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Getting dressed costs women three times as much as men

It’s not just fashionistas who spend a small fortune on ever-changing wardrobes; we all need a variety of clothes and accessories, from comfy jeans and trainers to the smart interview suit.

Although the vast majority of us aren’t quite in the same spending league as Kate Middleton and her £35,000-a-year wardrobe, we still fork out tens of thousands of pounds on looking presentable during our adult lifetimes.

For men, this comes in around £21,000 rising to almost £81,000 for women (blame the jewellery, not the shoes). And that’s on top of the £13,572 spent on dressing us as we grew up.

This is how those figures break down and what you can do to cut the astonishing cost.

Clothes: £28,350 for women, £16,200 for men

Whether we’re hitting the High Street on a Saturday afternoon or browsing online from the comfort of our sofas, clothes shopping is a British national past time.

Unfortunately it’s an expensive habit; figures from the Office for National Statistics show men spend an average of £21.60 a month or £259.20 a year on clothes excluding underwear, while women spend £37.80 a month or £453.60 a year. This adds up to £16,200 over an adult lifetime for men and £28,350 for women.

Furthermore, shopping channel QVC says we have an average of £300 worth of unworn clothes lurking in our wardrobes. The average woman apparently has 22 items she has never worn but still can’t bring herself to throw away, with jeans the most common unused item. Men aren’t much better, holding onto 19 items of unworn clothing. 

Worn or not, our wardrobes currently hold an average of £1,212 worth of clothes, according to flat pack giant Ikea.

Shoes: £8,100 for women, £4,725 for men

For some, shoes are functional, for others they’re works of art in their own right. Men, who tend to fall into the first category, spend £75.60 a year on footwear, according to the Office for National Statistics, adding up to £4,725 during their adult lifetime.

In contrast women spend £129.60 a year on footwear or £8,100 over the years. Shoemaker Hotter Comfort Concept says women buy an average of five pairs of shoes a year yet three of these end up at the bottom of the wardrobe after being worn only once or twice because they’re too painful to wear. 

Rather disturbingly, almost a third of women who have tried on shoes and know they will be uncomfortable still go on to buy them because they look great. This explains why women own four pairs of shoes which can only be worn when sitting down because they’re too painful to walk in, according to Hotter shoes.   

[Related feature: How to spend less on shoes]

Accessories: £44,420

Whether it’s a statement ring, an elegant pair of earrings or a delicate necklace, jewellery puts the finishing touches to any outfit. Women know this well, making an average of 13 trips to the jewellers every year and spending more than £500 in total – although a third of this goes on gifts for family and friends. This averages at £39,000 over a lifetime, according to wholesale jewellers JP Diamonds.  

No single handbag can suit all occasion, which is why women have a selection of day and evening bags in different colours and materials. In fact, the average woman buys 145 bags in their lifetime, spending a total of £5,420.

Children’s clothing: £13,572

Given the speed at which children grow, it’s unsurprising they get through clothes so quickly. However, the growing trend for designer childrenswear is also making shopping trips increasing expensive.

Parents splash out an average of £764 a year on each child, taking the value of the average school-age child’s wardrobe to £1,677, according to insurance company Sheilas’ Wheels. By the age of 18, the total bill adds up to £13,752 per child.

Despite children outgrowing clothes often within a matter of months, research by Lakeside shopping centre found that almost half of mums would spend £50 on a single item of clothing while a third would splash out £100 or more. Almost two thirds of children have a least one item from a top designer brand with more a third getting their first taste of luxury before the age of two.

However, some clothes never make it out of the wardrobe. Half of parents have bought clothes for their children that have never been worn while two thirds have splashed out on items which have only been worn once, Sheilas’ Wheels found.

Cut your clothing bill

Retailers are struggling in the economic downturn and so there are great discounts to be had. Always check sites such as or for the latest vouchers before buying. You can also sign up to retailers’ Twitter feeds and newsletters to stay on top of any special offers.

If you’ve got a wardrobe full of barely worn, good quality clothes then swishing could be worth a try. Websites including lets you exchange clothes with other online while regular swishing parties are held around the UK and advertised on sites such as

It’s easy to forget about the clothes you have lurking at the back of your wardrobe. A six monthly ‘wardrobe audit’ will ensure you don’t double up needlessly on things you already own and could reveal some hidden gems you’d forgotten about.

Remember, fashion staples like white shirts, jeans and simple jumpers are about fit rather than brand. There’s no need to spend £60 on a shirt if an £8 supermarket own-brand fits you as well or better.

If credit cards bring out the shopaholic in you, hand your cards over to a friend and only take cash with you. Otherwise a cashback credit card will help you make some money while you shop.

Even if you’re not a fan of buying second hand goods on eBay you can still snap up bargains directly from High Street brands such as House of Fraser, Office, Schuh, Ted Baker and Ugg from their online Outlet stores.

If you need full-on glamour for an evening but can’t afford the designer price tags then online rental agencies could be your credit card’s saviour. You can hire dresses from the likes of and and shoes from although the prices for a few days' rental are comparable to buying clothes or shoes on the mid market shops on the High Street.

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