REWEARING IS THE NEW LUXURY

Fast fashion production and consumption have doubled in the last decade and it has made fashion very cheap and affordable. If buying new clothing used to be a status and wealth symbol, it is not the case anymore. A lot has already been discussed about how polluting and bad for the environment fast fashion is, and a major part of it is discarding clothing. However in this article I am going to discuss and encourage you to extend the life of garments as much as possible, as let’s look at it this way - rewearing is the new luxury!

Rewearing, repeating outfits and prolonging life of your clothing should be a real status symbol because it not only signals of your ownership of the items but also means that the longer you wear an item, the better quality and value it is. It signifies that it was made from good quality materials and that you have been taking care if it - dry cleaners, alterations and shoe repair - and that's not cheap. Moreover, taking care of your clothes costs more than buying fast fashion.

With “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” mantra, that has been around for over a decade now, additional models of sustainable fashion consumption are promoted now, which are Repairing and Rewearing. Normalizing repeating outfits has been encouraged by business moguls like Arianna Huffington and fabulously exemplified by royals, from British royal family to fashionable Queen Letizia of Spain, and recently Hollywood stars, from Tiffany Haddish to Jane Fonda.

In October 2021 luxury footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood launched an initiative, that he was promoting on his social media channels -  a partnership with Restory, the luxury restoration and repair services [1]. He encourages his clients to “fall in love with [their] favourite pieces all over again”. If you check their Instagram, they have already partnered with no other than Manolo Blahnik, and British luxury retailers Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Farfetch.

 

 

 

According to the DW documentary “The Clothes We Wear”, 120 BILLION garments are produced annually nowadays [3].  A piece of clothing is worn on average 3 times before it gets discarded [2]. In the UK, findings of the research, including the impact of social media, showed the need for change among consumers, “300,000 items of clothing end up in UK landfill every year”.  It’s been reported that an average American discards 80 lbs of clothing every year. And these numbers have been increasing annually. According to Greenpeace, 40% of clothing are never worn [24]. So why are people impulsively buying so much??

It’s been reported that social media is driving an insatiable appetite for fashion [2] - not only to showing off a new look but also it became so easy to purchase through your favourite app just by one click of the button. Do you remember a saying that “a diva can’t be photographed wearing the same outfit twice”? Just a couple of years ago celebrities could be mocked for wearing the same outfit [17] and it was considered taboo [18][23]. According to UK charity Barnardo’s, 25% of people would be embarrassed to wear an outfit to a special occasion more than once with this rising to 37% amidst 16-24 year olds [22]. This mentality has been driving the throwaway culture of today.

Many bloggers and celebrities do not buy much of their clothes. Depending on their level, it can either be gifted to them, loaned or they might just buy an outfit, take pictures - for their feed or to attend a local fashion event - and then return it back to the store. So if they are photographed once, and there is no ownership, what kind of luxury are we talking about? It comes back to the point that the more you wear something, the more you appear in the same garment on your feed, it means that you really own it. The more you wear it, the more “wear and tear” is happening and in order to extend its life, you have to mend it, which is another investment. To change a zipper on a skirt can cost up $30. If you go to a fast fashion store, you can buy three new skirts there at this price. But at what cost? [4] It is very easy to buy something cheap, wear it once and discard, it is harder to maintain the garment - and that is a real luxury!

Other than from the context of sustainability, repeating outfits can also be seen through a gendered perspective and conversation. In 2017 Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of Huffington Post, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, one of Forbes Most Powerful Women, advocates for repeating outfits for women. In her essay she says, “Finding something you love and wearing it again and again and again is a great way to equalize the competitive disadvantage of the style gap — in the form of time and money and mindshare….I’m not suggesting women go full Silicon Valley tech guy and throw on jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie every day. It’s about buying things we love and then… wearing them again and again and again. Who cares if you’ve been seen in it already this week? Men do it without a care in the world. Why don’t we?” [19] In suggesting women repeat their outfits, Huffington said it may cut down on wardrobe anxiety but added "women should deliberately repeat things they love.” [20]

Coming back to sustainability, BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards in 2020 hosted the most sustainable awards ceremony. They stated, that the ceremony in 2020 “became the first BAFTA ceremony to be carbon neutral and albert certified. The red carpet was 100% recyclable, sustainably sourced produce was served at the awards dinner and branding that was not being reused from previous years was produced using reclaimed or recyclable materials. Where sustainable choices were unable to be made, BAFTA offset, as well as giving guests the tools to be more sustainable through offsetting their own travel and making sustainable fashion choices for the ceremony” [6]. BAFTA collaborated with London College of Fashion to provide a guide for following sustainable dress code. While nothing was mandatory, award attendees were strongly encouraged to re-wear existing pieces, seek out environmentally friendly brands, and showcase green design on the world stage [7]. As we know - the most sustainable item is what you already have.  Although celebrities tried to play around the rule, choosing sustainable fabrics or elements for the new gowns, Kate Middleton was a rare exception and attended the event in an Alexander McQueen gown she first wore on a visit to Malaysia in 2012. 

Kate Middleton along with her sister-in-law Meghan Markle are great champions for normalizing rewearing outfits. During her royal years, Markle contributed to the narrative of normalization of famous women to be seen and photographed in the same outfit, as she was attending numerous occasions in dresses photographed before.

Kate Middleton is celebrated for her “timelessly chic” [8] taste and how she recycles her dresses, whether it is from Zara or from British high-end design houses. For the green carpet of the sustainability-minded first ever Earthshot Prize Awards on October 17, 2021 it was long awaited and speculated what of the beloved dresses would she repeat. And it was a lavender Alexander McQueen gown previously worn for BAFTA event in Los Angeles in 2011. And every time the Duchess repeats an outift, it is a statement, a headline, a celebration and one step closer to normalizing recycling our looks. Jonathan Van Ness of “Queer Eye” said, “Kate Middleton gave me permission to re-wear things, ’cause honey, if the Duchess can do it, like, why can’t I?” [19]

Although often compared to Kate Middleton, another “queen of rewear” is Queen Letizia from Spain.  According to royal watchers, she “often re-wears individual favourites from her wardrobe, but lately has been returning to entire outfits more and more, even from as recently as a few months before” [10] thus bringing sustainable narrative to the press with her every appearance, even if those are from Spanish fast fashion brands like Zara and Massimo Dutti.

Her Royal Highness Princess Mary of Denmark is known for repeating her outfits as well as she is a famous advocate for sustainability. The Princess is known for throwing support behind environmental initiatives including the Global Fashion Agenda and Fair Festival, Denmark's largest digital showcase of sustainable products [21]. In 2020 she made headlines in People Magazine, when she was wearing the same gown for New Years Eve four times [9].

 From the royals, celebration of rewearing has reached Hollywood. In 2017 American comedian actress and stand-up comedian Tiffany Haddish wore a white Alexander McQueen gown three times- at the “Girls Trip” premiere in July 2017, while hosting November 2017 “Saturday Night Live”, and while presenting an award at the Oscars in early 2018.  Although “taboo-ed” originally [23], in the interview to the Glamour magazine she said that her effort to rewear the dress has already had a bit of an effect on the industry. “And I’ve seen some people in the same outfit twice since then,” she said. Her friend and co-star, Jada Pinkett Smith, was praising her choice. She also mentioned that people outside the industry said seeing the actress repeat her outfits has really helped them mentally in their daily life [23].

We might not remember who won the 2020 Venice Film Festival, but the festival’s jury president, Cate Blanchett made a statement with rewearing her previously seen dresses at the Venice Film Festival. According to press, Blanchett is making a case for sustainability. “It’s chic to repeat,” her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, posted on Instagram. “When planning for any important event, make sure to look in your own closet first! Clothes are meant to be cherished and worn again and again. Even if you are a world-famous actress.” [12] The actress herself said, ”I think there is incredible opportunity to reassess processes we’ve taken for granted that were dysfunctional and unsustainable," she told WWD, adding that championing sustainable fashion is "something I’ve been interested in -- built-in obsolescence and the counterpoint to that, which is durability and products that are made well.”[13]

   

Legendary actress turned activist Jane Fonda has been taking a stance on the problem of climate change and made a declaration that she is not going to buy any more new clothes, she would only shop her own closet for upcoming awards ceremonies and galas.  "I vowed a couple of years ago I would never buy any new clothes again. We spend too much money, we buy too many things, and then we get rid of them. We try to develop our identity by shopping, right? We gotta stop that. Stop all this consumerism.” - she said in one of the interviews [14] And she has keeping up with her vow very glamorously.

Indeed before going shopping for a new clothes, we should shop our wardrobes first. As a matter of fact, wearing an item for 9 months longer reduces your carbon footprint for that garment by 30%. [5]

Of course, fashion has a function and we do need new clothes to cover our bodies and satisfy our appetite for novelty and pleasure of owning new things. But what we don’t need is to throw away an item after it was worn a handful of times and featured in a few posts on the social media feed. You always have an option of reselling your items, and the better condition it is, more you can score for it. And if we have a question of reselling and a budget for updating your wardrobe, this is where second hand and consignment stores, including Lux Second Chance, comes into play. If everyone bought at least 1 used item instead of new, it could save nearly six pounds of CO2 emissions. That’s an equivalent to removing half a million cars off a road for a year. [5]

The main problem of today's fashion is overproduction with unsustainably low prices, that contribute to overconsumption and thus overflowing of landfills because of a constant chase of trends and seasons. The solutions are quite simple -buy seasonless  (“last year’s fashion fills up today’s landfills”) and buy preloved.

Love and celebrate what you already have in your wardrobe. In this article I am not convincing you to purchase only designer, or to wear what you don’t like anymore, if you are tired of it or it is not fashionable. My point is that we as society should discard the throwaway culture of clothing consumption and take care of things. Even if it is a Zara dress, it deserves the same love as an Alexander McQueen gown.

Rewear - don’t be a diva, be a Queen!

 

 

Sources:

 

  1. https://www.instagram.com/p/CUmxfdnIgWa/
  2. https://www.standard.co.uk/insider/fashion/fast-fashion-clothing-throw-away-social-media-a3956231.html
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-64wZkdPRew
  4. https://truecostmovie.com/watch/the-true-cost
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGF3ObOBbac
  6. https://www.bafta.org/about/sustainability
  7. https://www.vogue.com/vogueworld/article/bafta-2020-red-carpet-sustainability-push
  8. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/fashion-trends/g25620264/kate-middleton-repeat-outfits/
  9. https://people.com/royals/princess-mary-of-denmark-wore-the-same-new-years-eve-dress-for-the-fourth-time/
  10. https://www.hellomagazine.com/fashion/royal-style/2019040871810/queen-letizia-repeating-outfits-fashion/
  11. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/style/1437285/queen-letizia-style-fashion-outfit-latest-news-kate-middleton
  12. https://footwearnews.com/2020/fashion/celebrity-style/cate-blanchett-dress-venice-film-festival-2020-1203050192/
  13. https://www.etonline.com/cate-blanchett-rewears-multiple-looks-from-past-events-to-the-2020-venice-film-festival-152495
  14. https://people.com/style/golden-globes-2021-jane-fonda-rewearing-old-outfit-reduce-consumerism/
  15. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/red-carpet-dresses/a35671800/jane-fonda-golden-globes-suit-2021/
  16. https://people.com/style/jane-fonda-red-coat-shopping-clothing-protest-climate-change/
  17. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2980312/SEBASTIAN-SHAKESPEARE-Frock-horror-Vogue-queen-Anna-Wintour-wears-outfit-twice.html
  18. https://ecowarriorprincess.net/2020/12/5-ways-to-normalise-outfit-repeating-2/
  19. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/arianna-huffington-style-gap-expectations-costly-women/
  20. https://money.cnn.com/2017/10/10/technology/culture/arianna-huffington-repeat-outfits/index.html
  21. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10067333/Crown-Princess-Mary-Denmarks-best-outfit-repeats-2021-royal-engagements.html
  22. https://eco-age.com/resources/removing-the-stigma-around-outfit-repeating/
  23. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tiffany-haddish-rewears-white-dress_n_5abcfc17e4b04a59a31552ea
  24. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23vUvQN-R1Y

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