Thursday, 18 June 2015

Lucky seven?

I wear this dress a lot, but I wear
the cardi so much more!
How many times do you wear your clothes before you give them away , sell or bin them? Every time I look at my clothing spreadsheet – started because I felt I was in a rut and wanted to see if I really was wearing the same things all the time, and continued now out of habit and because I might find it interesting to look back at in another decade or two – I wonder if it's not a bit odd. And it is a bit odd, but it has done the job I intended it to do, namely helped me analyse my wardrobe and get more wear out of things that would otherwise go neglected. Because of that, and because I love charity shopping, I was quite interested to see this report by Barnardos that says British women wear garments an average of seven times before getting rid of them.

I doubt anyone who owns a wedding dress is planning to wear it more than once themself, and outfits for formal events like weddings or posh dances don't get many outings, so that would skew the statistics. On the other hand, very few people will own a 'reliable basic', be that jeans, trousers or a favourite coat, without wearing it loads, which should swing things back the other way. So although the figure Barnardos quotes is an average, it did seem awfully low to me. Back I went to my spreadsheet. Surely one pair of trousers or a well-loved cardigan can balance out several party frocks?

Now, I don't own masses of clothes (sometimes I think I own far fewer than most bloggers I talk to), but looking at my spreadsheet I could see that I do own plenty of things that still don't get that many outings. Even things I worry my workmates will think I never take off aren't in much danger of getting worn out. And this is after a year and a half of tracking what I wear and trying to base buying decisions on that; I've been consciously trying to buy things I'm more likely to get lots of wear out of. Anyone given to random acts of shopping will make far more 'mistakes'. I do think my personal average wearings will be much higher than seven, given how long I hang onto things, but it's probably not unreasonable for a lot of people.

Still, seven as an average does make me a little uncomfortable. It seems so wasteful. I'd hate for anyone to keep clothes that they dislike and make them feel bad, and I know all too well how keeping too many clothes that don't fit can wreak havoc on your body image, but perhaps it does suggest that a lot of us either aren't completely sure what we like or what fits, or are prone to shopping for reasons other than need. Thank goodness for charity shops, I guess: they stop all those things ending up in landfill, and mean that even if women wear a garment an average of seven times before getting rid of it, those garments get a lot more than seven wears in the end thanks to multiple owners!
I bought this dress because I wanted a cotton day dress I could
wear regularly. Get used to it, you're going to see a lot of it!

Another thing in the article that struck me was the fact that for some women social media seems to push them to replace clothes more quickly, as being pictured in the same thing twice is a bit of a no-no. I find that odd. It takes more than one thing to make an outfit, so surely the point is to mix your clothes and accessories creatively? I like seeing bloggers repeating outfits, personally: people's unique style is one of the things that draws me to their blogs, so why would I want to see them discarding the very things that help make them stand out? (Curtise showed off one of her favourites very recently – who wouldn't want to see that floral maxi again, eh?)

What do you think of the statistics? Have you ever worked out how often you wear particular things, and did the results surprise you?

26 comments :

  1. This is a thoughtful post Mim, and very timely I think - there's been a lot on the fashion blogger circuit recently about the wastefulness of 'fast fashion' and it's an issue that's starting to register in people's minds, thankfully. I have some items that I wear until they fall apart - my swing trousers I wear at least twice a week to work, and there are lots of coats/jackets that get very regular use. I've started making more of an effort to wear things that don't get much of an outing, so there's a glitzy party skirt that has been worn 3 times, even though only one of those occasions was an actual party! I have recently had a clear out of items that I decided weren't 'me', including a sundress that I only wore once, but realised the colour and cut weren't at all flattering. I either sell worn items via Ebay or donate to charity, so they'll always get another lease of life elsewhere. I think I have some items of clothing that I bought about 15 years ago, so they have definitely been worn more than seven times!

    I look forward to more of you in that fab dress xx

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    1. Maybe we should all have a 'Wear it again Wednesday' or something, where we repeat an old favourite with different styling!

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  2. I read about a blog once where a woman purchased x amount of identical black dresses, seven I think, and wore the same dress every day for a year, changing it about with a accessories and shirts.

    I am forever boggled at the spending habits of some people, they will buy more in a month than I would in two, three years and they can't be wearing all of it. Seven times does seem low, I wear certain things endlessly depending on the time of the year and I wonder if people notice xx

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    1. I sometimes think I could get by with one dress, but I think it would make me very grumpy! Capsule wardrobes are not for me.

      This year I've spent more than the monthly average Barnardos quote, but it has been targeted shopping, only buying stuff I really like and know I will wear, and I've aimed for quality, so it'll last. Seven wears per garment seems more and more bonkers the more I think about it.

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  3. There's a very clear double standard for women in the public eye, on the one hand they're berated for spending money of new outfits whilst on the other heaven forbid someone like Kate or Posh dare to show up to a swanky event wearing the dress they wore to a swanky event 3 weeks ago.

    Obviously I'm not a woman, but I wear most things way more than 7 times before ditching them (in fact when it comes to jeans shirts and t-shirts I pretty much wear things to death) Maybe with things like suits I may only wear them a handful of times, but that's usually down to me not wearing a suit very often, and even then I'll probably only throw it out if my waistband increases and I suddenly can't fit into it!

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    1. Yeah, Kate gets a pat on the head for being 'thrifty' every time she re-wears something. 'That's what we all do', I thought - but maybe I was wrong there!

      Men do tend to rewear things more than women; Vix sells vintage and remarked on this on her blog fairly recently. It's often less obvious with men how often they re-wear things. I guess it's because certain garments, like trousers, aren't things people pay attention to (unless you're into dressing like Jason King ;-) ), I bet women get a lot more re-wears out of trousers than they do dresses.

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  4. Until it falls to bit and can no longer be repaired! Or if it's something that either didn't fit well to start with or is far too small for me now.
    I'm trying to lose some weight and if it works...have health problems which have also screwed up my metabolism...I'll just make darts in what I have as I like my clothes and have no wish to abandon them.
    Being cursed with a big bust for my general frame is the bane of my life, all those lovely things too tight in the chest, bum!
    But I'm 48 and grew up with little and was brought up by those who had gone through the war so waste is a huge anathema to me anyway.

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    1. Yeah, I feel quite guilty if I get rid of things that I could wear - though with charity shops, I remind myself that I'm setting stuff free to go to a home where it will be loved and worn, not languish in a wardrobe.

      I'm going to be gutted when my pink and grey tartan skirt gives up the ghost.

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    2. I have to say that I positively crave Ivey Abitz clothing though! But unless I win the lottery or some as yet unheard of rich relative dies and leaves me a fortune I shan't ever be laying my hands on it.

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    3. I hadn't heard of that brand – my steampunk friends would love it.

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  5. I wonder if many of those women who claim to wear things only seven times buy from cheap places like Primark or H&M and it's more the case of their clothes falling apart and being unwearable after a couple of washes rather than them actually getting tired of their garments?
    It does seem a terrible waste. I've got clothes in my wardrobe I bought second-hand 25 years ago and if I do tire of something I just put it on the shop rails as all I own is vintage anyway.
    I like seeing bloggers wear the same clothes, just like I'm pleased to see real life friends wearing favourite dresses. I'll never tire of seeing you in that lovely cotton shift! xxx

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    1. Could be. I bought a couple of things from Tesco in the past – never again. One wash and they looked dreadful. Besides the little nagging voice in my head that tells me that someone, somewhere, lost out for the garment to be so cheap, and it was probably some poor blighter in a factory in Asia, the quality was awful. I swear modern cotton T-shirt fabric is the worst. I still have some of my 1990s T-shirts at home, and it's so much more substantial.

      Possibly also cheapness makes people undervalue their clothes and look after them less. It'd be interesting to know what the price point of the less-worn stuff is – whether people discard cheaper items more quickly. My guess is that it *is* on the cheaper end of things, simply because of the average monthly spend quoted. Buying new, you don't get a lot of good quality clothing for so little money.

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  6. That's a very interesting statistic. I wonder what the demographic was for the survey respondents? I do find it quite hard to believe that someone would only wear a garment 7 times but then I still have stuff from when I was at school (30 years ago) and some of that was vintage then. Xx

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    1. Well, seven was the average – I've been trying to get my head around it. All I can think of is, some people only wear their 'party' outfits a couple of times before getting rid of them, and they go to a lot of parties. (At which point, surely it'd just be more cost-effective to hire things...)

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  7. That's an uncomfortable thought. 7 wears in average for a garment. My first thought was that this certainly does not apply to me. I buy almost all my garments second hand, and keep them for years. But then I realised that I do have many, many dresses in my closet. I used to wear dresses a lot, but switched preference to swing trousers and blouses/knitted jumpers. I still have the dresses, but some of them I've only worn once or twice. When I need to weed out things from my wardrobe I donate the clothes to charity shops if they still look all right, but I do feel uneasy about the amount of clothes I own. I suppose it has to do with transitioning from one style or preference to another, and not being willing to let go of the things I used to love.

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    1. I reckon we've all got a few one-timers in the wardrobe! I'm terrible for not letting things go, I've got loads of stuff from the 90s that has too many memories for me to give away even though it doesn't fit.

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  8. Seven wears? That's shocking! I assume the statistic is skewed by women who are bothered about following trends, or get easily bored, and like their fashion fast and furious...
    My wardrobe is full of secondhand clothes I really like, wear often, and don't intend to get rid of! I can't fathom the disposable aspect of fashion - when I love something, I want to keep it forever and wear it repeatedly. It never bothers me in the slightest when bloggers wear the same pieces, that's exactly as it should be. That's not to say there isn't some flux in my wardrobe - if something isn't quite right for me, I either sell it on, donate to charity, or pass it on to a friend. I think I have got better at making the right choices, so I only buy things that fit and I really like. And because I don't differentiate particularly between everyday and "dressed up" clothes, everything gets its fair share of the action!
    Very interesting, Mim. And that cotton day dress is definitely one to wear again and again! xxxx

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    1. The more I think about it, the more I can't see how seven is the average. Then again, the article says one in ten of the people they surveyed would class something they'd worn more than three times as old... dunno what that makes the cream cardi I've had since I was 16!

      I've been a bit naughty and bought more this year than I usually would, but I reckon I'm set up now for a couple of years at least. It's all stuff that I really love.

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  9. That's an interesting question. I've never worked out how many times my pieces get worn, but it would be interesting to figure out some time... Living in Canada I have a lot of pieces for a lot of different seasons. I know I have a few heavy sweaters that are only worn a few days a year, but are very necessary on those few bitterly cold days. Same is true in the summer, when the humidex makes it unbearably hot. My mid-weight clothes by far get the most wear, as they can be worn all year round. Most of my pieces don't languish in the closet too long though. I have a rather bad habit of waiting a bit too long to do laundry. This means I have to get creative and wear pieces I might otherwise be tempted to leave at the back of the closet.

    I also never throw out pieces that still have life left in them. Most pieces can be repaired, revamped, and restyled. I make a lot of my clothing, which makes me extra hesitant to throw things out. I know how much work went into making them originally, so it adds quite a bit of value (for example I darn my socks quite regularly, since I know it would take me 10-20 hours to knit a new pair). When things get too worn out to wear, I always try to re-use the best parts of the material for something else. When I was younger I was very much into fast fashion, as I didn't know there was an alternative. But thrifting, sewing, and vintage shopping are not only less wasteful, but also more fun! I love that almost everything in my closet has a story.

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    1. I agree that making things makes a person reluctant to throw things out – I'm very careful with my handknits. Then again, it takes me so long to make anything, I'm jolly well sure I want it when I make it, so it's destined for plenty of wear. Maybe when things are bought cheap, it's easier to get an easy come, easy go attitude towards them.

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  10. It depends on what it is. I don't really feel that I should avoid buying something that I love and is unusual just because I don't want to wear it once a week for years to come (example - bright orange t shirt, black and white spotty pony hair shoes, emerald green jumper with white polka dots). Things that are useful basics like vests or plain t shirts to go under other things get worn for about 2-3 years probably fortnightly then either get binned due to bobbling or stains or become nightwear. Jeans are worn until they wear through at the inner thighs.
    Other things like the aforementioned may indeed only get worn 5-10 times over 2 years then moved onto charity as they are in good condition. I have Primark cardigans that are 5-6 years old but I think my oldest items are probably leather bags and jackets.

    I suppose for me the question is - seven times over what period of time? I can't say I've bought something, worn it once a week for 2 months then moved it on.

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    1. Yes, I guess we all own things that don't get worn that often. In my case it's usually party dresses or things for going out. (That's stupid in itself because I so rarely go anywhere. The chances of anyone remembering a repeat are virtually nil.) We all need something that makes us feel happy. It's why I was wondering about frequently-worn things skewing the average, so things like your jeans would balance out the pony hair shoes (which sound fab, btw). I bet your average is way higher than seven. My navy cardigan balances out about eight party frocks on its own!

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  11. I had to laugh at the news coverage of the Princess Royal showing up to Ladies Day wearing a 35 year old suit. Good on her. It is a beautiful suit-I'd hang onto it too! I have two 30+ dresses I've kept as well, and plan to give them a show on the blog soon. I tend to keep things if they're still wearable.

    My collection isn't as massive as the blog makes it look. I don't post the days (like today) where I'm in the same denim skirt, green blouse, and pink cardigan I wear most days to cook and clean at home. My clothes aren't quite as threadbare as they were on the farm where there was little sense wearing something nice to ruin it with mud, but I do still manage to get quite a bit of use from clothes before they end up in the rag-rug/quilting pile. I can't imagine seven wears being the norm, even for somewhat dressy clothes. Accessories, sure (everyone has the impulse-purchased shoes that don't quite work) but clothes? Not me, I'm too Bolshie for that nonsense.

    I hope we do see more of that cotton shift dress-it seems like something that will be all-season adaptable with the addition of tights and boots.


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  12. Oh dear I am probably more fickle than everyone else who has posted here. I do go through phases of splurging on things and I do get bored and dump stuff!
    My weight fluctuates which doesn't help either things get to big or too small or suddenly just look weird.
    Having said that on the whole I would say I do wear things more than 7 times on average.

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  13. Truly amazing post, Mim.
    I have, in many ways, gave this statistics a thought. Truthful is the comment that said that there ARE double standars when it comes to buying clothing items (but I'd say: it's more than jut buying clothes.. it's a bout all the items that we surround ourselves with).
    Seven, you say?
    I'm not sure about the number. There are ladies that have just a few gorgeous skirts that fit them like a glove and are so useful for mixing & matching.. and it seems like they have LOTS more.
    Yet again, I happen to know a gal that (in a certain time) owned more than 6 pairs of black jeans - but they all looked the same to me, so it seemed like she has never chaned her wardrobe and kept goping around town wearing the same pair every day. :)
    ..
    Like yourself, I admit to owning lot less than most bloggers, even less than most other ladies in my office.. but I don't mind it. I like every single item I have; and I surely wear it more than seven times.
    I tend to "wear the life out of them" if I like them... and if I don't like them, I don't even bother buying them. :)

    Marija

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  14. Gosh, 7 wears an item seems very low to me. I wear my things until they fall apart, look really worn or I grow out of them! I am never bothered to see items of clothing occur more than once on a blog, in fact it pleases me as it is more like the way my wardrobe functions. I have also stopped saving clothes for best as best never seemed to happen. It makes me happy to wear my nice dresses more often and if I look a bit dressed up just to go to the supermarket who cares!?

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