The many costs of changing wardrobes: Might rented or shared wardrobes might be a solution to multiple challenges?

We have written a lot about women who are making the shift in role and identity from teacher to leader, and what that means in practice.

We have found that women are buying new wardrobes (or wardrobe items) to ‘update’ their clothing to reflect their new roles.

We have found that these new wardrobe items are not cheap – and are often accompanied by expensive image upkeep regimens (hair, cosmetics, etc.).

We have found that there is a sense of frustration for many of our participants in relation to these issues. We have seen the effects of feedback, of ‘advice’ and of official and unofficial dress codes.

We have written about the intense scrutiny women leaders face in this area – often in public arenas. 

We have discussed the cost of looking like a leader for many of our participants. They have described significant financial costs. They have described significant amounts of time and energy being spent on these issues. And, in the case of some participants, they have decided to simply not do that anymore. Instead, those women described abandoning their morning hair and makeup rituals to reclaim that time to spend on reading, on leisurely breakfasts, or on morning meditation.

We have also discussed the costs of fashion, and consumerism writ large, on the environment. We’ve discussed the climate crisis and the role fashion is playing in creating more and more waste.

We are interested in the ways people are working to reduce some of these burdens. More and more, we are seeing options for more sustainable wardrobes.



For example, this article from a couple of weeks ago reported on a company who is renting work wardrobes. They speak about sustainability and affordability, but they do highlight another issue that is clear in our data, which is that they cater mostly to smaller sizes (this is something that arose in our survey, which we intend to write about more in the future – who ‘fits’ in to the image of leadership).

A similar project is being undertaken at Monash University, where ‘The Rack’ is offering wardrobe pieces to pre-service student teachers for a gold coin donation. Students will be able to rent clothing to wear on professional experience practicums, job interviews, internships, etc. Wardrobe items are donated from the Monash community (and beyond, I’d imagine), and I’ve seen students browsing the selection for a few weeks now and heard really positive feedback. You can read more about The Rack here.

We think sustainability, affordability, and accessibility are a great and important starting point for thinking about key requirements for solutions to some of the wardrobe barriers we’ve seen thrown up.

Do you have knowledge of any similar programs? Have you made use of any? What do you think about the premise? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you on twitter or on our survey.




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