In research conducted for the charity Barnado’s last week it was estimated that shoppers in the UK will spend £2.bn this summer on over 50m summer outfits that will be worn only once. Made by some meticulous – but no doubt underpaid – fashion worker, transported miles, sorted and stacked by overworked retail assistants and bought with hard earned cash, they will nevertheless end up in landfills, probably on the other side of the world.
Consumers will spend over £700m on items bought for a holiday, while wedding guests spend an average of £79.76 on a new outfit of which 10m will be worn just once, according to the study of 2,000 people.
But is impulse buying fast fashion really the best way to celebrate warm weather occasions?
“Choosing to buy ‘pre-loved’ clothes for a special occasion means you don’t have to worry about bumping into someone wearing the same outfit,” Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said.
“It is also kinder to the environment and your wallet, getting more wear out of clothes which might otherwise only be worn once and end up in landfill.”
Would you be ashamed to wear the same outfit to more than one event this season?
The research found that one in four of those surveyed would feel embarrassed wearing an outfit to a special occasion more than once. This seems very sad to me: if an outfit has a lovely memory attached from the special occasion you last wore it to, then surely you’d be delighted to wear it again? It if it makes you feel special then why leave it languishing in the back of the wardrobe?
I took a look at my own special frocks and l do recycle and re-wear frequently. However, I mix up the look with different accessories. Last year I did a fashion editorial for event dressing using all charity shop finds and for the latest ‘life’s a beach’ editorial I used charity shop hats and jewellery. And buying preloved accessories is a great way to start, even if you are anxious that a new base outfit is really the only way to stem the gossip.
Would you buy second-hand swimwear?
Well it seems some of us will, especially expensive designer brands – the website Rebelle has a fabulous pre-loved Beachwear section which includes bikinis and swimsuits.
While most of us pick up new swimwear at the shops, research shows an increasing number of us are opting to buy our swimsuits and bikinis second-hand online. Analysis by British-based marketplace app Shpock revealed pre-loved swimwear is selling at the same rate as new or unworn pieces – but often at a fraction of the cost.
Experts at Shpock analysed more than 50,000 sales conducted on the app and the results showed just one third of the swimsuits listed on the app were new or had never been worn, with the remainder made up of second-hand steals.
In my own collection I have pre-worn swimwear passed on to me by family members, and I have bought one item from a charity shop, although that piece hadn’t been worn and had the original swing tags.
A quick online search (Mumsnet) revealed that most people aren’t keen on wearing something that has been in intimate contact with someone else’s nether regions, but once a bikini has been washed with bio detergent is it really that unhygienic?
What can you do to reinvent last year’s summer outfits?
When I review my own summer wardrobe, it has a timeless quality (even more so than my winter wear does). I have been wearing little white dresses, navy and white T-shirts, embellished kaftans and floaty maxis, for as long as I can recall. In fact my holiday wardrobe isn’t that different at (almost) 55 from what it was when I was 15.
Give or take a few updates, I wear summer clothes that are often 15 years old. Any I do buy new are preloved by someone else! I may jazz up a tired plain dress with trim, or dye it; I might chop of a hem or add a flounce; I may rest a garment for a few years then return to it with a fresh way of wearing. I have really pretty summer mini-dresses that don’t feel right worn alone but paired with trousers feel just right this year.
Most of the time the clothes we are drawn to buying new are actually variants of something we already own. Shopping our own wardrobe is by far the most sustainable way to do fashion.
Given that the environmental audit committee recently called for a penny tax on every garment sold to fund recycling initiatives, only to have it rejected by the government, perhaps it’s time we let the lovely weather inspire us to ensure we still have a planet to enjoy next summer?