The Cost of One Woman’s Perfect Outfit: $3,512

by Laura Yan

Somewhere between the time I graduated college, getting my graduation present — a caramel colored, saffiano leather, old-lady structured Salvatore Ferragamo purse ($1,050 plus tax), getting a full-time job ($40,000 pre-tax), and spending Saturdays wide-eyed, wandering through the glittering floors of Bergdorf Goodman, I decided that I needed to trade in most of my current wardrobe (consisting mostly of H&M) for a new one suited to my new, imaginary, grown up and sophisticated lifestyle.

This lifestyle involves a lot of standing around wearing impeccable clothes on picturesque cobblestoned streets, being photographed by The Sartorialist or Garance Doré, smoking cigarettes and hailing cabs — though I’ve been known to stumble around an unknown neighborhood alone at 4 a.m. drunk in full flapper regalia, and convince myself that I can walk “a long way away” to the G train that may or may not have been running in lieu of having to take a cab — and being generally chic.

And, having a job and being grown up meant that I can now finally afford it. I mean, $40,000 a year seems kind of a lot, right? Except it’s really $30,000 after taxes, which breaks down to about $2,200 a month, and then there is rent and bills and living in New York City, and then the dream/vague plan of trying to live in Paris for an indefinite while without a job someday, and the five digit savings account that must accompany it. But still! The perfect outfit! Investment pieces! I only needed one of each, and then my life could be as dreamy as the clothes that’d be in it.

So, here’s my ideal outfit broken down by each timeless, classic, and worthwhile piece — and some considerations for the other things I could buy with that money, instead:

1. The Equipment Signature white silk blouse, $208

It goes with everything. It’s oversized and boyish, yet sexy and feminine. It’s silk (luxurious! Dry cleaning! Add $15 per month, to be minimally disgusting) and comes in an array of basic and sumptuous colors. I probably need a collection — but just one to start. In white. Yes. The white button up: the very important and basis of every sophisticate’s wardrobe.

What else this money could buy:

• 1.95 similar looking white silk blouses at Madewell: $110 each
• 6 similar looking white blouses at H&M: ~$30 (but, ick, polyester) each
• 17 meals of bubble tea and warm asian noodles: $4 for tea and $6 for noodles each, plus tip
• 52 happy hour well drinks at my favorite dive bar: $2.50 each, plus tip

2. The ACNE jeans, $250

What’s the difference between ACNE and APC? I keep getting them confused, but Net-A-Porter says, “Acne’s effortlessly chic designs are a perennial favorite with the front row, and these faded stretch-denim skinny jeans are a capsule wardrobe essential,” so it must be my wardrobe essential too. I mean, I have a pair of jeggings from UNIQLO that I bought for $20 that look really good for not real jeans, and I can also roll up the hem on those, but the perfect outfit must consist of valuable pieces, so, this.

What else this money could buy:

• 5 weeks of groceries consisting of frozen entrees and snacks for someone who doesn’t cook: $50 each
• 12 and a half pairs of UNIQLO jeggings: $20 each
• 31 bottles of Essie nail polish in assorted shades, textures and finishes: $8 each
• 50 meals of chicken over rice from halal carts around the city: $5 each

3. The Louboutin Black Pumps, $625

Aside from just being basic black pumps, Louboutins also happen to be sexy and a controversial status symbol, and that gorgeous red sole can make an otherwise boring outfit not boring. I have a personal obsession! And they’re reasonably priced, comparatively. Also, 4-inch heels are totally fine for strutting up and down gum studded subway stairs — I mean, on and off curbed streets to awaiting taxis.

What else this money could buy:

• 90% of my 2011 taxes for my brief summer stint as a real estate agent: $680 each
• 3 pairs of these nice but not red-soled blackpumps from J. Crew: $198 each
• 20 slightly hung over brunches with mimosas: $30 each
• 125 loads of laundry at the 24 hour laundromat down the street: $5 each

4. The Burberry Trenchcoat, $995

Okay, so. Just imagine: the Burberry trench coat and nothing underneath, and those Louboutins. Okay? Okay. It’d look good as proper outerwear any time too. And not even a thousand dollars!

What else this money could buy:

• An ugly but still serviceable (?) 1998 Chrysler Town and Country LXI: $995
• 1.74 months rent in my cockroach cemetery, basement level Williamsburg apartment: $675 per month
• 2 “skinnarp orange” leather Ikea loveseats: $399 each
• 1,326 — or, a little over three and a half years worth of — donuts for breakfast: $0.75 each

5. The Hermès Scarf, $410

It’s not much of a perfect outfit without a colorful statement accessory, and nothing is quite as a classic/classy accessory as a Hermès scarf. This one is just charming, with crowns and belt buckles and knotted ropes in shades of pink and purple. Elegant and whimsical and playful and more importantly: Hermès!!

What else this money could buy:

• 2 Frigidaire 6000 BTU Compact Window Air Conditioners (because enough of New York summers without air conditioning, okay?): $189 each
• 8 iPod shuffles, one in every color for you, and three to give away to friend: $49 each
• 68 tins of RosebudSalve lip balm: $6 each
• 136 bottles of three buck for the budding, yet stylish, alcoholic: $2 each

Bonus: Chanel red lipstick, $32

I love red lipstick. So much. Having a bad day? A bad hair day? A bad face day? Try red lipstick. Want to make any outfit instantly glamorous/intimidating/sophisticated? (That is, if said outfit is comprised of aforementioned luxury basics.) Try red lipstick. And there is nothing like red lipstick in that glossy, clicks when it closes, beautiful black Chanel case. Worth every penny.

What else this money could buy:

• 1L bottle of Powers Irish Whiskey: $32

Total: $2,512

Amended Total: $3,512

(Because I already own the perfect purse, but otherwise, factor in $1,000-$1,500 for a luxury basic

Extra credit: Perfect statement cat mask ring, $3300

God that ring is adorable. It’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and kind of French seeming(?), and 18K gold so it’s probably important to own when the dollar crashes, and isn’t it just the slightly quirky/edgy yet still classy and subtle jewelry needed to complete that impeccable outfit? Yes. And it’s still less than the cost of that entire wardrobe.

What else this money could buy:

• 1 chic adventure: Complete set of levels 1–5 of Rosetta Stone, Learning French, $499; one-way ticket from JFK to Paris, $640; a month’s residence in this furnished charming studioapartment, $2009; 55 meals of croissant and coffee in Paris, €5 each.

Laura Yan fantasizes about clothes. She writes often and tweets more, @noirony. Photo: Ralph and Jenny/Flickr

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