NPR indicates that the average American household spent 3.6 percent of its money on clothing in 2011. NPR broke the percentage down, explaining that women's clothing accounted for 1.5 percent, men's clothing was 0.8 percent and shoes for both explained 0.7 percent of the budget.
Glamour points out that, between 1988 and 2009, the amount the average American spent on clothing dropped during 20 of those years, starting at 4.78 percent and finishing at 3 percent. The comparison to earlier years is even more dramatic. In 1950, apparel costs were 9 percent of the average budget according to Glamour, which goes on to say that an important part of the drop is the availability of far cheaper clothing.
NPR also mentions that innovations in manufacturing have allowed clothing to be produced far more cheaply and that savings are often passed on to the consumer. Because fewer employees are needed to produce apparel, prices are lower and more items are purchased.
In comparison to clothing, some parts of the average American budget have increased. NPR points out, for example, that in 1950, housing costs were a little more than 26 percent of a household's resources, but in 2011, these costs accounted for up to 41 percent of the budget. Additionally, transportation costs rose from more than 7 percent in 1950 to almost 17 percent in 2011.