Photos: Claire Pepper 


How to find clothes that will last for ever

As part of Wear Your Clothes week, The Pool team discuss which items have become the longest-standing, most versatile pieces in their wardrobes – and why

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By Hannah Banks-Walker on

The oldest adage around the concept of sustainable fashion is “buy less, wear more”, which can be easier said than done. Of course, we know we should all be more conscientious when it comes to shopping; buying from ethical brands is the gold standard, while the high street’s various capsule collections with sustainable credentials come in a close second. Then there’s the idea that if you spend a shed-load of money on one item, it will last for much longer. While the idea of cost-per-wear is certainly valid, luxury fashion has, like everything else, had to move with the times. Platforms like Instagram have meant that the pace of high fashion has changed completely – where, once, collections were strictly seasonal and previewed only by a small circle of editors and buyers at fashion week, there are now see-now-buy-now offerings, as well as shows streamed live on social media. As a result, demand is much higher, turnover much faster and the argument concerning luxury fashion as “slow” fashion doesn’t hold as much weight as it once did.

One thing we can all do to reduce the rate of our consumption is to rediscover our old clothes. It may not initially seem like a prospect as exciting as that of wafting into Zara one lunchtime, only to emerge clutching a pristine summer frock, but in reality, it can be a lot more fulfilling. With this in mind, The Pool team decided to consider which items aren’t just the longest-standing members of their wardrobes, but also the hardest working. What is worn every day, whatever the weather? And what’s the thing we reach for on those days when you simply can’t find anything that feels right? These are team Pool’s favourite clothes…


One day, the tumble dryer broke down and, when shopping for a replacement, my husband saw me lusting after a pair of shoes that cost more than the drier and said something chippy (he didn't know that I'd already bought the shoes and they were hidden in a box under the bed). Anyway, since then I've always stopped myself from spending too much money on clothes, although five years ago I had the fashion equivalent of a midlife crisis and splurged £380 on this YMC skirt with bones embroidered all over it. I actually don't know what came over me and I still feel guilty about spending all that money, but I still get a lot of enjoyment from wearing it and, cost-per-wear-wise, I've more than got my money from it. It's unique and a real statement skirt that hasn't dated at all. It's become a tradition to wear it on Halloween, too, and my friends now expect to see me in it.


I call this denim wonder my "work in progress." Part of the fun of customising your own jacket is the thrill of finding badges and patches that express little snapshots of your personality on textile – a walking scrapbook of me that sparks random conversations about my love of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in the queue at Pret. I have no particular connection to the denim itself – a hand-me-down from my mum, bought in the Levi’s sale a decade ago – but the jacket? It's a random scattering of me – and it's priceless.


I've always loved a good faux-fur coat. All the best characters, fictional and real, always seem to rock them – whatever the occasion. The more ostentatious the better, to me, and nothing is as ridiculous as my emerald green Antoni & Alison fur coat. Aside from being cheap as chips (I spotted it in a TK Maxx about five years ago, marked down by £100 and in my exact size), it's as toasty as it looks and has saved me from frostbite in many a nightclub queue. It truly has become a coat for all occasions, and has seen the best of times and the worst of times. Whether on a night out or nipping out to the corner shop, it elevates anything from drab to drag levels of glam and does all the hard work of looking fabulous, so I don't have to.


I can’t tell you how much I love this blouse. It’s saved my bacon on countless occasions when I’ve needed to look a bit smart but haven’t had the foresight to sort an outfit ahead of time. It’s easy to throw on, goes with all sorts and doesn’t even need an iron, such is the magic of its sturdy, lacy material. Every time I wear this, I get compliments. It makes me instantly feel more pulled-together. It’s one I’ve relied on for years, since it works well with all sorts – skirts, jeans, tailored trousers, even dungarees – and I know I’ll wear it for years to come, too.


This bag is the most expensive thing in my wardrobe by a long way. I agonised for ages over buying it and was terrified the first day I wore it – what if I scuffed it?! Fortunately, I got over that and have honestly worn it almost every day since (that was three years ago). I've worn it to weddings, it's come on holiday with me and I take it to the office every day. The size is perfect, I love the cross-body strap and the colour really cheers up whatever I'm wearing. Plus, it goes with absolutely everything in my wardrobe. It's the cost per wear dream. I'm actually about to send it off to be serviced – I want this bag to last forever and am determined to properly look after it.


I love this dress. It's a cross between a comfort blanket and the stuff that comes out of the Fairy Godmother's wand in Cinderella; it never fails to make me feel both confident that I've got a solid outfit on and pleased that I look a little bit lovely in it. This dress has seen me through university seminars, pub quizzes, first days at work, dates with my husband, lazy Sundays, warm spring days, freezing cold winters – the lot. It looks just as good with thick tights, boots and a cardi as it does with trainers or heels and a statement necklace. I wear it when I'm nervous about something and need my outfit to double as mental battle-armour, and when I don't need to think about my outfit at all. I've worn it so much I've had to do a few repairs on it, but it's worth it – you'll be pulling this dress from my cold, dead hands.

Click here for the buy-now-wear-forever edit 

With thanks to Heather Jackson at Smashbox

This is part of our Wear Your Clothes week, an editorial series discussing sustainability and transparency within the fashion industry and looking at what we can do to love, treasure and make the most of the clothes that we enjoy wearing


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Photos: Claire Pepper 
Tagged in:
Hannah Banks-Walker
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