Wasn’t life simpler before the dawn of social media? No waking up in a cold sweat after a night out to scan Facebook for toe-curling photos to untag. No unsolicited pictures on Snapchat. And no worrying about having to beg, borrow or steal a different dress for the 10 weddings you’re attending this summer thanks to Instagram. First-world problems these might be, but when the minutiae of every outfit are catalogued on Stories, it’s no wonder it pains us to rewear our clothes. But should it?
Princess Anne attends Royal Ascot in 1980
The Duchess of Cambridge is a famous outfit repeater. Take the Alexander McQueen dress coat she wore to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May. Not only did choose it for Princess Charlotte’s christening in 2015, but she also wore it for 2016’s Trooping of the Colour. Princess Anne is an even more prolific recycler. The cream and navy coat she wore to this year’s Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey had its first outing at Royal Ascot in 1980. 1980! There’s also an Instagram account dedicated to Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and her mastery of the rewear. The next time you think sporting your Rixo dress to your cousin’s wedding and your family BBQ is embarrassing, remember what excellent company you keep.
Wearing the same outfit at this year's Commonwealth Day service
Like all good things that start on the @kensingtonroyal Instagram account, it looks like the trend for rewearing clothes is starting to trickle down. The influencers are already on board. Lucy Williams recently posted a picture from Mykonos with the caption, “Can’t stop won’t stop wearing this dress.”
She also packed the dress in question—a sand-coloured crochet number from Sir the Label—for a trip to Ibiza in June.
The publisher of Tank Magazine, Caroline Issa, wore the same pair of flowered sandals by Fabrizio Viti for three days of Paris Couture Week. Park and Cube’s Shini recently shared a similar sentiment, calling out the fact that rewearing has become some sort of bizarre sin on social: “Since when is wearing something more than once, like any other human being, called recycling?” The blogger behind No Ordinary She, Ada Oguntodu, has her basket bags, H&M white mules and Zara earrings on repeat.
Ada says rewearing clothes is satisfying—you know you’ve made the right choice to buy something you can wear again and again.
“I never feel pressured to wear or not wear anything,” she tells me, “If I feel like it, I go for it, and if I don’t, I just don’t. It is more about showing my style than how many clothes I have in my wardrobe.”
Anum Bashir, the fashion force behind Desert Mannequin, says she makes a conscious effort to rewear her clothes and doesn’t think twice about Instagramming the results. “I love wearing things over and over again and putting a different spin on [an outfit]. I think it makes content more relatable if anything,” she says.
The phrase “cost-per-wear” might be used by fashion editors to justify the purchase of ludicrously expensive shoes, but keen outfit repeaters know it makes sense. The more you wear something, the greater the return on your investment. The sticking point is how many of us look after our clothes and shoes well enough to wear them year in, year out? And raise your hand if you have garments hanging in your wardrobe with tags still attached? In 2017, a report by Sainsbury’s estimated that Britons would bin 235 million items of clothing as part of the annual process of spring-cleaning. It’s also worth considering the resources being consumed and the pollution produced to manufacture our clothes. According to the London Sustainability Exchange, you need between 10,000 and 20,000 litres of water to make just one kilogram of cotton. That’s two pairs of jeans. What this means is that it’s not enough to rewear clothes—we have to buy them more mindfully in the first place.
This sounds counterintuitive coming from a website whose bread and butter is fashion trends, but you don’t have to ignore them. Instead, cherry-pick the ones that will work for you in the long run. I’ve wanted some trainers with pumped-up platform soles for about a year, but I managed to resist the Eytys Angel pair until I had breakfast with a PR wearing them. Now that I know I’m committed, my heart is set on these Buffalos. If you do succumb to the cycling short trend and regret kicks in, recycle them instead of throwing them away or try your luck on a resale app like Depop.
Adding or subtracting accessories is probably the easiest way to shake up a favourite outfit combo. You also don’t have to stick to basics and avoid prints to be a repeater. One of the most versatile things in my wardrobe is a checked-and-ruffled skirt from Ganni. Depending on my mood and the prognosis on my weather app, I can wear it with a sleek black body and gold woven heels, a vintage T-shirt and white Filas or a puff-sleeved blouse from Sea. Here are my other favourite building blocks for a wardrobe that’s ready to be worn on repeat.