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How to make your clothes last longer

We don't know about you but we aren't really feeling clothes shopping right now. Faith Richardson gives us some quick and easy tips to give your existing wardrobe a whole new lease of life.

By Faith Richardson

Wash Them Less

I don’t mean forever – I’m sure your desk-mate at work (when we finally get back to work!) won’t thank you for it if you stop washing your shirts! However, one of the biggest mistakes most people make when it comes to clothing care is over washing them. Excessive cleaning is what causes your favourite t-shirt to lose its shape, your jumpers to get bobbled, and your jeans to wear through.

Most of your clothes don’t need a wash after each wear, especially if you’re not doing anything strenuous in them that means they’re getting dirty or sweaty. Of course, if you have small children or a manual job, you might need to make peace with a more frequent laundry day. On the whole however, washing less and washing smarter will save your wardrobe in the long run.

Aim to wear an item of clothing at least three times before you throw it in the washing bin. Clothes like jeans and jumpers can be worn a little more, and I hope I don’t need to tell you that your knickers have a one-wear cycle. If you feel like your clothes are a little stale after one wear, try airing them out on the line outside, steaming them to breathe extra life into them, or spraying them with a good old spray of fabric air freshener.

Wash Them Right

While we’re on the subject, when it does come to laundry day, make sure you’re washing them properly. Always pay attention to the washing labels, and try to avoid washing on a hot wash – there’s simply no need for it. Everything should come clean and fresh on a 30- or 40-degree wash, and any trickier stains should be treated by hand first before they go into the machine to avoid unnecessary over-washing of your other items.

Try not to stuff the machine full, either. It can be tempting to try and cram every light coloured piece into the machine to save water and limit the amount of washing and drying you need to do, but by filling the machine more than half-full your clothes don’t get washed properly, and it can actually affect your clothes by over-agitating them against each other.

Wash your dark clothes inside out to preserve their colour, and always make sure everything is zipped and buttoned to prevent the zip breaking – leaving them undone is what’s to blame for those annoying zippers that never stay up! Always try to air dry too – I know it’s quicker to throw things into the dryer and not have unsightly clothes horses lying around, but apart from saving yourself money, you’ll also be saving your clothes.

Put Them Away Properly

Space issues are a never-ending problem for those of us who have – let’s say an excessive amount – of clothes. The temptation is to cram them into every draw, shelf and wardrobe space available without much thought to what it’s doing to them. Hey, half the time I’m just pleased I actually got my clothes put away before wearing them again. But poor storage can actually be responsible for those misshaped jumpers and faded t-shirts.

Heavy items with delicate straps or stretchy fabric should avoid hangers like the plague. The long-term pressure on the straps or shoulders will cause them to weaken and eventually break. The same applies to bulky jumpers and sweatshirts – hanging them causes them to pull down from the shoulder, leaving them with that wonky, sloppy appearance that is near impossible to undo once it’s done.

Where possible, try to avoid over-cramming clothes into small spaces. This is usually how moths get away with nibbling away at your best dress and you don’t even realise until you go to wear it one night and discover a hole in the back. It also prevents air from circulating around your clothes, leaving them with a slightly off-putting musty smell, no matter how clean they were when you put them away.

If you do have too many clothes for your wardrobe, consider storing them by season. You probably don’t need a myriad of mini dresses and vest tops during the midst of Winter, so put them away until the weather warms up. Similarly storing your big coats and jumpers away until Autumn rolls around stops them from getting damaged before you’re ready to wear them again. Plus, it feels like getting a whole new wardrobe every few months with the added bonus of not having to spend any money.

Get Crafty

Have you ever bought something and when it arrived you loved it but there’s something just not quite right about it? Yeah, me too. You end up loathed to get rid of it, but every time you put it on there’s something off that makes you not want to wear it. In these cases, don’t despair and relegate your new dress to the landfill or the charity shop. Get friendly with your local dry cleaner or tailor. They’ll be able to suggest something you can do to make it fit you better. Maybe the waist needs taking in, or the hems just need turning up an inch. All hope doesn’t have to be lost.

Don’t be afraid of making radical changes to items too. If you’re bored of it but it’s still in good shape, or you’ve never worn it but it’s not quite what you want, there are plenty of ways you can change things up. If you’re not precious about it, have some fun! This can be a great way to have a crafty afternoon with your kids too. Maybe try turning it from long sleeved to sleeveless, or buy some trimmings to make a boring jumper more exciting with feathers.

Fashion should be fun, so enjoy it! Get creative and experiment with pieces that you just don’t love any more. If you were planning on throwing them out anyway, then there’s no harm done if your experiment goes a little awry – and you never know, you might end up with a great new item without spending a fortune.

Make Minor Repairs

One of the most popular reasons clothes get chucked away is because they’re damaged. Usually, however, these damages can actually be easily fixed and mean you don’t need to waste money replacing them. Learn how to do super basic quick fixes, and your wardrobe will always be looking shiny and new.

Get friendly with at-home dye kits for your clothes. Most clothes, especially dark items like jeans and sweatshirts start to fade over time. Dylon do an amazing range of dyes that you can literally put in the washing machine and leave it to do its job – it couldn’t be easier, and the results are permanent, so you can have your favourite jeans looking like the day you bought them in no time.

De-bobbling is also one of the quickest and most straight forward ways of preventing your clothes from looking worn out. You can buy a cheap de-bobbler anywhere from Aldi to Amazon, and they get rid of that nasty pilling in seconds. If you’re not ready to commit to a de-bobbler, a basic razor will do the job just as well. Go easy – you don’t want to slice your clothes! But pull your garment taut, and gently and slowly shave the area – just like you would with your legs – and that’s it. It’s that easy!

Likewise, getting comfortable with a needle and thread will save you a small fortune in tailor bills and it means you don’t have to bin something as soon as it gets a hole in it. Splits in seams or hems are really easy to fix, as are tiny moth-holes and rips under the arms. For bigger holes – think wearing away between the thighs of jeans – they can still be repaired at home with a patch of fabric. There are some great YouTube videos that will teach you a quick and easy way of doing it!

Shopping list

We’ve put together a quick shopping list for all the essentials you need to keep your clothes looking fresh and good as new.

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