This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
Thanks to Maggie Cox – former journalist, fashion retailer and author of It’s Never Too Late To Look Great! – for her views and tips on stylish clothes for over fifties. Just turned 80, she has a quirky take on what young-at-heart-oldies can, and should, wear. Read her previous articles HERE
“Just stop buying any more clothes if you are really worried about sustainability” my friend Barbara said to me the other day. “Mmm….” I thought, “That’s a tough one.” I love clothes. They give me a buzz. They keep me feeling young.
But, in the wake of COP26, I know I shouldn’t be so hooked into the idea of dressing up, because the fashion clothing industry is the second largest polluter of our planet’s resources. It guzzles water to grow cotton, it decimates trees to make fabrics, it burns energy to run clothing factories. And it creates mountains of waste material ending up in landfill. And I know full well we should not be buying every new ‘must have’ just to keep up with the ‘trends’.
So why am I so excited about clothes when I know they’re doing harm to our one-and only-world? And why should I be encouraging more women, especially young-oldies, to have fun with clothes? I have to admit, there is no perfect answer. But I believe we can still enjoy what we wear and make a contribution to sustainability.
One big decision we can all make is to buy clothes from nearly new shops. You wouldn’t believe what high fashion, good quality outfits women sometimes discard for us to snap up at a bargain price – and help save the planet.
Nearly new shops are the super-spreaders of fashion sustainability. Second-hand clothes and accessories no longer have an environmental impact. They have already been through resource-stripping and manufacturing mills and they can keep us in the style to which we’re accustomed at a fraction of the cost of buying brand new.
There’s a wonderful one of these super-spreader shops in the small town where I live, Stow on the Wold. It’s called Beetroot and is owned and managed by Emily Comber.
Emily says: “Nearly new has always been a joy to me. I’ve been buying second-hand since I was 16 when I was short of money and, as a midlife professional woman, this has continued. I bought nearly new suits and jackets of a quality that I could never have afforded in mainstream boutiques. In my shop at the moment there are two Prada suits which are so well made they look incredible. Why buy a new suit when you can buy something special for the same price as a cheap high street one”.
In Beetroot there are rails and rails of colourful and stylish, casual and special occasion clothes – all dry cleaned, pressed and ready to go. As an added bonus there’s an excellent on-site seamstress, Margaret, who’s often made adjustments to things I’ve bought. She doesn’t charge a fortune. And who doesn’t need the odd hem taken up, or down, and a seam expanded.
“I’ve put together hundreds of wedding outfits for women who don’t want to pay an extortionate price for a one-day occasion. But students – they are my heroes – they get it. They see the planet-saving benefits of buying recycled designer clothes at knockdown prices. And they know they will look really good in well made, stylish outfits. They head en masse for my shop in the Christmas and Spring and Summer holidays. And I help by providing gift vouchers for Mums to pass on to them!” adds Emily.
Now, I know some over-fifties shy away from second-hand clothes. But buying pre-loved clothes has always seemed to make sense to me. Indeed it was this that prompted me to start my own nearly new shop, in Stow, four decades ago when it was only just becoming voguish. Emily, very kindly said, it was my pioneering shop that inspired her to set up her own business many years later. I can only guess that some people don’t like the idea of wearing something that has been on someone else’s body. But why? For example, we all go on holiday and sleep on many times recycled hotel sheets!
So please, do research your nearest nearly new shop. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the variety and up-market styles you’ll find at prices to suit your pocket. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be doing your bit to save the only planet we have.