The Average American Woman Spends $2,000 a Year to Get Dressed

February 10, 2020

Today, just the thought of getting dressed can feel expensive. The minute you browse for something online or text your best friend that you need a new coat, you’re immediately bombarded with targeted and tantalizing Instagram ads for clothes and accessories that you either don’t need or can’t afford.

Even without the image of this season’s must-have teddy coat taunting you from newsfeed to newsfeed, the mere accrual of everyday essentials — like t-shirts and jeans — can be costly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American woman spends nearly $2,000 a year on clothes.* Although this number varies slightly per age group and income bracket, most women spend at least 5% of their annual salary on apparel and apparel-related services, such as laundry, dry cleaning and repairs.*

Why are these numbers so high? Because there is a perennial double standard: men can repeat outfits and women can’t.

Not only does this hold true for special occasions — a man can easily re-wear a tuxedo, but a woman likely won’t re-wear her wedding dress — it is even more amplified in the workplace.

Simply put: employees are expected to show up looking polished, professional, and different every single day. And while everyone can appreciate the versatility of a power suit, as a woman, if you show up to work in the same blazer and pants every day, you’re going to get some stares. 

In a 2018 survey conducted by The Business of Fashion in partnership with Thrive Global, 49% of women reported feeling self-conscious about repeating outfits at work.* In an effort to avoid becoming ostracized office outfit repeaters, women spend nearly triple the amount that men do on clothes.* Yet the greatest irony is that as women are expected to spend more, they are also paid less. Even today, with women constituting 47% of the U.S. Labor Force, they still receive 77 to 85 cents for every dollar that a man earns.*

You might think that because women accumulate over 65 clothing items per year to avoid repetition, that their local dry cleaners would at least give them a break.* Not so. In a phenomenon commonly known as “the pink tax,” women often pay 42% more for the same products and services as men.

For example, it costs $2.06 to get a man’s shirt dry cleaned, compared to $3.95 for a woman. This pricing discrepancy holds true across clothing (skirts! dresses!) and personal care (makeup!), which can translate to more than $1,351 a year in extra costs for women on top of her annual $2,000 clothing spend.*

Meaning that, for the $160 she spends on clothing per month, she’s never going to get to buy anything fun. If a woman wants to minimize her spending and maximize an item’s re-wear potential, she’s going to buy the innocuous black blazer instead of the rainbow, jacquard one.

And that’s why we—Rent the Runway—exist. To power women to reclaim their relationships with getting dressed. To give them access to rainbow jacquard blazers, fuzzy teddy coats and more, without ever having to look at the price tag. Because instead of buying one blazer for $160, the RTR woman can rent that statement blazer and a sparky top and oversized earrings and a printed midi skirt – dry cleaning included. RTR frees up womens’ time and headspace. As women contend with a pay gap, there’s no reason they should have to combat a closet gap, too.

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