Why is society so critical, mainly of celebrities, when they are ‘caught’ wearing the same outfit twice *GASP*? Clothes are meant to be worn, after all. Studies show that a garment today has a life expectancy of seven wears (three in China) before it’s discarded (donated or literally thrown in the garbage!) in favor of something new. With quickening trend cycles, cheaper overseas production and labor costs, and intensifying social pressures, the message being delivered by the fashion industry is that our clothes are here for a good time, not a long time. In essence, wear less (often), and buy more.
Media outlets have also traditionally played a big role in perpetuating this waste-focused narrative by shining a spotlight on repeated looks during celebrity events, and even day-to-day looks. News today is a pay-per-click game, and at the end of the day, celebrity gossip equals high traffic. Recently, however, deliberate efforts by celebrities to re-wear outfits have, in part, sparked a change in perception. Some notable figures include the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton and Tiffany Hadish – having worn her white Alexander McQueen dress to 8 events despite her team advising her otherwise. During her SNL monologue, Hadish said, “I feel like if I pay good money for something, I wear it when I want, however many times I want.” Something as simple as wearing your clothing more than once (!) supports an urgent shift in our fast fashion culture.
Something else that has typically been a factor in the conversation of re-wear (or lack thereof), is the quality of our pieces. For hundreds of years, clothing was handmade with durable materials, taking immense time and effort to make. The material cost and intention behind making these pieces logically eliminated waste – people simply treated their clothes with care! Today, however, off-shore manufacturing has changed everything, propelling a culture of cheaper, mass produced, low quality garments, widely referred to as fast fashion. If we aren’t making garments to stand the test of time, how can we expect people to wear them accordingly?
Celebrities have always been influencers in their own right, so inspiring the newest trends, styles, brands and designers isn’t a new concept. What’s changed is the society within which this influence exists. Where before celebrities promoted seasonal shifts in looks made from high quality pieces, they now encourage a constantly changing trend cycle. This influence pipeline simply doesn’t support the ethos of sustainability, but we’re excited at the prospect of a shift we’re beginning to see take place.
The #100daydresschallange, inspired by women such as Julia Mooney, Sarah Robbins-Cole, and the company Wool&, promotes wearing the same dress for 100 days straight. The goal of the initiative is to promote creativity in finding ways to style the pieces you have in your closet in different ways, as opposed to opting for something new. Many people are completing the challenge feeling inspired by the realization that they can be fashionable without the need of an abundance of clothing. Even without partaking in this challenge, everyone can be innovative with the clothing they already own.
Photo by Marcus Loke
We recognize that this campaign is unlikely to satisfy all consumers though. How could it possibly compete with the marketing all around us, telling us to buy, buy, buy? There is an inarguable excitement that comes with wearing a new outfit. But, for those who derive value from an ever-changing wardrobe, perhaps consider rental! This is a concept that is becoming more widely used by celebrities for red carpet events. An example of this is the recent RCGD Global Oscars Sustainable Fashion Guide, which includes a section about renting from clothing libraries or designers’ archives. Platforms such as Fitzroy Rentals, Rent the Runway, Nuuly, Gwynnie Bee, Armoire, and Generation Tux are easy and accessible ways to keep your wardrobe looking fresh, or simply for those special occasion outfits.
For better or worse, the influence that celebrities have over our consumption habits is indisputable. We’re excited about the positive changes we’re seeing on red carpets, and in the day-to-day, and we hope that these habits continue to trickle down into the general public. Let’s all do our part to end the outfit repetition stigma, whether it’s by supporting celebrities or curbing our own shopping habits. Knowledge of the past and present can lead to a better future.
Psst Toronto – attend our upcoming event ReMode to learn more ways to be a better outfit repeater!!