How to get the most out of your clothing

Clothing used to be such an expensive commodity. Clothes were made with beautiful, quality materials and detailed craftsmanship ensuring that the garments were made to fit each individual specifically. But as clothing production became industrialized, the quality of our clothes went down and the availability of cheaper clothing has gone up dramatically. And it’s not just clothing stores that offer clothing anymore. Bands sell tshirts, shirts are passed out at sporting events and marathons, cheap clothing is everywhere.

Buy high quality clothing (thrift for cheaper). The first step to getting the best bang out of your buck is to get good quality. If you’d like some great tips on how to spot good quality clothing  check out this video. She explains how to look at the fit/cut, colors/dyeing, prints, fabrics/fibers, and sewing quality to see which items will last and continue to uphold their shape, color and texture. Another trick is to find some good brands. Look through your closet for clothes that you’ve had for a long time. If they still fit and feel good, and haven’t lost too much color or vibrance, it’s a good chance that they’re a good quality item. Once you know the high quality brand and clothes, it will be easier to find those good quality clothes.

Switch up how you wear it. Ok this tip is admittedly more for the ladies, but you gents are welcome to try it too. If you feel like you’ve got a really small closet and are just dying for some more variety, try wearing items of clothing differently. This video shows how to take a long sleeve button up and style it in 10 different ways. And this sassy lady shows how to make the most out of a cute dress by wearing it in lots of different ways.

Change out of work clothes. Keeping your work clothes for work means that they’re less likely to fall victim to spills in the kitchen and less wear and tear means they’ll last longer overall. 

Wear an apron or other protective clothes. On the same wavelength as the last tip, wearing an apron is a great way to avoid getting stains, burns, or smears on our best clothes. I don’t know about you, but I had to learn this lesson the hard way by ruining several nice shirts and getting pasta sauce splattered on them. The same goes for doing any kind of dirty work. If you’re going to be cleaning, working on the car, painting, or doing some gardening, make sure to put on some old grubby clothes or shimmy up some coveralls to protect your nicer clothes.  

Wash them less frequently. Washing clothing often can wear it down since washing involves soaking the fabric and shaking it vigorously. This often loosens and weakens the fibers and deteriorates it from its original state. Not washing clothes as often can take a little getting used to because my automatic reaction to taking off clothes at night is to toss them in the laundry basket. But before you do this, give them a little sniff. Have you been sweating in them a lot? Did you hug someone that had a particularly unpleasant perfume that has now clung to your clothes? Were you in a stinky area that has made your clothes just as rank? If any of these are true, give them a toss. But if the smell isn’t too bad, give them a spritz with some perfume, diluted essential oils, or hang them to air out a bit overnight. They’ll keep looking great and last much longer.

Fix and patch them. When clothes have been well worn and well loved, they’re bound to start getting some hole and tears. If you’ve got a little sewing kit (you can grab a very basic one from any dollar store, or if you’re at a hotel ask the front desk staff for one) you can fix lots of little problems. Here are some instructionals on how to sew a button on, how to sew by hand, how to sew a buttonhole, how to fix a buttonhole, and how to fix a tear.

Repurpose them. Clothes can hold some real sentimental value and seeing them come to the end of their life can be sad. But here are a few ideas for repurposing your clothes if you want them to keep living on. 

Cut them into big and smaller squares to use as fabric wrapping for gifts. If you’re worried that they’ll look shabby, you may want to check out Furoshiki, a beautiful Japanese method of fabric wrapping. This article shows how to use Furoshiki to wrap lots of different shapes and sizes of gifts.

Turn them into a blanket or quilt. I have a friend that has gone to and worked at dozens of summer camps and had a collection of dozens of shirts, many with signatures and fun sayings from other campers or counsellors. The shirts had so many wonderful memories attached that she decided to recruit her grandmother. Together they cut and sewed the shirts into a summer camp shirt quilt that will keep living and helping her relive those sweet summer memories.

Use them as rags and washcloths. If you have sturdy clothes made from absorbent materials like cotton or linen, these would make great cleaning tools. Simply cut the clothes into squares of the same size and if you’d like to make a finishing touch, sew up the edges to prevent them from fraying.

Follow the instructions. I know…. Duh. But if you want your clothes to last longer, following the cleaning instructions will help substantially! Does it specify cold water and hang dry? Do that! Handwash in with gentle soap? Gather it all up and give it a little sudding in your bathroom sink (often the best way to clean intimates). Only dry clean? Do that, although maybe wear that outfit a few times before taking it to be dry cleaned. The more careful we are with our clothes, the longer they will last. Different clothing fibers react differently to how they’re washed, so following the cleaning instructions will prevent them from deteriorating too quickly. If your clothes have tags that were cut off or are missing, this page will let you know how to best clean your beautiful clothes.

Clothing can be a wonderful expression of who we are and what we want other people to think about us. But not knowing how to stretch their usefulness can make them expensive, not only to our bank accounts but also to the resources of our environment. Thank you for being interested in making the most out of your clothes and helping our beautiful planet!

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