As nice as it is to go shopping for new clothes, there will always be that one pair of jeans that fit your body perfectly or that one top that always gets you compliments and goes with everything and trying to replicate this with new garments can be near on impossible. We’re sure many of you have a piece of clothing that you couldn’t live without and we know all too well what it feels like when that perfect piece shrinks in the wash, loses a button or gets a coffee stain down the front of it; it’s devastating!
How can life continue without the comfort and reassurance of that ‘wonder garment’?
Well, guess what?
We are just about to let you into some top tips and secrets that will not only keep your clothes looking great for longer, but will also mean you need never be separated from your favourite, most cherished item of clothing again.
We are good to you aren’t we?
Quality v’s Quantity
There’s no question that if you buy from a reputable designer or fashion house you are investing in a higher quality garment that should naturally last longer, because of the better quality fabrics and the higher degree of workmanship. But that doesn’t mean your wardrobe should only contain designer pieces; you just need to know when to buy designer and when to buy high street. Creating a capsule wardrobe will help you make the right decisions and will enable you to have key, quality pieces combined with the cheaper, on trend pieces that you are more likely to get bored of and will go out of fashion before they even reach the end of their lifespan. As a rough guide, the following items of clothing are well worth spending a little bit more money on so that they stand the test of time:
- Two-piece, tailored work suit
- Classic trench coat
- Button-up shirts/blouses
- Well-fitting, supportive underwear
You’ll notice that the above items are generally the clothes we wear most frequently, which means they have to put up with a lot more wear and tear and need to be constructed of higher quality materials. These are also the items we need to provide us with the most comfort; cheaper shoes are never going to be as comfortable as shoes with a higher price tag, no matter how high the heels.
How we store our clothes is a key element in their longevity. A cluttered wardrobe, which has to be shoe horned open every time you need to get something in or out is far from the best environment for your clothes.
These top tips will not only help you organise you clothes and make it a lot easier deciding what to wear each day, but it will also keep your clothes looking their best.
Never, ever use those thin, wire coat hangers that you get from the drycleaners. They offer no support to your clothes at all and will quickly result in misshapen shoulders and loss of shape. The ideal coat hanger should be wooden and be the right shape for the item that will be hanging on it, for example strappy tops should be hung on hangers with special notches to secure the straps and shirts should be hung on smooth armed hangers. Never hang knitted items because they are too heavy and will lose their shape when hung, plus there is a risk the hanger may get caught in a hole of the knit.
Shoes should be stored in boxes to keep them dust and dirt free. You can buy clear shoe boxes, which make it a lot easier to find the right pair when you need them or you could use any box and put a photo of the contents on the front. Boots, especially longer length styles, can easily lose their shape and become baggy if they aren’t stored correctly. Invest in some boot shapers, which fit inside the boot and help the structure remain at it’s best. A cheap tip is to stuff shoes with paper to also help keep the shape.
Clothes need space to breathe and to remain crease free so it’s important to keep some degree of space within your wardrobe. If you can’t get something out of your wardrobe without pulling half a dozen other things, then your wardrobe has too much stuff in it.
- Accept you have too many clothes and use this as an opportunity to have a sort out, or…
- Buy another wardrobe!
Wardrobes should provide a dry, cool environment for your clothes that allows them to remain mould and moisture free. Suits, occasionwear and seasonal clothes should be packaged in breathable, hanging canvas bags. Don’t, however, keep garments in the plastic bags that they come in when they are returned from the dry cleaners. These bags are purely for transportation and short term purposes and if they are kept in them for too long it is likely the fibres in the clothes will sweat and start to break down.
Knitwear should always be folded and stored on a shelf, not hung up. This way they will keep their shape and therefore last longer. You might even consider keeping categorising by colour, heaviness of knit, occasion or season, which will make getting dressed a lot easier as well as looking really nice and organised.
Buttons, zips, poppers, embellishments etc. all have the potential to damage other garments. Always make sure garments are fastened once they are on hangers and consider storing heavily embellished garments in specific storage bags to stop them catching or snagging on other things.
Cleaning clothes in the correct way will extend the life of the garment and the following tips will help remind you of some of the things that we’re sure you already know, but when you’re in a rush you may well forget to do.
Read the labels
It sounds obvious, we know, but there are a lot of people who don’t read clothing care labels and for those of us that do, it’s not always 100% clear what the symbols actually mean. The picture on the left shows you just what the symbols do mean and they are there for good reason. If an item of clothing is labelled dry cleaning only, it really does mean dry clean only and not following these guidelines will almost definitely result in some kind of damage to your clothes. After a while, you’ll get used to knowing what type of clothes and fabrics need which type of wash, but whenever you buy something new, always check the label before its first wash. Most delicates, such as underwear, will either need to be handwashed or placed in a special mesh bag, but you can also place them inside a tied up pillow case and it works just as well. Certain knitwear, especially cashmere, needs to be treated extremely delicately. Only ever wash by hand with a mild detergent or baby shampoo, wring out as much water as you can and then allow to dry flat on a clean towel so that the excess moisture can be absorbed. By doing this it will not only clean the garment, but also keep it soft, in shape and will prevent shrinkage.
Stains are unfortunately virtually impossible to avoid, but if you treat them early there’s a chance you can rescue your clothes. If you spill something down yourself like coffee, red wine or any other strong coloured substance, once you’ve got over the shock you need to get yourself to a sink quick. Blot away any excess liquid with a paper towel and then, if you’re able to, soak the stained area with cold water. For more information about how to treat different types of stain after this point, read our article ‘Don’t let Stains be a Pain – Top Tips for Stain Removal!!‘. Stains on suede can be removed with an un-dyed eraser, as if you were rubbing out pencil marks, just be careful not to rub too hard or the surface fibres of the suede may damage.
We can sometimes end up washing our clothes more often than they need, which is a sure-fire way to decrease the life of them. Unless something has visible dirt, has been in direct contact with the skin or smells then chances are you could probably get another wear out of it. Jeans, especially, require very little washing, in fact Mary Bruno who is head of design at J Brand advises, “Almost all jeans have been washed as part of the fit process. If you are buying a rigid or raw jean, wearing them in from a rigid state is the best way to get them to form to your body.” Washing a pair of jeans too often can result in colour fade and unless they are dirty they should ideally only be washed after roughly five wears.
As mad as it sounds, some people recommend that clothes are washed as soon as you get them home from the shops and certainly before wearing them for the very first time. We know, it seems crazy, why bother washing something that is brand new and won’t be as crisp and fresh looking once it’s gone through the washing machine? But, a leading professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, New York makes a very good point: “I have seen cases of lice that were possibly transmitted from trying on in the store, and there are certain infectious diseases that can be passed on through clothing”. Pretty gross right, got you itching just thinking about it? How many people may have tried on that dress you’ve just bought, how many people have handled it from factory to shop floor…yep it doesn’t bear thinking about and add on top of that the fact that most clothes are treated with various chemicals that can cause rashes and itchiness, a quick wash doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now!
In exactly the same way that buttons, zips and hooks etc. can damage your clothes if they’re not fastened when you store or hang them, they can do the same, if not more, damage in your washing machine. Zips, in particular, can catch on other fabric and snag it, causing runs, holes or even damage to the zip itself. To avoid this, make sure you fasten everything up an then turn the garment inside out, which will also have the added benefits of preventing colour fade, wear and tear and bobbling on your knits.
Tumble dryers are an amazing invention, especially in the winter when it’s harder to find a dry, warm enough day to get your things out on the washing line. However, tumble dryers will age your clothes a lot sooner than if they were to dry naturally. To slow the ageing process down, make sure you set your tumble dryer to a low setting and decrease the time ever so slightly. It’s always better to take clothes out of the dryer when they’re still ever so slightly damp and finish the drying process off by hanging them on an airer. This will help garments keep their shape, prevent shrinkage and fading and will also help lower your electricity bill!
There are simple things you can do aside from how you wash and store your clothes that will help you get more wear out of them. Perhaps the easiest one, although arguably the one most of us are guilty of, is to get dressed after you have done your hair and makeup. We’re guessing your thought process would be pretty much like ours in that of course you’d get dressed before doing hair and make up, otherwise when you go to put on a top it’s going to mess up your finely styled hair and smudge make up all across your face and probably the top too. But in actual fact your doing your clothes a much big favour by getting dressed after you have done your hair and make up and here’s why. The chemicals in cosmetics and hair styling products can stain and fade clothing. Hairspray in particular is a big culprit and we’re sure that quite a few of you have a final spritz of hairspray before heading out the door, right? Not only will it fade your clothes, but it is also likely to leave a coating that will gradually build up over time and age the garment as well as affect how well it washes up. Buy a lightweight scarf to put over your head when you get dressed and that way make up will stay on your face and off of your clothes and your hair will stay nicely in place. Another culprit is deodorant, which if not left to dry properly can cause unsightly yellow staining.
Here are a few other handy tips you can do to make your clothes look longer:
You could be the most careful person in the world, but there will reach a time when an item of clothing can take no more and the colour will naturally start to fade. But, that doesn’t mean it needs to be taken down to the charity shop or chucked in the recycling bin, oh no, why not think about dying it instead? Jeans take very well to being dyed and can look as good as when you first bought them for just a few pounds. We prefer the dye that you can put in the washing machine, because it’s just so easy and as long as you follow the instructions we can promise you it won’t stain your next wash load. Have fun experimenting with different colours and before you know it you’ll have lots of, what look like, brand new clothes! One key thing to remember is to always check what materials the dye is suitable for and be aware that certain stitching and other embellishments may not soak up the dye. It can create a great effect, but you need to be aware that this may happen, so it’s not too big a shock when you see the end result.
It’s really not that difficult to replace a button that’s fallen off or sew up a hemline that’s come undone. Learning simple sewing skills will save you loads of money and mean you can wear your favourite clothes for longer. If you have never sewed before use this as the perfect opportunity to teach yourself by looking at some of the many online tutorials available on sites such as YouTube. And if after all that, you’re still not getting it, then consider taking your clothes to be repaired at a local tailors or even enquire at your dry cleaners, as some may do minor alterations and repairs. A handy little tip to stop buttons from getting loose and popping off is to coat them in clear nail varnish.
We’ve lost count of the number of pairs of tights we get through on a weekly basis; ladders caused by pulling them on in too much of a rush in the morning, snagging caused by jewellery and holes from when they’ve caught on a splinter or sharp edge of a chair, it’s incredibly frustrating and proving very expensive! But guess what? There are a few very quick and easy things you can do to your tights that will make them last that little bit longer. One thing you can do is to give them a light spray of hairspray, which gives them a protective layer and strengthens the fibres; it really does work. For more advice on how to protect your tights and get more than one wear out of them, read our article ‘Fed up of laddering your tights? Then read on…!‘
Clothes that are in direct contact with your skin will look better and last a lot longer if your body is clean! Showering daily, using deodorant (that has been allowed to dry properly) and wearing clean underwear will all help keep your clothes in tip top condition.
Give it a rest
And finally, try to rotate your clothes and footwear so that you’re not wearing the same things all of the time. Quite simply, the more you wear something the quicker it is going to wear out and this is most noticeable in footwear, such as the shoes you wear to the office everyday or the trainers you go running in. If you wear the same ones all of the time, not only are they going to start to smell, but the heel will wear down sooner, the surface will get more scuffs and the shoe will start to lose it’s shapes as it moulds to your feet and style of walking. Try to set up a system whereby clothes that have just been washed get put in at one end of the wardrobe and clothes that have been in there a while go to the other end; the end which you should then choose from.
The UK throws away a staggering £25 million worth of clothes each and every year into landfill. More often than not, those very same clothes have hardly anything wrong with them and could have either been taken to a charity shop, donated to a homeless charity, recycled or have minor repairs done to them, meaning they could be worn for much longer. In some instances, clothes are thrown away simply because the person has got bored of them, yet is too lazy to out them anywhere other than in their rubbish bin. Pathetic, isn’t it?
We hope we’ve given you lots of helpful advice about how to make your clothes look better for longer. We would love to hear from you about any tips you have to keep clothes looking great or see some of your photos of outfits that you have upcycled in your bid to win the war on waste. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us via the Gowns and Heels Facebook page.