Dare to Rewear

A woman looking through a row of clothes on hangers
Alice Bennett 

Have you ever felt embarrassed when you realise that you’re wearing the same clothes that you wore to the same lecture the week before? What will your classmates think? Will they think you only own one outfit? It might seem silly, and we all know that it’s likely no one even remembers or took notice of what you wore last week, but this familiar kind of anxiety around repeating outfits speaks to the huge amount of pressure around what we wear, particularly for students. 

Enjoying fashion and wanting to express yourself through what you wear is one thing, but this stigma around repeating outfits and the expectation to constantly update your wardrobe and discard something after only wearing it a handful of times contributes to the ever-growing damage that fast fashion is having on the environment. 

People wear an item of clothing just seven times on average before throwing it out – which is especially concerning within the context of the fashion industry being responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse emissions.

Fast fashion is a big problem in the UK as British people buy the highest amount of clothes per person than any other country in Europe.

Buying versatile items that you can style differently every time you wear them can be a great way of reducing your consumption of fast fashion.

A survey by Hubbub also found that more 16 to 24-year-olds buy clothes online at least once a week compared to any other age range, meaning that overconsumption and fast fashion is likely prevalent amongst university students. 

I find this unsurprising given this social pressure associated with fashion trends, particularly at school and university. These trends seem to come and go even quicker nowadays as microtrends can mean that something you only bought a month ago feels outdated. 

So how can we keep updating our wardrobes whilst being environmentally friendly and save money? Here’s a list of things that might be a good starting point. 

Restyling: Capsule Wardrobes and Staple Items

Buying versatile items that you can style differently every time you wear them can be a great way of reducing your consumption of fast fashion.

This is similar to the concept of a capsule wardrobe, which is a great way of rewearing clothes whilst still having a wide variety of outfits to suit every occasion.

A capsule wardrobe essentially consists of having fewer items that all go with each other to achieve variety and versatility without buying an excessive amount. It usually includes staple items that can be restyled depending on what you wear it with, ultimately building on what you already have in your wardrobe. 

The concept of a capsule wardrobe is relatively well-known and has been popular on social media, but there has likely been a misconception that it involves starting your whole wardrobe from scratch, which is counterproductive to its original purpose of reducing overconsumption.

However, the whole appeal of this approach is that it’s a great starting point because it doesn’t involve starting your wardrobe from scratch and utilises what you already have.

It is a good way to get into the habit of rewearing whilst still allowing for some freedom to enjoy buying and picking out outfits. It just involves thinking about the process more and considering the items you already own when purchasing new ones.

Buying Second-hand

Although it’s best to first look at what you already have, realistically, we need to buy new clothes every once in a while, not just for fun, but also for practical reasons like the weather and when your favourite items are worn out.

However, since overconsumption seems to be more of an issue for younger people, especially those still in education, buying exclusively from some of the more ‘ethical’ brands isn’t exactly financially viable. 

Buying second-hand clothing from charity and vintage shops is a great alternative to fast fashion if you don’t want to constantly wear the same outfit.

Nottingham has plenty to choose from, including White Rose, Oxfam and Emmanuel House Charity Shop as well as a number of vintage stores. Popular apps like Depop and Vinted are also an easy way to buy and sell second-hand items. 

However, I also think it’s important to note that opting for fast fashion to suit your budget is ok, especially since not everyone has time to carefully look through second-hand shops, which can be hit or miss.

It also can be difficult to find your particular size second-hand (I find it hard to find jeans and trousers that fit just right as it is). Buying second-hand when you can is ideal, but it’s all about balance.

There’s no shame in just rewearing!

Personally, I wouldn’t care if I noticed someone rewear an outfit. If you actually would judge someone for rewearing, that speaks to a lack of awareness of the climate crisis as well as those struggling to make ends meet, let alone keeping up with everchanging microtrends.

Regardless, that scene in The Lizzie Mcguire Movie where Kate calls Lizzie an “outfit repeater” is very unlikely to actually happen to you.

Saying this, I empathise with feeling pressure to constantly buy new clothes to keep up with trends and expectations. I also think it isn’t as simple as blaming climate change on young people who participate in fast fashion.

Posting hauls spending hundreds of pounds on an order from these kinds of brands is one thing, but a student buying from H&M and Primark because they can’t afford items from pricey ‘ethical’ brands is another.

At the same time, however, it is also unrealistic to wear something once or a handful of times and then discard it. It’s wasteful and expensive, but it’s also a shame to only wear a nice piece a few times when you can easily restyle it and wear it with something else. 

Alice Bennett

Featured image courtesy of Becca McHaffie via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In-article image 1 courtesy of @Withalexstyle via No changes were made to this image.

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