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The Northern Ireland women who recycle their favourite outfits for decades

After TV presenter Konnie Huq revealed that she wears clothes a decade apart, Claire O'Boyle talks to three NI women who do just that... and asks them how they've kept their figure over the years.

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Black is back: Cathy Martin

Black is back: Cathy Martin

Striking style: Jane Holohan in her two-piece red suit

Striking style: Jane Holohan in her two-piece red suit

Freddie Parkinson

Deja vu: Jane Holohan in white shirt, waistcoat and jeans

Deja vu: Jane Holohan in white shirt, waistcoat and jeans

Freddie Parkinson

Jane wearing the same outfit in 2006

Jane wearing the same outfit in 2006

Blue order: Ellie McBride in a blue skirt in 2009 and (right) wearing the same skirt in 2017

Blue order: Ellie McBride in a blue skirt in 2009 and (right) wearing the same skirt in 2017

Mix ‘n’ match: Ellie wore this striking green dress at her prom in 2010

Mix ‘n’ match: Ellie wore this striking green dress at her prom in 2010

Ellie in the same dress in 2019 with husband Paul at a wedding

Ellie in the same dress in 2019 with husband Paul at a wedding

Cathy Martin

Cathy Martin

Black is back: Cathy Martin

Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq has revealed she still wears clothes she'd owned for 10 years or more.

The 44-year-old, who joined the iconic children's show in 1997, says she was still the same size she was when she was just 18, adding: "That means I'm tiny!"

Speaking on ITV's Loose Women, Konnie, a mum of two, told how working in TV meant she'd had clothes bought for her.

And now, she explained: "I do the thing of mending and making do."

With the subject of sustainable clothing making more and more of an impact around the world as reality hits about the fact so much our clothing ends up as landfill, Konnie's message has struck a chord.

‘I’m a bit of an old eco-warrior and worry about future generations’

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Striking style: Jane Holohan in her two-piece red suit

Striking style: Jane Holohan in her two-piece red suit

Freddie Parkinson

Striking style: Jane Holohan in her two-piece red suit

Belfast model and mum-of-four Jane Holohan explains why, like the presenter, she still enjoys items of clothing she's worn for many years.

"I'm a bit of an old eco-warrior," laughs Jane, who works with ACA Models. "I really worry about the resources we're using up and how that will impact on future generations.

"My mother always brought me up not to be a slave to fashion. She used to laugh and say, 'If you wait long enough, everything will come around again.' And she was right."

Jane, who is mum to former Miss Ireland Emir Holohan Doyle, says maintaining her size 8-10 figure to be able to fit into her old clothes hasn't always been easy.

"Pregnancy and age change our bodies, but vanity has always kept me trying to hold on," she says. "I like to feel comfortable in clothes, so tight waistbands are out for me.

"It is really nice being able to wear special clothes I've hung on to over the years and it's always great when they still fit. I can't bear anything uncomfortable - whether shoes or clothes. It would spoil the occasion for me."

So keeping on top of her figure, Jane, who works as a school counsellor, takes care with what she eats, and goes to the gym.

"I'm a size 8-10 and 5ft 5in tall," says the grandmother of 13. "I'm sometimes told that I'm lucky, but I honestly don't think it's luck. I am very careful about what I eat.

"I have a wheat intolerance and it was diagnosed when I was 28 so bread, pasta, cakes, sweets and biscuits have been off the menu for many years.

"I make a lot of my own foods, including energy bars. If I put on a few pounds, which I do very easily, I try and get back on track very quickly.

"My daughter Emir finally got me to the gym last year and I'm a regular there now. I really miss it when I can't go."

However, says Jane, whose family own the Holohan restaurants in Belfast, that doesn't mean she doesn't like a treat.

"I'm a sucker for a nice glass of wine and my weakness is cream and chips - in fact potatoes in any style. We make a dish called Boxty at the restaurants and I don't have an off button for it."

As well as being particular about her figure, Jane, who grew up in Dublin, has developed a very strong sense of style over the years, meaning she doesn't transform her wardrobe with every new trend that emerges on the catwalks.

"I've always chosen quite timeless pieces," she says. "I have always had a red suit in my wardrobe, and even now when I buy clothes I buy a lot on eBay.

"I love old tweed jackets and ankle boots, culottes, fitted dresses and stretchy skirts. I love stylish jumpsuits for evening wear and I'm a sucker for anything in linen and velvet, too.

"I honestly don't look at trends or follow fashion - I'm truly not stylish enough. My sister laughs at me and says I decide what I want to wear and then go looking for it. I normally spot something on someone else and want it."

And of course, crucial for hanging on to clothes over many years, is the ability to take care of the garments you have, says Jane.

"I'm not scrupulous but I hate waste so I will get clothes repaired or taken in and shoes mended, things like that," she says. "I'm careful with my clothes.

"I hang things back up after I wear them and while I'm not great at sewing I can manage a few minor repairs.

"I love upcycling and dyeing clothes back to their original newness. I recently dyed an old Paul Costello linen pinafore and changed the buttons for a new look.

"That's the beauty of buying good pieces and holding on to them. I hand wash a lot of things that call for dry cleaning, but for special items I used Clarkes on the Lisburn Road because they are so eco-friendly and really careful with clothes."

And while she doesn't have acres of storage for her clothes, Jane does keep treasured pieces in the attic and tends to recycle clothes by handing them on to her daughters or selling them on eBay, or putting them in a clothing bank if they're 'past their sell-by'.

Like many fashionistas, Jane's love of clothes started when she was a teenager.

"I grew up in Dublin and my teenage uniform was a pair of Wranglers from O'Connors in the city, an American 'Air Force' shirt complete with all the logos and clogs and a duffle coat," she remembers.

"I loved my flares, tank-tops and platforms. I borrowed a pair of blue and white striped dungarees from my friend, which she had to prise back off me.

"I still remember the thrill of squeezing myself into them and them being not quite dry, and my mother's warning that I would get arthritis in my old age - no comment."

Jane’s favourite fashion finds

Red suit

"I bought this 18 months before my wedding in 2010 to my husband Derek Fearons and hung it up and admired it. I love it and am always on the lookout to wear it somewhere. When my daughter Olivia was getting married in autumn 2018 I teamed it up with a scarf in the same material that Derek's kilt was made of. I had shoes ordered in the same material as the kilt but spectacularly broke my little toe two weeks before the event and had to wear flatties."

Waistcoat and jeans

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Deja vu: Jane Holohan in white shirt, waistcoat and jeans

Deja vu: Jane Holohan in white shirt, waistcoat and jeans

Freddie Parkinson

Deja vu: Jane Holohan in white shirt, waistcoat and jeans


"I bought this in a Gap sale in London years ago. I've worn it every year and it's my favourite item. I couldn't part with it. The really funny thing is that my lovely next door neighbour has one and she still wears hers too. This picture of me is from 2006 - you can hardly see the waistcoat but I'm wearing it. My Lee jeans are handovers from my daughter Emir, which she bought around 15 years ago."

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Jane wearing the same outfit in 2006

Jane wearing the same outfit in 2006

Jane wearing the same outfit in 2006

Black pinafore

"This pinafore is by Paul Costello and I bought it 18 years ago at a Lisburn Road charity shop for £30. I resurrected it last year, dyed it and changed the buttons."

‘I buy timeless, sturdy pieces that will stand the test of time’

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Blue order: Ellie McBride in a blue skirt in 2009 and (right) wearing the same skirt in 2017

Blue order: Ellie McBride in a blue skirt in 2009 and (right) wearing the same skirt in 2017

Blue order: Ellie McBride in a blue skirt in 2009 and (right) wearing the same skirt in 2017

US-born Ellie McBride (27), who lives in Belfast, is another fan of holding on to her clothes.

"I love the idea of sustainable everything," says Ellie. "The older I get I realise it's important to buy timeless, sturdy pieces for my life that will stand the test of time.

"This goes for everything from my wardrobe to my kitchenware. I've always like fairly classic clothes, however this has become a more intentional choice over the past few years."

Ellie, whose husband Paul (28) is originally from Portavogie, now uses an online app to help her make the most of her clothes.

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Mix ‘n’ match: Ellie wore this striking green dress at her prom in 2010

Mix ‘n’ match: Ellie wore this striking green dress at her prom in 2010

Mix ‘n’ match: Ellie wore this striking green dress at her prom in 2010

"There's a great app called Cladwell that helps you use your wardrobe well," she explains. "It helps you discover what you actually like to wear and what colours you are drawn to.

"I mend what clothes I can, recycle what I can't - most textiles can go in the red recycling bin in Belfast - and donate what I won't use.

"I sometimes go to clothing swaps which are great and often benefit a good cause."

In September last year, size 8-10 Ellie, who grew up in Oregon, vowed to stop buying new clothes at all.

"Now I wear what I already have more often, shop in charity shops and if I'm looking for a specific piece I go to Vinted.co.uk. We wash our clothes in the coldest setting on the washing machine, with natural detergents, and wear them a few times between washes, which helps a lot.

"If there are ever any smells we use vinegar, and for whites sodium percarbonate acts as a natural bleach.

"We're working towards minimalism in our house and try not to keep things we don't either love or use, so I have a fairly small wardrobe."

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Ellie in the same dress in 2019 with husband Paul at a wedding

Ellie in the same dress in 2019 with husband Paul at a wedding

Ellie in the same dress in 2019 with husband Paul at a wedding

When it comes to maintaining her figure, virtual assistant Ellie, who runs her own business Calibrated Concepts, says she doesn't need to work too hard.

"I try to stay active but I think I got lucky genes and don't have to work very hard to maintain my current size.

"I have probably gone up about one size since I was a teenager, so it's okay for now."

‘I protect my clothes in suit bags and mend them whenever I can’

Cathy Martin

PR and fashion blogger Cathy Martin says she has lots of outfits in her wardrobe that she's had for years.

"Everyone needs to be more aware of the impact our choices have on the world around us, including what we wear," says Cathy. "The pollution caused by 'fast fashion' and the unethical production practices that many fashion producers use has led to the fashion and textiles industry having the worst reputation for climate damage. It brings a whole new meaning to the term 'a crime of fashion'."

However, the mum-of-one admits that like everyone else she loves wearing new clothes for events. "I am guilty myself of always wanting to wear new clothes for events and things," she says. "But then I read Fashionopolis, an investigation into the damage caused by the clothing industry, and I went to study at Conde Nast College where I really got to grips with the extent of the pollution caused. I'd seen it first-hand 20 years ago when I worked for the fashion and textile industry here."

So Cathy, who will be running Belfast Fashionweek's Sustainable Fashion Weekend Resale Event later this month, takes great care of her clothes.

"I certainly don't over-wash them," she says. "Or wash them too often. I spot clean where necessary and protect them in suit bags. I've sleeve and leg lengths altered to fit me perfectly, and when clothes fit like a glove you want to wear them more often. Plus, I have become a great mender. If I can't fix a fault myself I bring it to someone who can."

Working in fashion Cathy has naturally accumulated a huge number of clothes.

"I have good storage but I am overwhelmed at the amount I'd accumulated," she explains. "It's not healthy. I now enjoy selling lots of my clothes on eBay or even just through my Instagram. It feels good that someone else is getting to wear them. As well as reselling, I donate too.

"My daughter Valentina has already started wearing some of my things so I imagine she'll be digging into them some time soon."

Belfast Fashionweek's Sustainable Fashion Weekend will be at Life Church, Bruce Street on March 21. For tickets visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/belfast-fashion-week- sustainable-fashion-weekend-resale-event-tickets-90310319597

Belfast Telegraph