Livia Firth
Livia Firth photo: Vogue

The True Cost documentary has made me think. A lot. About conspicuous consumption and my responsibility as a fashion journalist and human being. I always advocate long term style over fast fashion, particularly now we can buy what we want when we want (online). And I realise that by chucking more product at That’s Not My Age, I have a duty to check that the brands I’m featuring have valid ethical policies. This is something I intend to do, wherever possible.

Livia Firth creative director of Eco-Age, founder of The Green Carpet Challenge and co-producer of the film said in Sunday Times Style, ‘At the moment of purchase, think “Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?” If the answer is yes, then buy the item. If it’s no, then don’t.’

I’m calling this Considerate Consumption. Let’s hope it catches on.

29 thoughts on “Livia Firth on considerate consumption

  1. Yes, I like the 30 times pre-purchase check, but that doesn’t work for the red carpet (aka special occasion for the rest of us). I’ve read that Livia uses vintage and buys less but it’s those kind of occasions you are lucky to get 6 wears out of an outfit – and they clog your wardrobe. Are the only options hire, borrow or wear again in different ways? #firstworldproblems

  2. Agree with Sarah, occasion dressing can be a problem, I go for pieces which can dress up an outfit. I find you can then ring the changes and they can be worn lots of times. Dresses are trickier.

  3. Great idea this. I honesty have never thought of how many wears I will get, but do think of if it adds to my wardrobe in a way I need. I agree buying recycled or gently used clothes is a great idea and everyone should try it. I’ve found some of my most favorite and unique pieces that way !

  4. I’m sure her intentions are good but I’m getting a bit tired of being lectured at and ‘educated’ by Stella Mc Cartney clad millionaires in their pretty little ivory towers. I’m a reasonably intelligent grown-up and I can research certain issues as they impact on my life and make my own mind up about what I will and won’t spend my money on. I wonder how keen she’d be to take some unsolicited, patronising advice from a stranger? Not very, I suspect.

  5. I am a fan of quality recycled clothing. That said, the Rule of 30 is a pretty good yardstick whether the contemplated purchase is new or recycled.

  6. Another thought provoking post. Thank you. Yes, I agree with Sarah and your other readers. It’s very admirable and wise to think before making a purchase, “Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?”, but surely this line of thought would only apply when buying everyday casual clothing? And only then, if the clothing is of decent quality. Some probably don’t even think “Will I get to wear this 30 times”, when perhaps the best they can afford, will fall apart after the second wash. Therefore it makes sense to buy the best quality you can afford . . . . . if possible.

    It’s wise to be mindful at all times. I buy the best quality I can; also pieces that will coordinate with other things in my wardrobe. I keep up-to-date with current fashion trends, but I’m not a slave to them. I know what suits me and enjoy mixing new items with vintage. There are of course, those that can’t bear the thought of wearing something that’s been previously worn and loved – they simply do not ‘get’ vintage, which is unfortunate as they’re seriously missing a trick! Authentic vintage pieces are usually made from quality fabrics with lots of fine detailing that you simply wouldn’t find on the high-street. And, despite what a lot of people think, any age can wear vintage. You may not be inclined to wear a 1960s space age mini dress, but there is a wide variety of styles from across the decades to choose from.

    I admit to wearing my favourite casual pieces to death (definitely over 30 times), although not on consecutive days I might add!

    My wardrobe is gone through a couple of times a year, and anything that I’ve not worn for around 12 months or so is given to my local charity shop, unless it has great sentimental value, in which case I keep it.

    When it comes to evening or occasion wear, rather than ask myself “Will I wear this 30 times?”, I’d probably be more inclined to think . . . .

    Do I absolutely LOVE it?
    Will it suit my personal style and figure?
    Does the manufacturing quality warrant the price tag?
    Will I wear it?

    I find it much easier shopping these days. I’ve learned what suit me, and very rarely make impulse buys or spend money on things I know I’ll never wear.

  7. I like the idea of this. There are complications. Surprisingly, many of the “fast fashion” clothes I have bought in the past (before I was aware of the issues) have actually lasted long enough to wear way more than 30 times. Virtually all of the quality items I have purchased have either lasted for more than 30 wearings, or they will as I continue to wear them. So, it isn’t necessarily the quality of the item, which is what I thought the author meant, at first.

    If it is a question of envisioning the DESIRE to wear an item more than 30 times, then I think that (maybe) the older one gets, the more easily imagined this is. So, that is harder for me to use as a test.

    Maybe the first question is, “Does the planet want me to wear this and then pass it along to the chain of events that lead to its ultimate demise?”

  8. For those special occasions why not try “Rent the Runway”? I had a wedding to attend and have pared down my wardrobe to things I can wear and wash (no cleaning bills) so my semi formal options are nil. Renting a beautiful outfit was the perfect solution.

  9. I like questions like this. Even if the answer is unlikely to be ‘yes, I’ll wear it 30 times’ it would make me pause and think about whether I need it – not just whether I want it. The other idea (learned from my mother-in-law) which works in this way is to thrown out/give away something in your existing wardrobe when you buy something new. It’s a sort of ‘replace’ not ‘add’ philosophy. Love the phrase ‘considerate consumption’ – something to aspire to in a world designed to tempt us otherwise.

  10. This inspired me to try to calculate how many times I’ve worn some of the dresses and skirts I own, and I think what I have learned is that winter clothes hold up to 30 wears much better than summer clothes do. I *would* wear my cotton knit summer dresses 30 times and more, but even the Eileen Fisher dresses don’t continue looking fresh for that many wears, so end up downgraded to casual and even beach wear. Linen tees seem to hold up quite a bit longer than cotton ones. I cold wash and hang dry virtually everything I own. Suggestions for brands, fabrics, care, etc that extend clothing life would be much appreciated.

  11. I really appreciate this on many levels. I was a style consultant for several years and it was interesting to me how many of my clients had clothes hanging in their closets that they had never worn, price tags on, gathering dust. They had been purchased because they were purchased at a great price and with good intention. It was interesting to me too because some of these women felt they didn’t have much money to update their wardrobe but had spent a lot of money on things they never used. One client had a couple thousand dollars on clothing and bags in her closet that she had never worn. We took it to a resale
    shop and she received a fraction of what she paid for it originally. Three things I always said to my clients:
    1) Don’t buy it if you don’t LOVE it. Even if it’s only a few dollars, chances are you won’t wear it and it will clutter your closet making it hard to see what you do have and contribute to the overwhelm feeling of ‘I have nothing to wear today’ . 2) Take a video on your phone of your closet so you know what you have and pull it out at the store, watch it as a reminder and don’t buy duplicate or triplicate items. Often times, I would see several of the same type of thing in a woman’s closet. 3) If you buy something new, make sure you have 3 things at home to wear it with. I called this the 3 item rule and it save my clients thousands of dollars. If they weren’t sure, they would put the item on hold, go home and assess what they had. Usually they realized the impulse purchase would not serve them well. Lastly, a couple things I would add now would be: shop according to your values and with purpose instead of recreation. I hope these bits are helpful to someone who reads this. Thought not rocket science, the information would often give my clients an ‘aha’ moment.

    Alyson, I love your blog. It makes me happy to see your email in my inbox most mornings. I may no longer be a stylist, but I still love fashion and help friends here and there. Starting in real estate and I hope to be a very stylish agent! I’m counting on you to keep me in the loop as to keeping good style and not becoming dowdy or conservative in my maturing years! Thank you for what you bring to the world.

  12. I love Louise’s way of doing things, and that’s more and more the way I operate these days. I think wise women, mindful women, have been going this way for years. It’s just recently that this fast fashion craze has grown full strength.

    As a blogger, I’d very much like to get involved with this movement, so any ways in which you might be able to keep us informed and updated will be very much appreciated.


  13. Well…..there is a middle ground!

    I rarely buy clothes brand new (other than shoes) but am a great fan of Ebay. Some great bargains to be had, then once I’m bored with them back they go to be re-sold. Apart from my lovely Jaeger camel coat, bought for a song. I’ll wear it forever! Not about fashion but all about style!

  14. Great post. I am all on board with the buy less, buy well. In fact, my book is about a lifestyle dedicated to exactly that. I would like to refer to some sites supporting ‘considerate consumption’. I would love to include yours.

  15. Louise- thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree , it makes sense to buy the best you can afford – and mixing a little vintage with new stuff, makes for a far more interesting outfit. I also wear things to death and give to charity. Great minds…

  16. Couldn’t agree more Alison. A companies ethics and core values matter. Most fast fashion won’t hold up for 30 wearings! Investment dressing folllows the wear 30 wears rule. It’s how I’ve dressed for years. Let’s “help” it catch on.

  17. What a great mantra while shopping. I am trying to shrink my carbon footprint and expand my retirement savings.

  18. Great idea. How many items currently hanging in my closet have I actually worn less than 30 times?! Too many. WFT is my new focus. Thanks.

  19. Such good advice. I always tell my daughter when she balks at the price of a pair of jeans. Is there any wardrobe item that deserves a heftier price tag than a pair of jeans? A dress that you wear to a wedding once…not so good. I shared this on my facebook page.

  20. Mrs. Firth’s instagram blog is interesting. She often names ethical clothing companies as well as commenting on “Clothes with Stories”. In the last year we have seen her in a driesvannoten dress that was handed down to her a few years ago by her friend and opera singer, Francesca Franci. Her Kami organic jacket is worn often together with trousers from the Shakespeare in Love premiere. How many years ago was that! A dress worn in 1964 by Mrs. Firth’s mother when she got engaged at twenty-one. A Missoni dress from the 70’s left to Mrs. Firth and her sister by a friend. A lovely photograph of Mrs. Firth’s mother leaving on her honeymoon in 1967. Mrs. Firth wore the same dress at last year’s Contemporary Society Gala. And so it goes. She practices what she preaches. Inspiring.

  21. I would love to see this film and will seek it out. For years I’ve focused on vintage and previously worn items. It’s become a lifestyle and brings me much pleasure. I like the “30 wear” question, and will take it with me into the future!

  22. I love the idea of considerate consumption. It helps prevent impulse buying — more money in my wallet and more in space in the wardrobe for only the things I love.

  23. Candice – WFT, I like it!

    Cindy – completely agree with you about jeans. I live in them.

    Carole – thank you, thank you. I will seek out Livia Firth on Instagram

  24. Making (some of) ones own clothes, perhaps provides another angle on this. I’ve recently started dress-making, having not used a sewing maching until a few months ago. It’s an absorbing hobby and a way of wearing unique and stylish clothes made according to my precise requirements and design. OK so dress-making still involves consumption (of fabric etc.). But I’d hardly throw away some precious item that I’d made by hand, until it had genuinely been worn to death! Also, once you start looking at fabric and workmanship through a sewer’s eyes, fast fashion seems so utterly trashy that it’s easy to avoid. I appreciate that this route isn’t for everyone of course!

  25. Sarah: Many of the young designers who made the sustainable evening dresses that Mrs. Firth has worn to red carpet/green carpet events graciously agreed that she could donate them to the Oxfam Auction held last year or so at Selfridges in London. Oxfam benefitted financially and other women had the opportunity to buy and wear the dresses. Perhaps they, in turn, have passed them on to other women. Also, while attending the auction, Mrs. Firth purchased a sweater that had been worn and donated by Annie Lenox. Mrs. Firth then wore it to the premiere of the film KINGSMAN in Paris!

  26. Thank you to the dynamic Alyson Walsh who brings us so many thought-provoking subjects everyday in her blog THAT’S NOT MY AGE. Pertinent to this particular blog is an excerpt from her wonderful article on Helen Mirren turning 70! This is such a crazy brilliant idea….

    Do forget your luggage
    Taking travelling light to a whole new level, Mirren once admitted that she only takes underwear on holiday: she heads straight to a charity shop on arrival to buy the rest of her holiday wardrobe, then drops it all off again before catching a flight home. No suitcase, no surcharge, donating to charity – this could be the single greatest budget-airline-defying travel plan. I can’t believe it hasn’t caught on.

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