fashion

'By 30, I was sick of fast fashion. So I found a style that worked for me, and stuck with it.'

At around 14, I fell hard for fashion. Like you (probably), I was obsessed with Sportsgirl -  remember those ads in Dolly and one of them was this like, cool hippie girl riding a horse nude? It made no sense, yet inspired me to let Sportsgirl eat up most of my allowance each month. 

I strutted through the school halls on Mufti Day like I was Bec Cartwright, decked out in baby tees with Mickey Mouse on them and pedal pushers.

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My obsession only continued as I got older. I had about seven of those elastic material belts from Supre, a whole jewellery box of long 'pearl' necklaces (my Gossip Girl phase, of course) and so on. 

You name the trend; I owned it. Big time.

By my 30s though, I was exhausted. I had credit card debt up to my eyeballs, and for what? Every time summer would roll back around, I’d lug down my space bag filled with compressed shorts and sift through the year prior’s fashion, culling 70 per cent of it because it had either fallen apart (thanks, fast fashion) or was “out of style”. 

Cue buying pretty much an entirely new wardrobe, set to be worn for around six months.

At first, my guilt was mainly finance-related. I felt sick thinking about how much money I was throwing away on clothes each year. Then, sustainability became the fashion buzzword and suddenly I was faced with some cold-hard facts. 

Like how every ten minutes, 6,000kg of clothing gets dumped into landfill in Australia. Or how of the 100 billion fashion items made each year in the world, 33 per cent go to landfill within the first year after someone’s bought it. Not fun to think about, huh?

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Nasty Gal pants and top, my go-to party outfit now + a WILD Camilla robe I borrowed off GlamCorner for my birthday last year. Image: Melissa Mason.

Underlying all of this guilt, though, I was just bloody TIRED.

I was so tired of feeling unfashionable, even when I spent all my money on fashion. I never felt like I had the right shoes, bag, dress. Even when I bought something I did love, I then felt like I needed to buy all these other bits and pieces to make it “work”. 

It felt like running in a hamster wheel made of $20 earrings I was trying to pass off as expensive designer gear.

Around this time, I fell in love with 70s music and the free-wheeling energy of the decade. After the millionth viewing of Almost Famous, something clicked. I loved 'Penny Lane’s' breezy, flamboyant style. 

I wanted to make it my own.

I started by finding the perfect denim flares (Rolla’s Eastcoast Flare, still my fave today), op shopping peasant shirts and other vintage items, or locating treasures on eBay and Depop, or at Vinnies. I found sustainably conscious brands that embraced the 70s, like Spell, Chasing Unicorns and Nine Lives Bazaar

Zara jacket, Chasing Unicorns shirt, Rolla's jeans, vintage Dior sunnies + Chasing Unicorns shirt, vintage suede jacket I got in San Fran, the best city for 70s thrift shopping. Image: Melissa Mason.

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These brands had focused on smaller collections and fashion longevity - the idea being you should wear their items for years, not months.

That was way back in 2017. Almost five years later, I still wear pretty much everything I bought back then. I rarely throw anything out. If I buy something I end up not liking, I’ll sell it on eBay or join a swap group to switch it out for something else - much easier to do since I’m selling timeless stuff, not fast fashion.

It’s a little nerve-wracking to be like “uh, no” to fashion trends and to march to the beat of your own drum instead, but I highly recommend it. 

My style didn’t slowly evolve - I literally made the decision to dress like a 70s groupie and I've stuck with it. 

It doesn’t have to be as wild as the 70s. Maybe go minimalist and build an actual capsule wardrobe of a few cherished dresses and tops, or some basics that fit well and last. 

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Maybe you go even louder than the 70s - sequins! Parakeet earrings! Shiny palazzo pants!

It’s also way easier to shop second-hand when you have a style you’re dedicated to. 

Instead of trying to snap up what everyone else is buying, you’re out here giving new life to some cool 50s cocktail dress - and it’s likely to be heaps cheaper than whatever is most popular, too.

Vintage coat I found for $70 in Murwillumbah, an old Tree of Life top I got at a swap meet, and some vintage Levi's jeans + a vintage nightie I wear as a dress! Image: Melissa Mason.

The best bit? Once you find your niche, you’ll feel stylish year after year because you’re doing your own thing, not trying to keep up with what everyone else is wearing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I might throw on my most dramatic fringed suede jacket for a quick walk to the shops.

For more fashion inspo, you can follow Melissa Mason here.

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