Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Working with what you've got | Clothing edition


As I've mentioned quite a few times, I'm halfway through my one-year shopping diet.  Another fact I've mentioned a time or two is how tiny my closet is (physically--I've pretty much filled it up, though).  Needless to say, it's more important than ever for my wardrobe to withstand the changing seasons, style, and constant washing.  So how do you make your clothes last? 

A-line or pencil? Long pants or ankle skimmers? While basics are usually basics, popular shapes change, and so do our bodies.  Tailoring and altering are easy ways to take an item you're sick of and turn it into something nearly new.  You can try a different shape or silhouette, or take it even further -- turn a dress into a separate top and skirt or turn a jacket into a vest.  If you have a sewing machine and don't mind if the outcome isn't perfect, you can find some good tutorials online (like this one).  Otherwise find a tailor or ask mom's friend used to do all our tailoring growing up (which wasn't much), but there's also a lady at my work who can alter clothing for a fee (you are using their time, after all).

The churning of the washing machine and heat of the dryer can do a number on fabric, resulting in warping or shrinkage at the worst, wear and tear at minimum.  Washing your clothing in cold water can lengthen the life of fabrics (and save energy).  Air-drying your clothes (on a clothesline or drying rack) can also preserve your clothing, although it does take more space and time.

What about dry cleaning? Depending on the fabric, clothes labelled "dry clean" (as opposed to "dry clean only") can usually be hand washed and laid flat to dry.
There are also a number of products out there that can help you freshen your dry clean items between cleanings (I've tried this, which works fine).

If you have clothing that comes as a set (a suit, for example), washing both items at the same time each time, regardless of wear, will help keep the pieces the same color.  When ironing, make sure your iron isn't too hot for the fabric (yeah, you know that shininess? That's fabric fibers burning and getting weaker).

How many times has a jacket fallen out of the rotation due to a lost button or a dress to the giveaway pile because of a faulty zipper?  Mending clothes that have fallen into disrepair (a fallen hem or ripped seam, for example), is extremely easy and can usually be done with just a needle and thread.

Saturated colors can easily fade with time, and that pastel you loved two seasons ago just isn't cutting it for you.  Dyeing a garment can breathe new life into something you love or something you wish you loved.  I haven't tried this myself yet, but Sally at Already Pretty is a pro; check out her detailed how-to post for some tips and examples.

Ok, so this one isn't so much about making what you have last, but more about making what you have do more for you.  As long as an item is still in good wearable condition, you can use the items you're not so into to swap for something you do like!  Google "clothing swap + [your city or nearby city]" to see if a swap is coming soon near you, or host your own (some tips here).  If you're in the Sacramento area, check out this Saturday's Stitch Swap, co-hosted by my dear friend Ashlee (see how I made out like a bandit last time?). 

What do you do to make your clothing last? What have you found to be effective or ineffective?


  1. another link on how to host your own swap party (the fourth starred point is interesting):

  2. Great suggestions, Angeline! I got a little sewing kit last year and that has a big difference in the lasting-power of my wardrobe. Now I can fix hems and buttons! Wish that I had my own washing machine and dryer so that I could try the at-home dry cleaning - otherwise it's so expensive.


  3. Great tips. Swaps and consignment shops are my favorite way to make my wardrobe work for me after I've grown tired of a piece.

  4. @ step - thanks for the link!

    @ elaine - you're very welcome :)

    @ meredith - Seriously, dry cleaning costs KILL me! The Dry Cleaner's Secret thing uses only the dryer (since you don't want to get the clothes wet). A sewing kit is great...I just wish I had one at work for emergencies (note to self: get one!).

    @ noguiltfashion - I've never tried it easy to do?

  5. angel - i've heard from a couple people that the Bounce Dry Cleaning Sheets also work really well.

  6. Great point about washing a set together to keep them the same color. I think another thing to keep in mind is that if you make a habit of wearing your suit jacket by itself outside, the sunlight may bleach it a bit, and it will end up being lighter than your matching pants/skirt

  7. @ neurp - good to know! I'll have to check those out.

    @ the pursuers - great point!


Like this? Leave a comment!
Comments with emails attached will receive emailed replies; otherwise replies will be added below the original comment.