Wear-By Dates

September 12, 2017
Wear-By Dates

You know when you find that new thing, the thing that revives your wardrobe? The thing that makes you love clothes again and renews anything you pair it with with a sense of creativity and excitement? You found the thing in some tiny, obscure shop or vintage boutique so it truly feels like yours. The thing will be your new signature piece. You will be known for having the cachet to pull off such a thing effortlessly. “Oh, yeah, she’s the one that always looks so good in *the thing*!” people will say. The thing will set you apart from the crowd. It will define you as a leader not a follower. The thing will transform how you get dressed.

But hang on, who’s that blogger wearing one on that street style round up? Where did she find it? Did she steal yours? No, she has Instagram #ad money, she doesn’t need to resort to weirdly specific theft. OK, so maybe there are two of them in the world, no big deal. Oh, but there’s someone across the street wearing one, and then your mate turns up in something similar even though you’d never really have thought she’d wear something like that. And then Vogue does a trend feature on it and now your new thing is everyone’s new thing. And it’s at that precise moment that it loses its magic. 

You return home, passing various iterations of the thing in the windows of three H&Ms and a Primark, pull it out of your wardrobe and suddenly it looks tired and boring and utterly, utterly normal. It’s official: your beautiful, wardrobe-transforming thing has passed its wear-by date.

Take frills, for example. I used to dream of adorning myself in Marie Antoinette-style frills, cascading from my elbows and waistline; magnificent in their extravagance. Now, I can do a high street dash and cover myself from head to toe in frills and I can’t think of anything I want to wear less. Their ubiquity has completely stripped them of any allure and it took only a few months for them to be relegated from ‘dream wardrobe’ to ‘please, I beg you, never show me a single frill ever again’. For me, at least, frills have expired and I blame the ever onward march of trends.

I love fashion. Love, love, love it. But I hate trends. I’m interested in them and I follow them and I write about them but I don’t like them. Trends feed that feeling of inadequacy we can’t quite shake and encourage us to spend money we don’t have. They turn fashion into an endless game of catch up and they render our favourite clothes obsolete.

Trends have a habit of robbing people of the very thing that makes them feel like an individual only to discard it three months later in favour of something else. Expression, creativity and identity is commodified and spat out, leaving the originators with whatever scraps of their subculture or style that didn’t get completely steamrollered over. Do you find a way to love it again or do you move on to try and find the next thing that may well get picked apart and sold off too?

For the time being, fashion is what it is. It will continue to mine different cultures and social undercurrents for their most saleable elements until there’s a seismic kickback. But we’re not beholden to the resultant trends. We don’t have to buy into everything the industry churns out, and assigning wear-by dates is as good a way as any to approach fashion from a more considered place. Taking a moment to assess the shelf life of a shirt or a pair of trousers allows us to escape the seasonal, monthly and even weekly frenzy of new styles we’re subjected to. 

It’s not about being unable to wear something after three months because the fashion magazines are telling you not to, it’s about pre-empting the inevitable fatigue we feel for the latest big thing after seeing it everywhere, from Instagram to the sale rail of your local supermarket. 

To stretch this metaphor as far as humanly possibly, what you’re looking for is the tinned food of fashion; the pieces that you can rely on years down the line when everything else has shriveled into insignificance. Those pieces are the real essence of your personal style. Are they immune from becoming the next blogger must-have? There are no guarantees, but they’re sure to outlast whatever may be the next new omnipresent trend.

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