Seven creatives style an outfit they’ve owned for more than five years
“A big part of making ethical clothing choices is wearing clothes you already own.”
There are many things we can do to make more sustainable clothing choices. Sure, you can shop secondhand, support sustainable fashion brands, or repurpose tattered clothes into a new outfit (or even rags for cleaning).
But what many people just starting out on their sustainable fashion journey don’t realize is that a big part of choosing ethical clothing is wearing clothes you already own. While a rhinestone-covered tank top from around 2012 sitting in the bag you wanted to take to the ops store for six months might be out of place, there might be an item already in your wardrobe that doesn’t. has not fully fulfilled his purpose in life yet.
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This is largely the premise behind the popular capsule wardrobe, which encourages us (when shopping) to buy clothes that we will wear again and again. But with ever-changing styles and trends, the question arises: what makes an outfit timeless? And how can I style old, possibly outdated pieces?
To make my research easier, I reached out to seven Australian designers to see how they style an outfit they’ve owned for over five years.
Ruby Staley, journalist and content producer
This red mini dress has some stories to tell, I’m sure. I bought it back in late 2016 for a party as a base layer for a slightly embarrassing devil costume. Being such a versatile style, with a cute bodycon silhouette and mini straps, I ended up wearing this piece for years. I love it and still wear it today, even though it was a bit cheap. It’s just a piece that I hope I never have to update and keep forever.
Camelia Farhoodi, model and content creator
I hate being basic but…seriously, a good quality black tank top has been a staple in my wardrobe since I was about 13! One of the most versatile/wearable pieces for sure. It’s also handy on days when I’m not feeling so creative…wear some fun bottoms and a black tank top, you’re set! Or even for a night look with a black mini skirt. I love this base…you can seriously fit this tank into just about any scenario and it will still fit the room. I don’t think we will EVER break up.
Sarah Zilberman, multidisciplinary artist and makeup artist
Finding clothes that have lasted more than five years has been a challenge for me, due to COVID my the body has changed many in five years. Going through my wardrobe, I came across items that I have recycled to fit my new style and body.
The floral top was a skirt I bought on a gap year in Italy from Zara. I fell in love with embroidery [but] the skirt was too short so I now wear it up. For the blue knit shrug, it was a long skirt I bought at Camberwell market years ago, however, I’ve never worn it, so I turned it inside out the sleeves during lockdown. [The] Dazzling year 2000 jeans come from an operations store in Sydney.
Joely Malcolm, Content Creator
This outfit is made up of some of my older pieces. The pants, which I still wear once a week, were a Pretty Little Thing purchase from at least six years ago. Although I no longer buy from the brand, I still think it’s important that the pants have a full life!
The top is from my first Omighty order when I was still in high school, and went around my group of friends and ended up with me. The jacket is an old op shop find, so who knows how long it’s been around and how many lives it’s had before me! This bag has unfortunately fallen apart now, but I bought it from an op shop when I was 16 and have carried it almost every day since then.
Jess Seeto, model
It’s so funny to see the gradual changes, but obvious similarities, reflected in my current style compared to me five years ago. The dress I’m wearing is almost five years old and was a gift from my grandmother when she visited me when I was 18, after making the big move from Sydney to Melbourne. It’s a beautiful Gorman tulle dress with embroidered sequins shaped to mimic flora and fauna.
Now, at almost 23 (and as my fashion sense has grown over the years), it’s probably one of the few pieces I’ve carried with me throughout. I think the reason I’ve stayed so enamored with it is that, while sleek, it has that quintessential sex appeal that has been consistent and central to my style.
Emaan Alamgir, paralegal and content creator
I bought this outfit quite a while ago – the jacket must be about five and a half years old and the pants a bit later! I love this outfit because it’s so comfortable but also versatile. I’ve worn it to brunch, to work from home, and even to a picnic. It’s the perfect cut to do it all and you can mix and match it however you want!
Kitch Catterall, digital content producer and founder of Bispha Studios
I bought this blazer on a whim at a op shop in Ocean Grove about six years ago with my partner. At the time, the oversized blazer trend wasn’t really on, but I had a job interview coming up and thought it would go well over a tight black dress to have looks a bit more professional. I bought it and actually got the job! I never parted with it even though I didn’t wear it again until 2020. Now I’m more confident in my style and I’ve worn it in so many different ways. It’s actually a men’s blazer but the fit is perfect.
I thought about removing the shoulder pads a few times, which I might do in the future to give it another life. I like that it’s a neutral brown shade because it’s a bit less “business” than a black or gray blazer and I feel like it’s been more versatile and it goes well with denim without making me look overdressed. I think this piece is something I will have forever and it reminds me that if I see something that I know is a high value commodity but am unsure at the time, buy it. the. Your style evolves and things go in and out of style, so timeless pieces like plain coats and blazers, I think it will always be worth having in your wardrobe!
You can find out more about sustainable consumption here.