How much did women spend on clothes and upkeep in the past?
I’m always curious about my and other people’s spending habits (what? I’m NOSY!), and it’s interesting to learn what people spent in the past.
In the 1930s, there was a basic wardrobe list that every woman could follow, and every year would have cost approximately $191.81 for clothing and $46.21 for upkeep and personal care.
If we add inflation to today’s 2012 dollar*, it would mean: $2516.55 for clothes and $606.27 for personal care, which I am assuming includes haircuts, and spa-anything.
*$1.00 in 1930 had the same buying power as $13.12 in 2012. Annual inflation over this period was 3.19%.
That means you could expect to spend about $209.71 for clothes per month, and $50.52 for personal care.
That actually sounds quite reasonable. More reasonable than MY spending, anyway.
A BASIC WOMEN’S WORKING WARDROBE IN NEW YORK CITY IN 1937
(Source: ‘Clothing’ (Latzke and Quinlan, 1940))
Note: This wardrobe would have been updated each year, so 8 dresses would turn into a bit more every year if the dresses didn’t fray or wear out.
Medium quality fur-trimmed coat, every third year
Wool spring coat, every other year
4 felt hats, two heavy, two light
- 2 cotton, for summer street wear
- 4 rayon, 3 fair quality, one inexpensive
- 1 wool dress, medium
- 1 rayon party dress
1 wool skirt
1 sweater, every other year
1 smock (I put an apron here)
- 2 undervests (rayon) (Used tank tops instead)
- 3 knit rayon bloomers
- 2 panties, 1 rayon, 1 silk
- 4 slips, 3 rayon, 1 silk
- 2 corsets or girdles
- 3 brassières
- 3 nightgowns, 1 cotton, 1 rayon, 1 cotton flannel
Flannel bathrobe (every 3 yrs.)
Rayon kimono, every other year
20 pairs medium silk stockings (I didn’t put all 20 in here)
- 2 pairs medium quality street shoes
- 1 pair medium quality dress shoes
- 1 pair evening slippers, every other year
- 1 pair inexpensive white shoes
Rubbers 1 pair every other year
Overshoes 1 pair every other year (I took some liberty here, not knowing what overshoes are…)
House slippers 1 pair every other year
Umbrella, every other year
Raincoat, every 3 years
3 pairs gloves, 1 leather, 1 fabric
3 handbags at $1 each (or fewer and better)
Via shared by reader ES
MODERN TIMES HAVE CHANGED FOR A FEW THINGS
I don’t think anyone owns or wears bloomers, or stockings to require 20 pairs of medium silk stockings, nor do we wear corsets, girdles on a regular basis.
We also do more than just take dictation or calls as secretaries these days. Women are in what were traditionally men’s roles in the past.
Wardrobe basics I see missing for me in there are:
- 1 suit — Just for the rare interview to be pulled out and dusted off
- Jeans — Skinny, bootcut
- Pants — Cropped legs (just an inch or two above the ankle)
- Work pants
- More work shoes — At least one other pair
- Work blouses
- At least another sweater or two
My basic minimalist wardrobe would look more like this, if I had to pick 20-items:
Images above all created via Polyvore