

Girl Math: Breaking Down Price Per Wear

“I posted a photo on my Instagram of me wearing a shirt I just bought. I will wear it again but not if we’re taking photos — I can’t be seen wearing it in a post twice!” 

This is a common conversation I have had many, many times with my fellow Gen Z friends. It’s a reflection of how Gen Z has gotten caught up in today’s unrelenting fast fashion cycle of social media hype. With influencers constantly encouraging us to shop for the newest trends and latest fads —  that they are often promoting.

Hooked on all this constant messaging, young people feel as if they must keep up with every fast fashion cycle or trend or risk not being cool, or relevant, or they develop FOMO, the fear of missing out.

Green vs Mean

Meanwhile we know that 70% of young adults claim to be concerned about climate change and 90% say they have changed their daily habits as a result. 50% claim to care about the ethical and sustainable sourcing of products. But realistically, have they really changed their consumption habits? 

Gen Z are young, 12 to 27-years-old, and they often claim they can’t afford more sustainable fashion, which is nearly always more expensive. Why? Because it uses natural materials, like cotton and linen that cost more, and to make sustainable fashion – there are higher production costs.

But perhaps Gen Z would shop more sustainably if they were able to properly measure the true cost of their purchases. Which brings us to Girl Math. Could this be a potentially new and more honest way to judge the real cost of our clothes?

How Girl Math Works

Let’s be clear, Girl Math is a new, satirical term that was popularized on TikTok and is used to describe the way girls justify their spending habits. Women jokingly use girl math to “save” money but ultimately justify buying more all while poking fun at themselves in the process.

For example, using girl math logic, buying anything on sale is actually saving money, cash isn’t real money so spending it doesn’t count at all, if there is a buy-one-get-one free, we have to buy because not utilizing this sort of offer is actually “losing” money.

Always use “free shipping” offers that kick in over a certain spend – for example, if your online total is $65 but you can get free shipping when you spend $100, you will spend $35 more to get that free shipping instead of paying $8.99 for shipping.

Plus, anything bought with a preloaded account or in advance is technically free. So, if you order a handbag on preorder before it is even available, that’s free. Because by the time it’s arrived you will have forgotten you paid for it. Finally, anything under $5 is also free.

Clearly Girl Math is Wrong!  

Girl Math rationalizes nonsense and unnecessary shopping and often downright excessive spending and reinforces the culture of consumerism — the same culture that is perpetuated by various social media platforms such as TikTok.

To be sustainable with our fashion choices we need to get real value out of the clothes we wear – we need them to be well-made, long-lasting and not faddy. Typically, clothing in the US is thrown away after only being worn 7-10 times. Discarded fast fashion either gets thrown directly into the trash or is “donated.” Of all the clothing items donated to charitable stores, only 10-30% are actually purchased before around 85% of those clothes end up in landfills alongside all the other clothes sent straight there! On top of this, the volume of clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years.

Real Price Per Wear

One way of using Girl Math for the good is to change the formula it uses to determine the “true” cost and use it to break down the value of the clothes we are paying for by calculating the true cost per wear.

To do this, take the price of an item divided by the number of times you have worn it or the number of times you plan on wearing it. If it costs $25 and is only worn once, the price per wear is $25. Conversely, a dress that costs significantly more but is worn many times is much less expensive. You might end up with a cost per wear of just a few dollars. 

Again, Gen Z claims to value sustainability, but not the ability to afford it. However, if they purchased clothing based on how many times they were likely to be worn — instead of cheaper items used briefly and disposed of — they would save money and own more durable, timeless pieces. It might become part of the cultural shift we need to think about our clothes differently and act. So, start calculating!