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