Feb 27, 2010

The Cost of Cross Dressing

Money isn’t everything, but there is very little that it clashes with. As such, I try to pay attention to the money parts of my life, including the money parts of Cross Dressing.

Cross Dressing costs. Money spent nurturing the other self is money not saved for the future, or money otherwise redirected from the very real and pressing needs of the present. This can be a source of conflict, internal and within the household too.

The internal conflicts can be considerable. For many, acquiring a dress or a pair of shoes can represent the difference between balance and depression. For others, and I put myself in this group, the hope of finding the right thing, the thing that makes you look as close to beautiful as you can hope, is a compelling lure. Shopping is more of temptation to me in this part of my life than in any other, by long measures.

A part of this is, I will confess, a little seditious. When shopping in guy mode, I do enjoy the reaction at the cash desk or from a sales assistant when it becomes plain that I am more expert at this gig than most men, and that I am shopping for myself. The reaction is typically very generous. I feel as though I am extended an invitation to a sorority. When shopping en femme, it is easy to feel as though you have failed if you don’t have a bag slung over your shoulder at some point in the day after all the effort has been made.

The temptation comes too, in part, from a feeling that I am making up for lost time. There were many years that I simply did not nurture this aspect of my whole self. After coming to personal terms with Cross Dressing, the dam has burst a little. Clothing is more often at the front of my thoughts than in years past. And I follow my thoughts into the shops.

Some of it is practical. I have a spotty wardrobe, and a degree of vanity that I possess about my femme self. I like to look different, if possible, each time I am out. A new outfit is a real confidence booster. It is more likely to get a compliment, and compliments about my appearance are music to my ears. I admit it.

Lastly, I think that many of us are motivated by the very real challenge of just getting it right. We are not schooled by a lifetime of practice. There are a thousand mistakes you could make in putting an ensemble together. Wrestling the dizzying range of choice down and emerging with a smart, flattering, useful garment is not easy. When you do, it can be the most meaningful win of your day.

With all of that said though, and with all the merit inherent in any job well done, if the money is being spent heedlessly, it is being spent poorly. In the attempt to not spend heedlessly, I have hung on to my receipts, and tracked my use of things. I recently did a little inventory, and rebuilt from memory, with a good degree of accuracy, the amount of wear that I have been getting from my purchases.

With all of the vital statistics poured into a spreadsheet, I have created a value called Cost per Wear (CPW). Truthfully though all I did was divide the price I acquired an item for by the number of times it has been worn (ed. by worn, I mean worn out, into the big wide world, not privately). I give credit for the CPW concept to Stacey and Clinton of American “
What Not To Wear” fame, who used this approach recently to help a dreadfully conflicted woman overcome her feelings of guilt about shopping for and nurturing herself.

The entire spreadsheet is here. Click to enlarge, if you care, if you dare.

Here are some high level executive summary notes:

Girl likes a sale, yes indeed. The 41 garments I have purchased in the last 18 months have an aggregate discount from full retail price of 67%. I am entirely proud of the thrift displayed in my sprees. A cautionary note here though is that finding flattering and useful clothing at deep, deep discounts takes time. There is a little opportunity cost in repeatedly browsing and leaving shops empty handed. The dividends can be extraordinary though. The silk blouse and nice twill skirt pictured above would have set me back $120.00 at the start of the fall/winter season, but were snapped up for a mere $26.00.

Be prepared to be a reverse snob. JC Penney is a discount retailer. The only purchases I ever made there in the past were crate loads of cheap wine glasses suitable for party scenes Chez Bellejambes. I have picked up 14 really smart, reasonably well made, contemporary garments over the months at good old Penneys, and some stunning under $10.00 wins in the last couple of weeks. A beautifully polished sales assistant in a very upmarket shop told me she loved a skirt I had on one day. I told her it where I picked it up and how little it cost. Her jaw dropped and I felt possessed of magic.

Be prepared to shop up. Absolutely, positively visit shops that you are out of your price range. At the very least you will be better in touch with what is current, and get some terrific accessorizing ideas, but more than that, you can strike gold. Get your elbows up and get to the back of the store, to the clearance racks. There is a lot of meat still on the bone, and of interest to the Cross Dresser, much of it is in larger sizes.

A great price is not a great value. I have been dazzled by mark downs, sad puppies on hangers simply looking for exactly the sort of home I can provide. If you get the puppy home and cannot show it some love though, you are just being irresponsible. I have 16 items that I have not worn yet. If I am to be honest, perhaps six or seven of them will never see light of day. These things are going to find a better home, in a donation box or with a woman’s shelter. There, at least, I will be providing value, if not taking direct benefit myself. Stay true to your style and to the limits of what parts of your body you can show. No more half sleeves for me, and no more purchases justified on the basis of “but it was so cheap”.

And the money shot, so to speak, is this: My average CPW is $11.24. I don’t know if this is a good number, but I feel like it is, given that my wardrobe does not get used daily, or cycled through frequently. I am going to track this key metric, and use the ~ $ 10.00 benchmark as my gold standard. I think the Board of Directors here at Voyages en Rose Inc. (hi honey!) will continue to be supportive of this business units performance.

How about you? Do you track your spend? Is your spend out in the open? Is it all a source of delight or despair? Input welcomed on this matter from anyone with a purse.

Questions on any other topic, and I do mean any topic, are equally welcomed. Please ask a question in my snazzy new
FormspringAsk me anything” widget. Thanks in advance for your insatiable curiosity.

Happy dressing, shopping and etc.


Leah said...

I can buy a couple of designer bags with the amount Petra. Hahaha! I enlarged the spreadsheet and checked the total at once.

But you know what's good about this spreadsheet, you were able to single out items and compute the CPW. I always justify my purchases based on the CPW.

Happy weekend my dear friend! xoxo

Lynn Jones said...

CPW, what a fascinating - and possibly terrifying - concept :) I agree with what you say about discount retail though. I don't think it matters where or what you buy, so long as it looks good (ignoring ethical considerations for the moment).

PS: Fab outfit BTW.

Leslie Ann said...

Oh, I am so in love with this concept, stathead that I am. I am finding myself buying a lot of underthings lately. Does underdressing count as wearing it out?

My outings would have to include support group meetings, even though that's not really "out". I buy nothing at full price (well, maybe some shoes), so I think $10 sounds like an excellent CPW to shoot for. I'll have to start calculating.

Oh, killer outfit, incidentally. You rock that!

CC said...

This is such a great posts! I don't usually like sitting and reading posts, but this one time. I'm glad I did. :)

Petra Bellejambes said...

Leah - I wish I could spend real money on bags. I have to go with the cheap knock-offs and make it up in attitude.

Lynn - it is a little terrifying. I have good experience with getting things out of the closet though, and so I hope keeping my spend in broad daylight will be theraputic too.

Leslie Ann - I think the judges would be fine with underdressing. And with those robes, god alone knows some of them are underdressing. :) No doubt one gets value from this nice private care of the self.

CC - glad of the visit and the nice words. So what is your CPW?

xoxo - Petra

Treacle said...

Oh this was a very enjoyable read! I'm amazed at how meticulously you can keep track of your purchases.

I confess, I went through the same phase where I bought things simply because they were on sale (especially when I first started my lingerie blog) but now that I'm living on my own officially now and have to watch most every penny, I'm much more careful.

Anyhow, congrats on being such a thrifty shopper, and if I may add one more tip...I always check retailmenot.com before shopping. They have slews of discount codes, coupons, and other such money-savers available.

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