05 July 2008

Clothes and the Economy

Boomers impacting an industry. We've predicted for years that retiring baby boomers will influence housing costs, health care costs, travel, luxury purchases, and so on. But clothing hasn't been much mentioned. Of course, we all know the logic: when you stop going to work every day, you end certain expenses or greatly reduce them. Lunch expense, solved. Gasoline or subway fare, much reduced. Clothing and shoes, drastically cut. Those are some of the considerations that boomer women used to take into account if they had the option of choosing when to work outside the home. Whole books and women's magazines were devoted to calculating the cost of "going to work." Sometimes, the calculations justified staying in the home for a while longer, or encouraged women to go back to school for the degree that would boost salary to put them on the winning side of the equation.

The same women are now forecasting personal finances in terms of retiring from that calculation. And for every personal finance concern, there's a market concern. In this case, how will boomer retirement impact the clothing industry? Textiles are measured mainly in global terms today, so it's not just a question about the U.S. economy. The whole of the concern is too large for this blog. So, we'll take it back down to the personal finance level.

Observation #1: Weekly trips to dry cleaners are over. Tom Bold was never accused of sartorial splendor at the technology firms he served but he did wear pressed shirts and trousers. They were tended by the neighborhood cleaner, with barely a break in almost 30 years. (Grad school years before that did not involve pressed clothing.) And as I have shifted activity from campus hallways to working at a distance, I have dropped dry cleaning needs from daily to just a couple of articles a month. This has meant a drop from $213.95/month to $28.27/month.

Observation #2: Sometimes we replace one expense with another. Now, I didn't say I was giving up clothes entirely. As I have aged I have become quite attached to the concept of being comfortable in clothing and currently seek to make a presentable appearance with as little fuss as possible. Enter Allie Coosh. That's not actually a name but a phonetic spelling of the French phrase, "to the bed," which is fitting because the designer started out in pajamas. In Dallas, Paulette Martsolf designs for comfort in, happily, mostly washable fabrics. (My dry cleaning dollars simply shifted to a new location: Allie Coosh.)

Retirement clothing: So, what clothing is actually required for retirement? Will we buy fewer clothes, or just different clothes? Will we clean them ourselves? Will we ever press a shirt again?

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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