Credit CardsStudies & Surveys
How Does LendingTree Get Paid?
LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Spending on Apparel and Services Up After Free-Falling During COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated on:
Content was accurate at the time of publication.
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author's opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.

Fashion can be fun, but keeping up with fads comes with a cost.

According to the latest LendingTree study, American households spent 2.7% of their 2022 budget on apparel and services. That figure represents an increase from pandemic-era clothes shopping lows, but it’s still below prepandemic levels.

Our study also looks at how apparel-related spending breaks down by demographics, finding, for instance, that single women far outspend their single male counterparts in the category (shelling out 2.7% and 1.9% of their annual budgets, respectively).

See the detailed breakdown — and expert tips to avoid overspending — below.

  • American households dedicated an average of 2.7% of their budget to apparel and services in 2022. Households spent an average of $72,967 in 2022, $1,945 of which went toward apparel and services such as shirts, coats, footwear and accessories. But that rate has fallen over the past decade. From 2013 through 2019, Americans never averaged below 3.0% of their budget on apparel and services. That plummeted to 2.3% in 2020 amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Households spend an average of 61.9% more on apparel for women and girls than for men and boys. In 2022, U.S. households spent an average of $735 on women’s and girls’ apparel, versus $454 on men’s and boys’ apparel.
  • Millennials and single women put a larger share of their money toward apparel. In 2022, millennials spent an average of 3.2% of their budget on apparel and services, while baby boomers averaged 2.3%. Single women (2.7%) also allocate more of their budget to apparel and services than single men (1.9%).
  • Philadelphia households put a higher percentage of their money toward apparel than any other metro analyzed. Of the $85,897 that Philadelphia households spend annually, an average of $3,597 goes toward apparel, or 4.2% of their budget. The City of Brotherly Love is followed by Chicago and Atlanta, at 3.4% for both.
  • Southern metros have the largest share of retail therapy options. In Memphis, Tenn., 15.9% of establishments are retail stores — the highest among the 100 largest metros. It’s followed by Jackson, Miss. (15.8%), and Winston-Salem, N.C. (15.6%).


What are apparel and services?

Our analysis utilizes U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, which offers in-depth definitions of “apparel” for men and boys, women and girls, and children younger than 2, along with footwear. Most regular clothing items, from outerwear to underwear, are represented.

“Services” include materials used to make clothes at home, clothing rentals, clothing storage, alterations and repairs, and dry cleaning, among other things.

According to our analysis of U.S. BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys data, Americans spent an average of $1,945 of their $72,967 annual expenditures on apparel and services in 2022 — representing 2.7% of their overall budget.

While it’s true that average annual expenditures shot up substantially between 2021 ($66,928) and 2022, spending on apparel was still proportionately greater than in 2021 (2.6%).

Although apparel-related spending has been on the rise in the years following the start of the pandemic — 2022’s 2.7% is an increase from 2.3% in 2020 and 2.6% in 2021 — it’s still lower than the prepandemic average.

Between 2013 and 2019, apparel and services always accounted for at least 3.0% of average annual household spending, rising to as high as 3.3% in 2014 and 2015.

How apparel and services spending has changed over time

YearAverage spending on apparel and servicesAverage annual expenditures% of average annual expenditures

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Surveys data.

Given that 2020 was the year apparel-related spending most precipitously dipped, “there’s no question this was affected by the pandemic,” LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says.

He points to the many long-armed tentacles of early-pandemic-era lockdown laws, which had many Americans suddenly transitioning to a remote work life. “Working at home means you don’t have to get dressed up as much every workday, so a lot of people didn’t,” he says. “That meant work clothes could last much longer, so there was less need to replace them.”

Coupled with the shuttering of retail stores, Schulz says, this dynamic “led to some real savings” on apparel. “I suspect we’ll see apparel spending continue to rise in coming years, in part because of more people returning to the office,” he says. Of course, with a new normal in the world of work (i.e., more pajama-pants Zoom meetings), there may also be a new normal in the world of clothing expenses.

Households spend more on women’s clothing than men’s

Stereotypes — like the one that pigeonholes women as materialistic “shoppers” — can be harmful. But according to our data, there may be some truth to that particular cliché.

In 2022, households spent 61.9% more, on average, on women’s and girls’ apparel than on clothing for men and boys. In dollars, that translates to an expenditure of $735 on women’s and girls’ clothing, compared with $454 on male-geared apparel.

Those figures highlight clothing expenditures for both children between the ages of 2 and 15 and “adults” 16 and older. For both sexes, spending on adult clothing was substantially higher than spending on children’s, making up the bulk of each respective total.

2022 apparel and services spending, by subsection

Category or subsectionAverage spending on apparel and services
Apparel and services$1,945
Men and boys$454
Men, 16 and older$347
Boys, 2 to 15$107
Women and girls$735
Women, 16 and older$644
Girls, 2 to 15$91
Children younger than 2$74
Other apparel products and services$283

Source: BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys 2022 data.

While it’s easy to lean on stereotypes, the truth is more complicated. For one thing, the stereotype itself might be self-perpetuating, leading women to shop more frequently because they feel like they’re “supposed to.”

In addition, women tend to experience higher levels of body image dissatisfaction than men, which may lead to more clothes shopping in hopes of finding the most “flattering” fit. Women’s bodies, which undergo pregnancy, can also fluctuate in size more than men’s, which may account for some of the extra expense.

Following the above-mentioned trend, 2022’s data also shows that single women spend proportionately more of their budgets on clothing than their single male counterparts: 2.7% (or $1,123), compared with men’s 1.9% ($833).

But it’s not necessarily because women are getting more gussied up for their dates. “Women are far more likely than men to be heads of single-parent households,” Schulz says, “so it’s possible that spending on children could impact these numbers.”

Further, single women tend to earn (and therefore spend) less than single men — their 2022 annual average expenditures were $42,174, compared with bachelors’ $43,299. That means each dollar spent on clothing could, on average, represent a bigger portion of women’s budgets.

2022 apparel and services spending, by gender

Age groupAverage spending on apparel and servicesAverage annual expenditures% of average annual expenditures
Single women$1,123$42,1742.7%
Single men$833$43,2991.9%

Source: LendingTree analysis of BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys 2022 data.

But differences in clothing expenditures are cut not only along gender lines, but also along generational ones. In 2022, millennials (ages 26 to 41 that year) spent more of their budget on clothing than any other studied generation — 3.2%. That’s compared with Gen Xers’ 2.8%, Gen Zers’ 2.5% and baby boomers’ 2.3%. (Our research defines baby boomers as those ages 58 to 76 in 2022, Gen Zers as those 18 to 25 and Gen Xers as those ages 42 to 57.)

2022 apparel and services spending, by age

Age groupAverage spending on apparel and servicesAverage annual expenditures% of average annual expenditures
Gen Zers$1,181$47,9752.5%
Gen Xers$2,604$91,3822.8%
Baby boomers$1,499$66,3622.3%

Source: LendingTree analysis of BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys 2022 data.

But this data doesn’t necessarily mean millennials are just a shopping-crazed generation. Given their birth years, millennials are largely in their 30s, and many of them have started families — which means “they’re not just buying clothes for themselves,” as Schulz puts it.

“As any parent could tell you, young kids go through clothes in a big hurry,” he goes on, “so it’s a seriously large expense for parents as their kids age.”

According to our analysis, Philadelphia isn’t just the City of Brotherly Love. It’s the city of fancy duds.

Using an average of 2021 and 2022 spending, Philadelphia households spent 4.2% of their $85,897 annual expenditures on apparel and services, or $3,597. That’s almost a full percentage point higher than the next-highest metros, Chicago and Atlanta, which both spent 3.4% of their annual budgets on clothes.

Metros where residents spend the largest share of their budgets on apparel and services

RankMetroAverage spending on apparel and servicesAverage annual expenditures% of average annual expenditures
1Philadelphia, PA$3,597$85,8974.2%
2Chicago, IL$2,534$74,2663.4%
2Atlanta, GA$2,442$72,5373.4%
4New York, NY$2,699$83,0643.2%
5San Diego, CA$2,549$86,2993.0%
6Baltimore, MD$2,296$82,0952.8%
6Dallas, TX$1,989$71,9322.8%
6Los Angeles, CA$2,126$77,0242.8%
9Seattle, WA$2,398$93,9052.6%
9Phoenix, AZ$1,834$71,7502.6%
11Detroit, MI$1,744$68,8662.5%
11St. Louis, MO$1,772$71,1822.5%
11Miami, FL$1,643$64,9432.5%
11Anchorage, AK$2,083$82,7992.5%
15Minneapolis, MN$1,823$82,8832.2%
15Tampa, FL$1,516$67,6362.2%
15San Francisco, CA$2,199$101,8802.2%
18Washington, DC$1,965$94,1712.1%
18Denver, CO$1,781$84,2932.1%
20Boston, MA$1,807$89,7952.0%
21Houston, TX$1,397$73,7721.9%
21Honolulu, HI$1,411$74,9651.9%

Source: LendingTree analysis of BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys 2021-22 data.

Conversely, Honolulu and Houston tied for the lowest percentage of clothing-related spending, with 1.9% of their annual household expenditures going toward purchases in the category. Boston came next, at 2.0%, followed by Washington, D.C., and Denver, which tied for fourth-lowest at 2.1%.

It’s difficult to offer more than educated guesses as to why each metro ranks as it does. For instance, those tempted to generalize about the relatively formal dress code of the Northeast will notice how low Boston falls on the list — and the fact that New York ranks fourth after both a Midwestern metro and a Southern one. Major tech centers like Seattle and San Francisco fall lower on the list than one might expect — though, of course, many of those companies have been offering work-from-home perks since well before the pandemic.

It does seem likely, however, that Honolulu’s residents don’t have to worry about buying (or wearing) much clothing thanks to its always-temperate climate — and perhaps a laid-back, sand-between-the-toes aloha attitude.

When it comes to the opportunity to partake in retail therapy — at least in person — not all metros are created equally. Using 2021 U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns data analyzing the 100 largest U.S. metros, we found that Southern metros tend to have the largest proportional share of retail establishments (including clothing-specific vendors like shoe shops and department stores, as well as gas station convenience stops and furniture outlets).

Specifically, Memphis, Tenn., leads with 15.9% of its total establishments being retail outlets — 4,217 storefronts. Jackson, Miss., comes in second with 15.8% of its establishments being retail outlets, followed by Winston-Salem, N.C., at 15.6%. Except for Buffalo, N.Y., the 10 metros with the highest share of retail shops are in the South.

Metros with the highest share of retail shops

RankMetroRetail establishmentsTotal establishments% of establishments that are retail
1Memphis, TN4,21726,47815.9%
2Jackson, MS2,12713,46315.8%
3Winston-Salem, NC2,15513,81815.6%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns 2021 data.

One reason for the increased percentage of retail establishments could be the South’s tendency toward reliance on cars. In a 2019 Bloomberg ranking of cities by car dependency, Memphis, Tenn., was among the 10 most reliant, as was Birmingham, Ala., which ranks fifth on our list.

That the bottom of our list is populated mostly by denser, more transit-reliant urban centers, like California’s Bay Area and Seattle, augments that hypothesis. Southern metros may have more space to build sprawling brick-and-mortar shopping centers — and more drivers willing to navigate to them.

But regardless of the reason, says Schulz, a higher percentage of retail stores doesn’t necessarily condemn locals to higher spending. “More retail stores mean more shopping options for locals. That can be good for pricing since competition tends to push prices lower.”

Full rankings

Metros with the highest/lowest share of retail shops

RankMetroRetail establishmentsTotal establishments% of establishments that are retail
1Memphis, TN4,21726,47815.9%
2Jackson, MS2,12713,46315.8%
3Winston-Salem, NC2,15513,81815.6%
4Knoxville, TN2,91818,93115.4%
5Birmingham, AL4,07226,76015.2%
6Columbia, SC2,74318,46314.9%
7Baton Rouge, LA2,78919,10614.6%
8Greenville, SC3,08721,69114.2%
8Buffalo, NY3,81726,92414.2%
8El Paso, TX2,19815,53314.2%
11Detroit, MI14,200100,47914.1%
11Syracuse, NY2,06614,62814.1%
13Asheville, NC1,98714,16814.0%
13Bakersfield, CA1,92413,73114.0%
13Dayton, OH2,28716,37314.0%
16Virginia Beach, VA5,41738,91213.9%
16Lancaster, PA1,88013,51413.9%
16Deltona, FL2,27516,35713.9%
16Greensboro, NC2,53818,29713.9%
20Little Rock, AR2,61418,88013.8%
20Lafayette, LA1,81613,19713.8%
22New Haven, CT2,64319,24913.7%
22Rochester, NY3,33524,33513.7%
22Allentown, PA2,55718,66113.7%
25Albany, NY2,87821,22513.6%
26New Orleans, LA4,31531,85813.5%
27Nashville, TN6,41047,67413.4%
27Hartford, CT3,90329,08313.4%
29Providence, RI5,51941,51513.3%
30Louisville, KY3,98930,19813.2%
31Charleston, SC2,80221,32713.1%
31Worcester, MA2,71720,68213.1%
31Palm Bay, FL1,97115,04013.1%
34Provo, UT2,14216,46313.0%
34Harrisburg, PA1,83014,09113.0%
34Fresno, CA2,36018,19913.0%
34New York, NY74,343573,57613.0%
38Cincinnati, OH6,04146,96412.9%
39Wichita, KS1,94015,16412.8%
40Honolulu, HI2,67220,97312.7%
40Grand Rapids, MI3,27025,70812.7%
40Houston, TX19,618154,33312.7%
40San Antonio, TX6,27149,34412.7%
40Riverside, CA10,52283,12412.7%
40Portland, ME2,37218,74612.7%
46Pittsburgh, PA7,44659,15412.6%
47Tulsa, OK3,13725,03012.5%
47Jacksonville, FL5,23141,92812.5%
47Oklahoma City, OK4,59736,86612.5%
50Cape Coral, FL2,62421,20212.4%
50Cleveland, OH6,13949,61912.4%
50Las Vegas, NV6,36151,46512.4%
53Akron, OH2,02916,44012.3%
53Columbus, OH5,56745,13612.3%
53Richmond, VA4,04732,81612.3%
53Philadelphia, PA18,734152,80912.3%
57Fayetteville, AR1,67913,75712.2%
58Tampa, FL10,56987,17012.1%
58Tucson, AZ2,50720,69412.1%
58Baltimore, MD8,20868,01212.1%
58North Port, FL3,08525,58412.1%
62Orlando, FL8,89173,95012.0%
62Albuquerque, NM2,28419,02812.0%
62Ogden, UT1,91916,00312.0%
65Boston, MA15,561131,43011.8%
65Indianapolis, IN5,85949,54311.8%
65Charlotte, NC7,97767,67411.8%
65Dallas, TX21,462182,10811.8%
69Bridgeport, CT3,16226,91511.7%
69Atlanta, GA18,688159,35811.7%
69Santa Rosa, CA1,68814,39911.7%
72Durham, NC1,56513,52911.6%
72St. Louis, MO8,21171,06211.6%
74Des Moines, IA2,04517,71311.5%
74Raleigh, NC4,25836,94411.5%
76Oxnard, CA2,53522,15811.4%
76Madison, WI1,98417,37011.4%
78Milwaukee, WI4,42139,05711.3%
78Kansas City, MO6,12254,20911.3%
80Spokane, WA1,68515,02411.2%
81Miami, FL23,932215,45511.1%
81Reno, NV1,51513,64711.1%
83Sacramento, CA5,83753,08111.0%
84Naples, FL1,47713,54510.9%
84Colorado Springs, CO2,11219,43910.9%
86Phoenix, AZ11,402108,25410.5%
86Omaha, NE2,59724,73710.5%
86Austin, TX6,37460,72310.5%
89Chicago, IL25,898250,07910.4%
90Minneapolis, MN10,04798,65010.2%
90Salt Lake City, UT3,63235,71610.2%
92San Diego, CA9,15290,25410.1%
93Boise, ID2,24722,51610.0%
94Portland, OR7,10471,9559.9%
95Washington, DC15,400158,7019.7%
96Los Angeles, CA38,701401,1169.6%
97Denver, CO8,51090,0569.4%
97Seattle, WA10,345110,1199.4%
97San Francisco, CA12,379132,1819.4%
100San Jose, CA4,41949,7968.9%

Source: LendingTree analysis of Census Bureau County Business Patterns 2021 data.

Regardless of your gender, generation or place of residence, overspending on clothing can wreak havoc on your budget — or even drive you into credit card debt. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are three expert tips to keep in mind when it’s time for a new pair of jeans (or a whole new outfit).

  • Shop around. Especially in today’s world of online shopping, a little bit of research goes a long way in getting the best price. “While some items may be unique to a given store or brand and don’t lend themselves to price comparison from place to place, many clothing items do,” says Schulz, author of “Ask Questions, Save Money, Make More: How to Take Control of Your Financial Life.” “People should take the time to compare.”
  • Stick to your list. If you know what you need, says Schulz, you’re a lot less likely to succumb to an impulse buy than if you’re “just browsing.” Whether it’s online or in-store, decide what you’re going to buy ahead of time, and stick to it.
  • Consider credit card rewards. It may not be a lot, but “that 1% or 2% cash back on your favorite card can help extend your clothing budget,” Schulz says. “When you add in the potential of a sign-up bonus or discount with a new card, the savings can grow further. Plus, with the right retail credit card, you might receive even deeper discounts or other extra perks that can bump up your savings.” Just remember: To truly conquer the credit card rewards system, you have to pay off your balance in full, on time, each and every month. Otherwise, whatever interest you’re charged on the revolving balance will likely eclipse your savings — and cost you even more than you might have paid in cash.

LendingTree researchers analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Surveys data. Specifically, we found the percentage of spending that went toward apparel and services in 2022 across various demographics. Nationally, we utilized historical data dating to 2013. The metro analysis uses an average of 2021 and 2022, as provided by the BLS.

For our generation look, we used the following ages as of 2022:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 25
  • Millennial: 26 to 41
  • Generation X: 42 to 57
  • Baby boomer: 58 to 76

Analysts also calculated the percentage of establishments that are retail businesses across the 100 largest U.S. metros. This utilized U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns 2021 data.

Recommended Reading