The top I’m wearing here isn’t in the shops – it’s from my own wardrobe and about five years old, so you can’t buy it. So it goes against the No 1 rule of fashion journalism: in order to be useful, I wear and write about stuff that you can go out and buy. Well, if it’s all right with you, I’m going to do things a bit differently from now on.

We’re all trying to shop more ethically, to not mindlessly buy clothes that will end up in landfill, right? I thought a good place to start would be by mixing up this column so that I’m still wearing a new look every week without being head to toe in new clothes. I’m hoping that since this is how we all actually dress anyway– wearing old favourites with new pieces – it will be more useful, rather than less.

Actually, the top I’m wearing here isn’t a top at all, it’s a dress. It is from Victoria Beckham’s VVB diffusion (ie cheaper) label and I wear it every winter over a white shirt, a silk blouse or polo neck. But I spent most of last month at fashion shows, where I every spare minute I’d scour all sightlines for leads on new looks and how to wear them, and I noticed that there’s a thing happening for Downstairs Layering. This sounds vaguely rude, but just means wearing a long knit or jacket or light coat over trousers or a long skirt.

You can buy the whole look off the peg, but you almost certainly don’t need to. You probably have at least half of it in your wardrobe already. A structured, neat, short-ish sleeveless dress that is languishing in there, because we’re not in a structured-neat-dress moment, right now turns out to be perfect as a tunic over wide-legged trousers. Easier to wear, I think, than a loose-and-long top layer over trousers, which will swamp you if you’re not super-tall.

Reviving a piece that you already have, and like, isn’t just cheaper and more sustainable – it’s easier. You know that it fits, you know what kind of temperature it works in, what bra you need to wear. All those behind-the-scenes issues that you have to think through when you’re getting dressed and leaving the house. You’re saving money and saving waste, but also time and headspace.

Downstairs layering feels like a brand-new look, even without new clothes. This works with heels, but would also be good with chunky trainers. You want a coat that sits lower than the hem of your top, rather than a jacket. Even in layering, a little restraint makes for a good look.


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