Seven times. That’s the average number of times an item of clothing was worn, according to a survey in the U.K. of 2,000 women. There’s not a lot in the way of hard stats around how much people wear and re-wear their clothes (fashion actually has a huge misinformation problem), but we can all probably agree that seven wears are way too few.
Like, imagine buying a car and using it seven times—expensive, bad for the environment, wildly unsustainable, dumb as hell—and the same can be said for clothes.
The proliferation of fast fashion has wildly changed the landscape of shopping for clothes.
Shopping, in the very distant, hazy past, used to be built around needs. Winter would approach and you’d need one excellent coat to see you through and a pair of boots. But when you can buy four different coats in different styles because they’re in the sale section at your behemoth online shop of choice? What you “need” kinda gets left behind.
Ultra-low-cost online retail/“haul culture”/the panopticon of social media making us feel like we can’t repeat outfits, endless targeted ads—there’s an entire industry out there screaming at you that you need something new. It’s gonna catch up to us and the planet in the end—and the end is gonna be bad if we don’t start to shift our behaviour.
While sustainability is sexier than ever—check out some of our favourite sustainable fashion labels or get inspired by some of our favourite sustainable fashion Instagrammers—it’s not just what we buy but how long a lifespan it has that matters.
At Syrup, we are outfit repeaters, remixers and re-wearers. Here are some of our best tips for re-wearing your clothes without sacrificing your style.
Buy less but better
The number of stories we hear about fast-fashion items falling apart after a handful of wears should be enough to dissuade us, but there are obviously other things to consider when considering how we shop for clothes. Some people’s socioeconomic and financial position will mean that they simply can’t base purchases on ethics alone, though thrift and charity stores do sometimes turn up gems.
For those of us with a bit of budget, “cost per wear” (CPW) can be a good tool to figure out how much we can or should be investing in an item. A $50 pair of jeans you wear ten times before they sag out at the knees is actually way more exxy in terms of CPW than a $100 pair of jeans you wear 50 times—$5 per wear versus $2 per wear.
When you’re shopping, try and think a lil beyond “damn this is cute” and more like “damn this would be cute with my crop top… and my hoodie, and also my turtleneck.” A geeky fashion site we love is the blog of author Anushka Rees, a pioneer in the capsule wardrobe space. Check it out for excellent outfit “formulas” and guides on how to turn twenty pieces into twenty outfits to get the most outta your clothes.
Thinking about how much wear you’ll be able to get out of a piece, whether you already have something similar, and how much your life actually calls for you to wear it (sorry fuzzy bucket hat) will help get that CPW waayyy down.
Buy what you love
Buying clothes that are actually gonna hang around a bit longer helps with being able to re-wear them, but you can also think about the “emotional durability” of what you buy.
Sirin Kale puts it well for The Guardian: “The most sustainable item in your wardrobe isn’t always the one that is ethically produced from non-polluting fabrics. It is the one you love, and will wear your whole life.”
Personalise your fashion inspiration
The next step after building a wardrobe of only favs, is staying inspired by it. This is where the all-powerful internet comes in. For the common pieces that most of us own (think blue jeans, white shirts, walking into the room and making your eyes hurt etc), get yourself to YouTube.
Searching “how to style *item here*” will call forth a wealth of ideas, all delivered for free directly into your eyeballs. Take a mental note (or real one) of any outfit configurations you like and know you can recreate with your own clothes and get that CPW down.
Have a dig and find fashion YouTubers you like or ones who have a similar style to you for ongoing inspo. We are big fans of Ashley from bestdressed for flirty and feminine, Hannah from Cocobeautea for sleek neutrals, Amy Lee’s channel for LA cool-gal with a conscious edge, Chris Cabalona for DIY reworks of your old clothes, and Lewis Dakin for all things casual.
Let’s say you’re dealing with a slightly more niche item, like brown cord pants for example (according to Who What Wear the 70s renaissance is only going to continue in 2020 and I for one welcome it). Scroll over to Pinterest and plug in the item plus outfit, e.g. “brown cord pants outfit” and save the ones you like best. Basically, it’s not that you have *nothing to wear* it’s that we just sometimes need a lil push in new ways to wear it.
Remix, repurpose, re-wear
There are approximately one bajillion youtube videos on how to re-wear your clothes as different things (and countless blogs too, remember them lol). Whether it’s re-wearing casual dresses, party dresses, sweaters, t-shirts, graphic ts, or even the oldest clothes in your wardrobe (American Apparel disco pants, anyone?) there’s a video for it.
For some quick-fire ideas you can wear:
- A dress under a cropped sweater or under a shirt as a skirt (obvious but good)
- Oversized t-shirts and sweaters (depending on the length and your level of bravery) as dresses
- Long coats, belted or closed, as a dress
- Wrap and button-down dresses open as a light cover-up
If you’ve truly exhausted something and you wanna change the item itself, there are also tonnes of ways to alter your clothes to make them feel fresh. The easiest one we’re an advocate for is cropping things (sweaters, t-shirts, jeans, pants etc). My dudes, this means you too. 2020 is the year of the men’s crop and we are: Here. For. It.