There used to be a time when you could repeat wear outfits at different occasions with different crowds without fear of having the offending repeat outfit identified as such. Enter the age of social media and we are now faced with a world where every outfit can end up on Instagram, seen by most people you know, thereby immediately outing itself and limiting its ability to dazzle and amaze a new crowd at some future event.
What makes matters worse is the rise of the influencer. These fabulously stylish women on Instagram make it seem almost normal to wear a different outfit every day. All of a sudden, you fall out of love with your latest purchase and crave something new and shiny that will satisfy your quest for newness as well as keep you from getting bored with what’s already mounting up in your wardrobe.
This constant craving for newness is not only a drain on finances, but it contributes to the increasingly sizeable carbon footprint left by the fashion industry.
I am not immune to these fashion cravings, and am guilty of spending far too much of my hard earned on fashion. However in my own defence, to counter the pressure of constantly wearing new outfits for my fashion blog, I have mastered the art of the re-wear. Basically, I stealthily repeat pieces of my wardrobe in each outfit to maximise (hopefully imperceptibly) the different ways they can be worn.
Over the years I have come up with a few guidelines that I live by that make it easier to shop my own wardrobe, strategically re-wear and not get bored with what I already own.
1. focus on separates
To maximise the different ways you can wear pieces in your wardrobe, focus on separates. Skirts, blouses, trousers, tops, blazers etc rather than dresses and jumpsuits. The different combinations you can create with separates are so much more, creatively speaking, compared to what you can do with a single piece.
2. purchase strategy
Before I buy a new piece, there are so many soul-searching questions that go through my head. What fabric is it made from? What are the washing instructions? What message am I communicating to the world in this item? Can I dance in it (don’t pretend you haven’t danced in a changing room when trying things on). But more importantly, I have to make sure it will go with at least four other pieces I already own.
I also have to make sure that there are places and occasions I know I’ll wear it to. As much as I love a good sequinned evening cape with the word “Luxury” embroidered on it, there are not that many occasions where I will actually wear it.
For a more structured approach, think about how to develop your own capsule wardrobe. Read my guide to developing a capsule wardrobe here.
3. Avoid Trends and Prints (Unless…)
To ensure longevity of your outfits, generally avoid trends and prints. With good classic, basics in neutral tones and block colours (e.g. the red satin skirt in the head image from Finery), the more they are interchangeable and the more outfit configurations you can come up with, for longer.
BUT there is always an exception to every rule, and the exception to this particular rule is that trends which work for you and that you can see lasting you for years to come are worth considering. For example, I’ve recently written about the western trend that has taken hold of the fashion world of late and how I plan to take it into future seasons.
A statement print is also worth considering, particularly when it’s in the form of something like a coat which can transform an outfit (see below).
4. The statement piece
The idea of a statement piece or print runs counter to the concept of the repeat wear. People will always clock it with each outing. I would argue, however, that a good statement piece can be just as versatile as your wardrobe basics.
For instance, I have a statement leopard print coat that really stands out. I get a lot of comments on it (all good). And it goes with everything. Each outfit brings out a different side to the leopard coat. Over a conservative pair of trousers and button down shirt with stilettos, it’s work apropos. But with jeans, graphic tshirt and trainers, it’s the height of casual cool.
5. Accessorise accessorise accessorise
Which brings us neatly to the subject of accessories. To maximise your wardrobe and create as many different looks as possible with what you have, it comes down to the accessories.
Think about the transformative power of a different shoe. Take a satin midi skirt. Pair with a sophisticated heel and you have an outfit that’s office-worthy. But swap the heel for a pair of trainers and you’ve got an outfit you can run around town in, with several coffee shop pitstops.
Beyond the shoe, the possibilities are endless once you consider what you could do with a strategically placed scarf, statement earrings, the tuck of a jumper, a wide belt or chunky necklace.
6. Experiment with colour
Mixing up pieces that are tonal or contrasting colours is a powerful tool to use. Are there any colours in your wardrobe you’ve never thought of combining? Take a fresh approach from a colour perspective and you might be surprised at the new outfit combos you come up with if you try out new colour combinations. Read my guide to tonal blocking here, and colour blocking here.
7. Think of the repeat wear as a power move
If you do find yourself straying into the shops, whether in real life or online, just remember that by repeat wearing, you’re in the best of company. Kate Middleton is a renowned repeat wearer. Ditto the queen of fashion, Anna Wintour, who recently repeat-wore her Prada navy “flower power” print dress for the third time to the Australian Open tennis in Melbourne.
Keep in mind that influencers are paid or gifted outfits to promote brands. Try following influencers like Alex Stedman who re-wears her pieces, and often wears pieces that are several seasons old. But she provides great inspiration for how to put different basics together.
It is not realistic to think you can keep up with the rate of costume changes most influencers make. You’re not Kylie Minogue in concert. True style lies in the creativity you can bring to what you already have.