Imagine this. You put hours and hours of work into an outfit. You think you’ve done a pretty good job and are feeling quite pleased with yourself.

You enter yourself and your outfit into Fashions on the Field. And you fail. Miserably.

Do you bury the outfit deep in the back of the closet never to be looked upon again? Or would you have enough faith in yourself to recycle?

The Event that Made me Question my Style

I attended Derby Day at Flemington this year in a dress I designed and made together with my fabulous friend Andrew Semple.

We spent forever working on this dress and I loved it! (You can hear all about the making of the dress in my outfit design guide).

On stage, I was hopeful the judges would recognise all the planning, creativity and effort that went into my dress. But I was booted off without a second glance.

To say it was disheartening would be a lie. I was devastated!

Not only was I disappointed, it made me question my entire personal sense of fashion and style.

I was drowning in self-doubt.

A Second Chance – To Reuse or not to Reuse?

Then one Friday night a couple of weeks later, a friend casually mentioned that there was a FOTF event on the next day.

The prize was two return tickets to your choice of either Hong Kong, Beijing, Japan or Shanghai. A burning urge overcame me. I dragged out the dress.

With just 12 hours to get an outfit together for the Tattersall’s FOTF competition I didn’t have the time to shop.

And in any case, I wanted to wear my white dress one more time because hey… where else am I ever going to wear it?

It’s not exactly a party or dinner dress. Plus, I worked way too hard to have it go down as a one hit wonder.

I’ve never just re-used a complete outfit before. There’s always a voice in my head saying, “If you didn’t win the first time what makes you think it will win the next time?”

And other peoples’ voices saying, “Why is that woman wearing exactly the same outfit?”

But I’m all about re-working garments. I’ll take a skirt from here and put it there and take a dress apart, add new embellishments. Stick new features on a plain hat.

Examples of Times when I’ve Re-Worked Garments

As an example, here is my “Atlantis Dress”. I first wore it in 2013 for the QLD State Finals. I came second place and still absolutely love this dress.

Reusing racewear fashions on the field

I was determined to wear it again but as I’d worn it to the State Finals, I had to change it up before entering again later in the year at Spring Carnival.

Hundreds of hours were spent beading in some colour, adding fringing to the hem, making a new bag, sewing on three different necklaces and visiting my milliner Meredith McMaster to come up with a new hat.

My hard work paid off with a Top 10 Place at Oaks Day at Flemington which was a huge success for me!

Atlantis dress recycled embellishment

Here’s another outfit I put together using a top from my 2012 Melbourne Cup outfit, skirt from my 2014 Melbourne cup outfit and hat from 2013 Oaks Day outfit- accessories were all recycled too.

Reusing old race dress

But back to my story…

Wearing my White Dress – Take 2

Arriving at the racecourse in my ‘used’ white dress, I felt fantastic. Not so confident for Fashions on the Field but determined to enjoy the day with my friends regardless.

I got up on stage for the heats and was called through to the Top 5 prelim finals.

WOO HOO!

The judges debated for a really, really long time. Finally, as I stood shaking with anticipation, they announced the winner.

Me!

Shocked and overwhelmed, it was hard to keep the tears from flowing over.

Faith was restored within myself, and in my fashion choices.

What I’ve learnt about Rewearing Outfits

Whether it was the feel of the day that was different, the season was more summery, or maybe they liked the different hat. Or perhaps it was just that everyone has such vast opinions and tastes.

The moral is, you can’t let what one person likes, determine the essence of a winning outfit.

My advice (now) is that if you have an outfit you love and know is amazing- don’t be afraid to give it another shot. It might just get you overseas on an exciting holiday!

How Other Women have Recycled Outfits

I recently asked the ladies in the Field Fashion Community Facebook Group if they’ve ever reused or recycled an outfit. They had such great examples that I asked if I could share them here to give you some inspiration. Here’s what they had to say…

reuse race day dress examples

Jen Marsh: “I have to admit I’ve done it numerous times now…I used to get quite thingy about it but like you said Milano racing fashion is an expensive hobby. On the right I had the dress made 2 weeks before Adelaide Cup 2015. I never got my green hat finished (& almost didn’t enter) so had to recycle a white headpiece I had. Amazingly I came second runner up! The pic on the left was from Feb this year – I took the dress in a heap, shortened the sleeves a fraction, added a belt and finally finished off the hat from the previous year and this time won the local fashions at the races.”

rewearing race dress

Image credit: Jen Marsh

Natalie Zielke: “Definitely need to re-wear outfits/ pieces. I’ve done it a lot! Just mix up different pieces each time I say – make it feel newer to you 

reuse pink race dress

revamped garment

rewear races outfit

Image credit: Natalie Zielke

Tracy Press: “Sure have ! And was lucky enough to be sashed both times. Our clothes just can’t sit in the cupboard and not be reused I feel. 

reusing racewear

Image credit: Tracy Press

Jacquettaa Arnold: “This is so easy to do when you make your own outfits.”

homemade changes to racing fashion

Image credit: Jacquettaa Arnold

Danielle Shaw: “Lace skirt, three seasons & different linings”.

recycled white lace skirt

Image credit: Danielle Shaw

Kat Clarke: “On the left was Caulfield in Rockhampton three years ago and the right was the Emerald 100 in Emerald last year.”

revamped race dress

Image credit: Kat Clarke

Kacey Lloyd: “Totally ok to rewear!! Especially when you fall in love with a dress or piece of millinery!! If it makes you feel a million bucks when you wear it why not wear it again!! ???? I have an Alex Perry dress that I have worn a few times in FOTF where I felt like the judges didn’t even give me a look, at Magic Millions and Brissy! Then made top 5 Caulfield Cup day last year!!

reusing racewear

Image credit: Kacey Lloyd

 

So as you can see it looks like I’m not the only one who recycles my outfits. Get creative and try mixing up your old outfits with different accessories. Let me know how you go and send me a photo of your recycled outfit so I can add it to this post – milano@milanoimai.com

If you enjoyed this post about recycling outfits, you might also enjoy my post about reusing and revamping your millinery.