PPW – or, How I Learned to Justify my Expenditures

30 Apr

I loved college. (Go Ducks!) I loved my friends, my classes, my freedom. Not that I was repressed prior to that or anything, but I mean that enjoyed making (most of) my own decisions in college. I enjoyed being an adult.

No, I was not crazy or wild. I was, actually, quite calm and well-behaved. I think the wildest thing I did was sleep out on a sand dune on the Oregon coast in a tent with several other friends on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which, for those who don’t know, is the third week in January. And when I say, “sleep”, I exaggerate. We about froze to death. We had taken two cars and had two tents. When we “woke up” (read “gave up”) on the frigid dawn of the day after MLKjr Day, my tent-mates and I discovered that the other tent/car had given up and driven the 40 minutes back to the U of Oregon.


To be sure, I wouldn’t recommend sleeping on a sand dune in January to anyone except possibly college kids looking to be wild. That kind of wild I can approve of. There was no alcohol involved. Just silliness.

But I digress. I meant to talk about my college obsession with “PPW”. What is PPW, you ask? PPW is the Price Per Wearing of any article of clothing we, as college students, considered buying. There is also its lesser-known cousin, the PPU – Price Per Use. This was also an important consideration.

Take the free gym bag I mentioned in a previous post. Great PPU. Especially considering that it was A) free and B) is now 29 years old and still going strong.

But…again…I digress.

PPW – yes, that’s where I was going.

Exhibit A:

Within days prior to my graduation from Berlin American High School, I bought myself a letterman’s jacket. I had never had a letterman’s jacket. I hadn’t been in any high school long enough to earn one. But finally, my senior year, I earned my letter. What sport, you ask? Ha. Don’t make me laugh. I earned it for my involvement with Speech Club and Drama Club.

Yes, I was that kind of student. I even had a teal-colored corduroy pant suit. Jealous?


So…PPW…my letterman’s jacket, as I recall, cost about 200 dollars, back in 1988. I paid for it out of the $500 I’d won for the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars essay contest. (Who says writing doesn’t pay?) I wore that jacket approximately 1.5 times before graduating. If that.

I did wear it a few times in college because it was kinda cool and said Berlin on it. I got comments every time. But it was HOT, wool, heavy, and Eugene isn’t exactly cold so much as it is wet…so rain-proof gear was much more useful.

I still have the jacket. It’s been worn, oh, MAYBE half a dozen more times since then…on super-cold days…to take out the compost…

PPW of said jacket: about $25. NOT GOOD.


Exhibit B:

The other coat I bought out of that essay contest win: a German Loden trench coat. $300. Wool. Classic. Red and Black. It was warm, fashionable, and, while I only wore it on Sundays to church and occasional other outings, I wore it for about 20 years. I wore it until it was threadbare on the cuffs, missing buttons, pushing its “classic” definition. I LOVED that coat. Still do.

PPW of that coat: oh, definitely less than a penny.


One last exhibit: the silk dress I wore to my 10 year high school reunion.

As I recall, I paid $89 for it, 15 years ago.

I wore it once.

I still really like this dress.  But I by the time the next thing rolled around to which I could wear such a thing...I was pregnant.  And after that my body was switched with an alien's body and I never looked the same again.

I still really like this dress. But by the time the next event rolled around to which I could wear such a thing…I was pregnant. And after that my body was switched with an alien’s body and I never looked the same – or wore the same things – again.

This July will be my 25th high school reunion. If it wasn’t in July, I’d wear my letterman’s jacket. Then the PPW would be down to, oh, $20? But wool isn’t exactly summer fabric. I’ll probably just wear the hippy-ish skirt and top I bought for my friend’s wedding last year. It’s good for a mother of three. And the PPW is already down to about $3.

Yeah. That works for me.


24 Responses to “PPW – or, How I Learned to Justify my Expenditures”

  1. treadlemusic April 30, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Love this post!! Been there/done that (still do…..sometimes!). Love that “threadbare” coat!!!!! I have a letter sweater that I bought for many $$$$$……heavy wool! Couldn’t really wear it in school (the only other “approved” attired for the parochial school I attended) and it was an off-white! Such an impractical color!! Oh well! Those were the days!!! LOL! Hugs, D

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 30, 2013 at 7:29 am #

      Why is was it so important to us, I wonder!? Ah, well. I guess it’s good to know that I’m not the only goofy one who spent too much money on such a thing!!

    • thewritesteph.com May 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

      You’re a woman after my own heart. PPW rocks! We’ve got some pretty good consignment stores in Huntsville. Not only can I get some nice things from there, I can also find out what clothing brands last long enough to pass on and consign. For example, JJill and Talbot clothes look really nice as second-hand clothes. I check them in the light for pilling and to see how well they wash. Dry-cleaning clothing is *out*! It can really drive up the PPW, like crazy!

      • Gretchen O'Donnell May 2, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

        Oh, good point – yeah, additional costs to keep a garment looking good is NOT good! It’s hard to avoid with things like my husband’s sport coats, though. Bother. That’s a good thought about consignment stores and brands – there’s a fairly decent one about half an hour from my house – I should go there again!

  2. Beth Ann Chiles April 30, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    Totally get the whole PPW thing!!! I have been closet cleaning and it is ridiculous what I have hung onto! I am getting better at letting go but there are those favorites, aren’t there??? Love your post today!!!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 30, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      Thanks! Yes…I can relate to the “hanging on to stuff for way too long” syndrome! for example…why do I still have that dress?

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots April 30, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    This is hilarious. I understand the class reunion thing. Now I’m struggling with finding a dress for my daughter’s late September wedding. I have not worn a dress in years. And the dress must be in a purple or green, which happen to be my favorite colors. But that limits choices. Plus, I do not want to wear a mother-of-the-bride matronly dress. Wish me luck. This dress will likely rank with your letterman’s jacket in PPW.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 30, 2013 at 8:06 am #

      Hmmm…yeah, if you don’t wear dresses more than once every few years, then that definitely makes for a bad PPW. Bummer. I can understand your wish to not want to be matronly – I may not be a mother of the bride but I have heard many moms in that position worry about that exact thing! I do wish you luck – thankfully you’ve got a few months to work on it…keep your eye on sales!

    • thewritesteph.com May 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      Just saw the new JCPenney flier from this wk. They’ve got some nice sheathe dresses that look really classic. I just don’t know how short they will come up. If they are too short, you can glam-up the hem with something from the fabric store. If you don’t sew, just tack that puppy on the bottom with fabric glue, or get the fabric store to recommend s/t.

      • Gretchen O'Donnell May 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

        Interesting idea! I wish I could sew. I KINDA can…but not for something that actually matters. 🙂

  4. Tami Scott April 30, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    The night on the beach!!! I had totally forgot. I don’t even remember which car I was in, but I think that I was in the car that left early. Why did we think that January on the beach would be okay. Stupid kids!!! Thanks for the fun memory.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 30, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      HA! And I totally forgot that you were part of that group! Which means that yes, you probably were in the other tent. 🙂 The wimpy tent. 🙂

  5. hotlyspiced April 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I can’t believe you decided to camp out in the middle of winter! And how could they charge you $200 for that jacket all those years ago – unbelievable. I love the look of the dress you bought and have only worn once. I wonder if you wore it to your 25-year reunion if anyone would say, ‘Didn’t you wear that at the 10-year reunion?’ I have my 30-year reunion coming up in September. Already panicking about what to wear xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Ha! I doubt that anyone would know…however, I can’t fit into it any more, so that’s out! Bummer, huh? I wish I could.

  6. Lee Anne April 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    I, too, have a letterman’s jacket. I did wear it in high school, but by my freshman year in college, it was too small. I imagine it’s in the basement providing a good home to lots of spiders. I got comments also…because my high school was named James Lick. I do have a dress that my mom made for me in 1987. It is wool, and I have worn it hundreds of times. (With long johns and high top boots or with heels, depending on my age…) It’s PPW must be almost nothing! Because it is a loose style, I can still wear it (well, some years I can wear it and some years I can’t).

    Love the red and black coat!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell April 30, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      🙂 You crack me up. I had a favorite dress with a negative PPW, too. Should have photographed it…except that when I saw it the other day I was downright embarrassed that I wore it in that condition. Why is it still in my closet and not thrown away? I don’t know. Good grief.

  7. Gwen May 1, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    Hilarious! I bought my daughter a new dress for her piano recital last May. The PPW: whatever I paid for it! So she’s wearing it again for this year’s recital — I don’t care if it doesn’t fit! Gotta cut that PPW in half to make me feel better!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 1, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      Half is definitely better than whole in this case! Dresses are notorious for a bad PPW, aren’t they? Still…I like dressing up!

  8. Marylin Warner May 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Terrific post, Gretchen! I loved the sand dunes story–the “wimps” who left–and really related to the clothing, the costs of each, and not being able to wear the letter jacket to a summer class reunion. You gave new life and energy to these stories! Well done.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

      LOL, thanks! I love thinking of funny things from growing up (or more recent history!) and I jot down the memories when I remember them in a “BLOG ABOUT THIS” file! I need those reminders!

  9. Kathleen Mickelson (@kcmickelson) May 2, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    And now I am convinced that letting my daughter get her letter jacket as a sophomore was an excellent choice. Low, low PPW by now. BTW, she, too, lettered in drama (but as part of the tech crew) among other things, like academics, music, fencing. She’s heading off to college this fall – she should clearly read this post!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Now THAT was thinking! I knew that buying it the spring of my senior year was not smart, but as I’d gone to three different high schools and it was something I’d always wanted but hadn’t earned…I went for it. Oh, well. It makes for a good story and a fun thing to have in my closet now…even if it did have a dreadful PPW. There are definitely times I wish I’d gone to a school that had things like fencing. Actually, my 10th grade school might have, not sure. I think I might have really enjoyed that! And yes, make sure your daughter knows all about PPW – but tell her it’s never an excuse to run up Mom or Dad’s credit card! Thanks so much for your comment!

  10. Anne May 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Now I have to figure out what to wear to the reunion…

    • Gretchen O'Donnell May 6, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      LOL! I’m all set with my $3PPW skirt! It will be so great to see you!

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