October is Slow Fashion and Fair Trade month, and although I haven’t taken part until now, I didn’t want to let the month pass without contributing my voice to the discussion going on around the internet. When I originally planned to write this post, I thought that this week’s prompt was “long worn”. Apparently I got my weeks mixed up though, as this week’s prompt is actually “handmade”. Oops. Well, I guess this post will not only be long worn, but long overdue as well. 😉 The term “long worn” refers to the clothes that are already in existence, here on our planet, and how we can make the most of them. I thought that this would be a great time to share some of the garment care tips that I have picked up over the years, that will help to increase the longevity of your clothing, as well as including a few tips from the reprinted copy of Make Do and Mend that I purchased last year while in England. (I’d been wanting to get my hands on one for ages!)
Taking care of the clothes that you already own is a great first step to creating a conscious wardrobe, and there are so many simple things you can do to increase the life of your clothing. It is really only in the last 10-20 years that our society has drifted into a more “throwaway” attitude towards what we wear. Mending, altering, maintaining and preserving your clothing is actually a rather “vintage” way of looking at your closet, which is evidenced by the ingenuity of people during the Great Depression, and the rationing years of the Second World War (which is when the pamphlet Make Do and Mend was published). So, without further ado, here are some helpful hints for caring for your clothes, and some excerpts from the book Make Do and Mend. (excerpts are indicated by “italics“)
- Wearing scarves when you wear a coat keeps the collar off of your neck, to keep it clean longer. Instead of having to continually wash your coat, you can simply wash the scarf instead.
- Wearing slips, undershirts and underarm shields can help to keep your clothes cleaner for longer. We tend to wash our clothes more than is actually necessary, and constant washing shortens the life of your clothing. By extending the period of time between washes, you can significantly increase the life of your garment. By keeping your skin away from direct contact with garments, especially delicate ones, they don’t soil so quickly. Just make sure to remove the shields before putting away your garments
- “It is best to wear clothes in turn, as a rest does them good. Shoes too are better for not being worn day after day.” This gives them a rest, and a chance to completely dry out. It is also better for your feet, as it prevents them from rubbing too much in one spot etc.
- “Always change into old things, if you can, in the house, and give the clothes you have just taken off an airing before putting them away.”
- If you are going to be storing a garment for any length of time, such as off season coats, it is nice to cover them with a garment bag, so they don’t collect dust and dirt while in storage. That way, when it comes time to wear them again, you won’t need to clean them first.
- Hang delicate garments on padded hangers to protect the shoulders from stretching out of shape. “A hanger that is too narrow will ruin the shape of the shoulder and may even make a hole.” It is also a good practice to store clothing off of hangers, as hanging garments long-term can distort them.
- “Do up all fastenings before hanging clothes. This helps them to keep their shape. And see that the shoulders are even on the hangers and not falling off one side.”
- “Put away clothes in the condition in which you will want to wear them when you take them out again. Make quite sure they are absolutely clean; dirt attracts clothes’ moths.” (And who wants to wash clothes first thing when you take them out again?)
- Deal with stains and spills right away. Taking a few moments to wash out a stain as soon after it happens as possible, is much better than waiting until you do laundry only to find that the stain won’t wash out.
- If a garment is not dirty enough to need a washing, you can deodorize by using vodka. This is a practice that is still used today in theatre costumes (according to my friend who is an actress). For a garment such as a blazer or a delicate item, which is not easily washed, simply turn the garment inside out, spritz the inside (especially the underarms) with vodka, and then leave until dry. This neutralizes any odours, and keeps your garments smelling fresh without having to constantly wash them. (I suppose you could use rum instead of vodka, but then you might smell like a pirate! 🙂 Don’t worry, the vodka leaves no scent, so you won’t smell like alcohol.)
- Washing your clothes in a delicate, cold wash, is easier on them than hot water. Also, air drying your clothes, rather than putting them through the dryer, extends their life. This is especially true for knits (such as t-shirts, sweaters, or jeans with Lycra in them.) Dryers are extremely hard on stretch fabrics.
- It is better to hand wash your sweaters, so they don’t stretch out of shape. Use a gentle soap, rinse, and then lay them flat to dry. By hand washing your knits, you will help to avoid the dreaded pilled sweater! Putting your sweaters through the washing machine, even on a delicate cycle, leads to pilling. Although you can fix (some) pilling, it is easier to just avoid it in the first place.
- Fix places where seams or hems have come undone, or buttons are loose. It is so much easier to fix right away, than waiting until it turns into a much bigger problem. “Watch for thin places, especially in the elbows of dresses, seams of trousers, heels of socks and stockings. Reinforce a thin spot with a light patch on the inside. Choose material that is strong but rather lighter in weight than the original material. Scraps of net darned lightly inside thin heels of stockings make an excellent repair. If you have to patch or darn and have no matching material or thread, sacrifice a collar, belt or pocket if it is merely ornamental, or unravel a thread from the seam. You could unravel the pocket of a knitted garment to provide thread for a darn, and a patch made from a matching belt may save a frock from the bits and pieces bag. You can replace the belt with one of contrasting colour.”
- “Always carry a needle and cotton and mending silk with you- this will save many a ladder in stockings or prevent the loss of buttons; your friends will thank you too. How many times have you heard someone say, “Has anyone got a needle and cotton?”
- Take care of the pills on your knits with a sweater shaver. Nothing looks nastier, and cheaper, than a pilled sweater! It is amazing what a shaver can do for making things look fresh. One of the winter coats I got from a coworker came to me in terrible condition (it looked as though she had thrown it through the wash) and I wasn’t sure if it could be saved, but I used a sweater comb, and now the wool looks brand new!
- Keeping your leather shoes and purses polished, and hydrated with a conditioner of some sort, will keep them from cracking and drying out. Also, they just look nicer. And, of course, if your shoes are past the point where you can do anything with them, take them to the cobbler. Those people work magic! I have had many a pair that I thought were gonners, and they have brought them back to life.
So, there are my tips and tricks for keeping your wardrobe spic-and-span! Would you like to hear more tips from the Make Do and Mend pamphlet? And do you have any garment care tips of your own? Do share!