Secondhand, Sustainable, Ethical or Fast Fashion.
No matter where you sourced your items, all clothing deserves to be given the best care possible! Taking time to learn how to best care for your clothing can pay dividends in the long run. When we spend time searching for that ‘just-right’ item and happen to score a winner we want to have it for as long as possible. Not only does caring for your clothes properly mean they will be around for a long time- it also saves you money and makes you an eco-warrior. Less clothing waste means less environmental damage! Let’s look at some tips that will help you better look after your clothing.
Before you buy
It’s important to note a few pre-purchase points even though this post isn’t specifically focused on ‘how-to-shop’ . Just skip this bit if you aren’t in the market for something new.
- Check the seams. No matter where you choose to purchase from always check the construction of an item. Look for well sewn seams with no pulls or holes. Finishing with overlocking will be a sign an item will last longer (raw seams tend to fray). French seams are signs of a manufacturer really caring about the longevity of their clothing and accessories.
- Assess the fabric type. Get to know your fabrics. Make sure that the fabric the item is made from is fit for your end purpose. Natural fibres breathe, synthetics don’t. Learn more about fabrics here.
- Think about end of life. Everything you buy ends up somewhere when you are no longer done with it. This should factor into your decision to bring an item into your life. If you are vegan you may choose to include more synthetics in your closet (as opposed to wool, silk or leather). It is always best to find a more biodegradable alternative (like a cotton knit or a rayon instead of silk) but if you do choose a synthetic, look for one that’s high quality. When it comes to shoes and bags try to find ones that are made from synthetic leathers from reputable brands that aren’t likely to crack, flake or fall apart after just a handful of wears, and avoid fluffy acrylic knits that pill or shed fibres as these end up in our waterways in the wash process contributing to oceanic plastic pollution.
- Realistically assess the cut, colour, fit and style. When shopping for an item you plan to wear for a long time you want to make sure it’s going to suit you for a while too! Think honesty about the colour, cut, fit and style. Trends come and go so ask yourself ‘Would I wear this five years from now?’ And ‘would I wear this ten years from now?. Obviously you won’t be able to tell from day one if you will realistically be wearing the same item a decade later but contemplating the fact helps make more sustainability-minded purchasing decisions.
Wearing with love.
We usually purchase clothing with ideal wearing scenarios in mind. Our PJ’s are something we choose to wear to bed and for lazy weekends. Gym gear should be able to stand up to a solid workout at the gym, or at home while we cook dinner and clean the house. While not ALL items in our closet have specific end uses these tips should help you get the most out use out of your closet content regardless of where you choose to wear them!
- Love your soles. When you have invested in a decent pair of shoes (new or second-hand) make sure that you get the most out of them by caring for the soles. Dress shoes, boots, loafers, and many types of ballet style flats can have delicate soles and heels. If you notice that your new shoes have lightweight, slippery or leather soles take them to a cobbler for assessment. Sometimes spending around $30 or so having protective soles added to your shoes can help them last years longer. Much easier and less expensive than trying to find and wear in replacement shoes.
- Be rub and run aware. Sometimes colours and fibre types just aren’t made to work under certain conditions. When wearing delicate fabrics or fine weaves be wary of carrying abrasive bags, shopping bags, or even books or binders. They can pull, rub, or pill fine clothing. When wearing new jeans or other dark coloured items (specifically those of natural fibre types) that colours don’t run or bleed into your clothing, shoes, or bags. Be especially wary on wet days or days that you might get sweaty.
- Dress for the occasion. While it’s tempting to cook spaghetti in your favourite white work shirt there it’s likely you will regret the decision. Be wise with how and where you wear your clothing. Stick to dark colours when splashes or stains might occur and NEVER wear darks if dealing with bleach. If you are in a situation where you clothes might be damaged indefinitely see if you can get changed, or opt to wear an apron or overcoat of some sort. Don’t expect that you PJ’s will last a lifetime if you start wearing them as gym wear- they just aren’t designed for that!
- Watch the weather. Understand the limitations of your clothing and accessories. Checking the forecast for rain, snow or excessive humidity can help clothing last longer. Rain damage can sometimes cause irreparable issues to handbags and shoes. Sweat, while natural, isn’t always the best friend of all fibre types and can weaken some (like silk) so understanding how your body reacts to hot temperatures can help you decide what to wear in the morning.
Air and store right.
Much of the damage that occurs to your faves happens during washing, airing and storing phases. Avoid unnecessary harm with a few simple tips that will help keep your dud’s in perfect condition for the longest time possible.
- Wash when dirty or smelly. Many of us wash our clothes more often than needed. Cut back the laundry days by only washing your clothing (not underwear and socks) when they look dirty or smell bad. I stick to this rule for everything except my work clothes (which do get dirty every day) underwear, and my gym gear (which gets sweaty). Everything else is aired and put back in the closet.
- Know how to store it. When you enter a boutique you will likely notice a few patterns. This is that tees, knits and sweaters are generally folded in neat piles, while structured items are hung neatly from hangers. There is a good reason for this! Knits (jersey or otherwise) are more susceptible to stretching. So hanging them on a hanger will see gravity do it’s trick and make them longer. Folding your knits and tees will help them retain their shape longer and stop them from getting snagged on other items. Hanging up structured items like jacket and dresses will maintain their crisp structure and prevent creasing.
- Use the protective bags that items came in. If you have purchased and item that came in a dust bag, box or otherwise try to keep the item in it. It protects the fabric, leather, and/or hardware from tarnishing, scratching or other damage. Items kept in protective bags or boxes will look newer longer. The bag pictured above is at least four years old and still looks new thanks to it’s protective storage dust pouch.
- Apply treatments. Depending on the accessories you have purchased many will have treatments or care instructions. Taking the time to hand polish your jewellery, or to add a proctor to your leather goods will keep them in good condition and prevent tarnished jewels or split leather.
- Be gentle. Laundering can be a damaging time for clothing. Follow the washing instructions. Hand washing is always less stressful on clothing than machine laundering so if you have the time to wash by hand do it. Be wary of spin cycles as they can stretch knits out of shape and the agitation can shrink viscose and rayon. When you wash knitted or viscose/rayon/modal items in the machine take the time to assess if they need to be manipulated back into shape by hand.
What are your top tips for getting a long lifespan out of your clothing? Please share so we can all benefit!