THE only thing that worried me about getting married, some years ago, was what to wear. I spent hours online and in the shops, but as the day drew closer had found nothing that did not make me look like the mother of the bride or on my way to Las Vegas.

Not for the first time it was my partner who solved the problem. He went through my wardrobe – it didn’t take long – and pulled out a scarlet cocktail dress I had worn to several parties and a couple of family weddings. It wasn’t new, but it was perfect for the occasion: not in its first flush of youth, but cheerfully upbeat and stylish.

I’m far from alone in having gone vintage at the altar or registry office. Since then, the fashion for old togs, if you can call it fashion, has been gathering momentum. After Kate and William, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, instructed attendees to the Earthshot Prize awards ceremony last weekend not to buy anything new, actor Emma Thomson summed up what all the guests were surely feeling: “Can you imagine the relief?”

As the cost of our throwaway culture has reached a tipping point, novelty is fast losing its lustre. Where previously it was normal to buy stuff you would only wear once, now aged and second-hand garb is recognised as being as beautiful as brand new. Possibly more. The 10-year-old Alexander McQueen gown Kate wore to the awards will still look good in 20 years. By that time, I’m willing to bet, her daughter will be giving her designer labels a fresh lease of life.

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Most of us can get away with second or third appearances in striking outfits, but those in the paparazzi’s sights would, in the past, have been ridiculed for being so cheap or lazy.

It was refreshing, then, when Kate was photographed at public events, some time back, wearing exactly the same clothes as before. By so doing, she generated not a little bemusement and respect. This was a calculated statement not even Diana would dared to have made. In her era, royalty and celebrities were rated more highly as clothes horses than individuals.

Now, even fashionistas are promoting the idea that every new item we buy should be worn at least 30 times. That’s hardly demanding when it comes to socks or jeans, but for those of us for whom a major social event is as rare as an eclipse, it might be unrealistic for big ticket items.

Hence the increasing popularity of hiring dresses and suits for one-off occasions. Behaving less wastefully goes hand in hand with the growing number who forage in charity shops, and return home boasting of the treasures they’ve found. At the same time, repair shops, and the skills of darning, mending and remaking are enjoying a resurgence.

The eco benefits of rethinking what we wear are obvious, as is the environmentally conscious mindset this promotes. For some, however, it comes more easily than for others. Since the middle ages – and doubtless long before that – the urge to stand out from the crowd has been universal. The first cave dweller to turn up wearing alligator rather than antelope was making history on a par with the extinction of dinosaurs.

Medieval law courts were filled with peasants issued with fines for imitating the way their social superiors dressed. Their sort were banned from wearing silk, furs, or embroidered fabrics, while materials in bright colours were mainly reserved for the aristocracy.

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Even monks, who supposedly eschewed worldly pleasures, gave in to the temptation of wearing winkle-pickers twice as long as their feet. These shoes were so diabolically pointed that forensic archaeologists can tell the skeletons of dandies from their dowdier brothers by the number of fractures and bunions such footwear caused.

In our own times, when almost anyone can look well-dressed without spending a fortune, the upper classes have often distinguished themselves by baggy, frayed or moth-eaten cashmere, moleskin, Viyella and tweed. The more slovenly and time-ravaged their attire, the more clearly they stand apart.

It is a well-accepted fact that among the denizens of Edinburgh’s New Town it’s not just pearls and Persian carpets that are passed down the generations, but long johns and flannel nighties too. Certainly, it takes the confidence that money brings to appear in clothes that, back in the day, even Oxfam would have spurned. Glaswegians, by contrast, generally prefer their clothes straight out of the box.

As the youngest child, I fell heir to countless hand-me-downs. The baggier the better, as far as I was concerned, which is still the case. If an adjective could sum up my ideal style, it would be threadbare.

Heading out the door, I’m as happy to grab my husband’s jersey or jacket as my own; the more lived-in and less tailored, the more comfortable I feel.

There’s no moral virtue in this, simply a dislike of clothes shopping or feeling dressed up. Even when I splash out on something new, it spends a period of quarantine on a hanger while I adjust to the idea of wearing it. By the time it gets an outing, it is not what anyone else would call a la mode.

Most of my friends would baulk at such frumpishness. Their image and identity is closely tied to their appearance, and the creativity they display in how they dress expresses their personality. Like it or not, clothes speak loudly about who we are and how we see ourselves, whatever our gender.

In C S Lewis’s Narnia novels, the wardrobe through which the children stepped into another world reeked of mothballs protecting the family’s furs. Today, it’s not furs but the future of the planet that our wardrobes of well-loved, long-lived, recycled clothes will help preserve.

Adapting to a make-do and mend lifestyle might be bad news for the retail industry and people who follow catwalk fashion, although I suspect it’ll simply prompt them to more imaginative heights. Meanwhile, for those of us who already inhabit the netherworld of the much-worn and distressed, our time seems to have come. I’d like to say that now we can shine, but since we are happiest blending into the background, that’s unlikely to happen.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Herald.