Go shopping in your wardrobe: Caryn Franklin’s sustainable fashion tips for feelgood style | The last taboo


The unprecedented lifestyle changes of the last few months have led many of us to ditch sharp, office-ready outfits and dressier pieces in favour of more casual, comfortable, feelgood items. But what are the implications of this style shift for many of the clothes hanging in our wardrobes? Now is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate what you have and discover how you can make garments work in new ways. There’s no need to splash out on new items when there’s so much potential just waiting to be realised. Let’s talk shop …

Crack the Zoom dress code
As virtual meet-ups continue to be a thing, it’s all about perfecting your upper body presentation. A simple shirt in a bold colour dispenses an easy pop of on-screen optimism, while a large pair of swingy earrings elevates monochrome blouses. But this needn’t become your uniform; I’m giving necklaces and ties an outing too and revisiting the styling opportunities of bright fabric scarves, in my hair or at my neck.

Illustration of woman on video call

Novelty is both visually and mentally stimulating, and in the longer game we need to experience ourselves in broader terms; stimulating a range of emotions and sensations that will power our drives and motivations. “Enclothed cognition” is the process of being psychologically influenced by what we wear. In 2012, researchers found that participants carrying out a set of tasks had better attention levels when they were wearing a lab coat described to them as a “doctor’s coat”.

Illustration of pair of earrings with quote: 'A large pair of swingy earrings elevates monochrome blouses'

Reuse, renew, recycle
So, knowing that our wardrobes can be a source for mental invigoration, why not have fun styling up a mix of new looks from old favourites? A chunky and much-loved knitwear cardigan can be a timeless outfit builder. Pulled in at the waist with a charity-find leather belt or arranged open and falling elegantly to either side, you could get crafty. What about adding a novelty faux fur collar, held in place with a few stitches? Or carrying out a little wardrobe surgery? I’ve recently created a new garment by cutting a knitted frill from a much-loved, but moth-scoffed, woollen dress and joining it to the hem of a hand-knit jumper. I’m loving my exotic, above the knee, sweater dress teamed with trousers. Specialists transforming worn articles into brand-new outfits are a growing breed; I now have a variety of items by Annika-N.co.uk, one of many upcycling creatives to be found.

For your own sewing projects, home in on premium fabrics. These may be coats you own in wool or cashmere mixes, which have that lovely springy feel to the touch. Good quality never dates and micromending can make all the difference between pass and class. Linings can be gently stitched back in place, falling hemlines fixed, and why not rejuvenate with vintage buttons? Whether your coat is a single or double-breasted standard, or a wrap style with a flattering cinched-in waist, the key to coat nirvana is in the heavy, opulent swish you experience as you pull the garment around you to step outside.

Illustration of sewing a button with quote: 'Why not rejuvenate with vintage buttons?'

Loved clothes last! And seamstress or tailoring services can be found at most dry cleaners to change hemlines, necklines, add length or even panels for fit. You can recommission good quality items you no longer wear because natural woven fabrics are easy to alter – holding their shape well, on and off the body.

For absolute laid-back luxe, there’s nothing so effortlessly chic as a crisp pair of dark-indigo jeans. Ring the changes and team them with anything from heels and a pussy-bow blouse, to brogues and knits, or a classic Breton top and pumps. I’ve enjoyed repairing my old denims with time-consuming stitch-darning by securing fabric underneath the worn area and sewing a multitude of neat stitches in vertical rows on top for a quilting effect. To ease signs of ageing, I regularly paint the fading knee areas of my everyday jeans with a premixed Dylon solution to pep them up. I keep my pristine pair for best, of course.

Look no further for your new blue jeans than UK companies prioritising repair, recycling and ethical processes. Blackhorse Lane Atelier or Mud Jeans are great places to start.


Master the art of layering
In recent seasons, fashion has prioritised the oversized dress. Full and voluminous, this garment delivers both comfort and cool in-the-know currency. Perhaps you have one and are wondering about its continued service, especially as the temperature drops. The trick is to get clever with layering: an ageless yet thoroughly modern polo neck offers perfect insulation when worn underneath. If you are seeking out an oversized dress, why not be brave and have fun with colour or print? Alternatively, many online styles showcase neutrals, which are easier to layer over formal trousers, leggings and boots, or jeans. Another option is to reinstate that shirt-waister dress – around since the 1950s, this timeless classic has offered a conventional silhouette to ring the changes and is another great building block for layered looks.

Illustration of trainers with quote: 'Step out in comfort'

Go hell for leather
Jacket, handbags and winter boots need a little TLC to dazzle, so nourish with leather butter for suppleness and shine. The biker jacket, an all-rounder over dresses and jeans also contrasts pleasingly with tailored trousers to deliver instant androgyny. Make your trousers fly-front with side pockets, and your choice of wide or narrow hemlines. Your personal decision on cuts and silhouettes that flatter your shape counts for far more than a fashion editor’s trend recommendations. Retry your current selection of trousers under tops and tunics of different lengths to find new and fun ways to enjoy them.

Keep your feet on the ground
For footwear, your classic and comfortable go-to could be the smart white trainer or lace-up pump. Worn with either tailored trousers or casual dresses for indoor and dry outdoor ease, you’ll find companies presenting hybrid models designed for stepping out, not working out. Once again, make your purchase count, backing a small independent such as Po-Zu, to enjoy biodegradable natural cork soles and solvent-free uppers.

With time on your side thanks to the working from home revolution – and a new attitude to style – why not branch out into wardrobe swapping and clothes rental, or online secondhand shopping? Curate a personal look on your terms and spend your money wisely.

Caryn Franklin is a contributing writer to M-Boldened: Menopause Conversations We All Need to Have. Edited by Caroline Harris. Flint Books, published October 2020.

With bladder weakness affecting one in three women over 35, it’s time to overcome the taboos around incontinence. TENA aims to help women feel sexy, confident and able to wear what they like. Find out more at tena.co.uk/women

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