Yesterday I took last season’s fluffy white coat to the dry cleaner for a shoulder repair, and my mother was clutching her pearls. “Why not buy a a new coat?” she asked me. For what? All the people I’m going to see during pandemic winter? Denise, no. We’ve all gotten more comfortable with recycling our favorite outfits out of a general sense of “who gives a f–k,” so now’s a perfect time to learn how to make your clothes last longer and keep your wardrobe down to the basics.
Aside from being generally cost-effective in the long run, it’s eco-friendly as hell to reinvent what you already have. See, according to a 2018 study by United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions, and nearly 20 percent of wastewater. Big yikes, right? So taking a little time to invest in the pieces that are getting really loved day-in and day-out is a big win for you, and a tiny win for the environment.
Below, we rounded up a few simple ways to restore and rejuvenate your wardrobe to take you through the year and beyond.
How to make clothes last longer, according to apparel experts
1. Invest in some iron-on patches
Having some serious denim problems? If the wear and tear is looking less than stylish (and seriously making you feel kind of drafty), you can easily repair it without breaking out the needle and thread. Iron-on patches are hear to save the day and close the gap for good.
“Choose a patch that is much larger than the tear and a similar color to the garment,” says Adriene Booth of Remade in Brooklyn. “Follow manufacturer’s instructions and iron the patch over the rip from the inside.”
One seamless (sorry) option? These simple iron-on patches ($6) do the trick for a fraction of the cost of a new pair of Levi’s.
2. Stop washing your jeans in the first place
Okay, I know you might be grossed out, but here’s the situation: You have total permission not to wash your jeans until something absolute heinous hits them, or more generously until three or four wears. That’s because research supports that reducing the frequency of washing your jeans extends their life time. Then you have less wear and tear, and can save your iron-on patches for TRUE emergencies.
3. Use dish soap to clean up your white sneakers
Maeve Richmond, founder of home organizational company Maeve’s Method, championed dish soap as a way to get off stubborn sneaker grime. As it would turn out, the detergent in dish soap creates a light foam excellent for penetrating stubborn stains. So worthwhile for any hard-to-remove
“To make white sneakers look like new again, mix a small squirt—no more than a teaspoon—of dish soap into a cup of water and stir until it’s frothy,” says Richmond. “Then use a clean, damp sponge or toothbrush to gently rub the mixture on all surfaces, including the soles.”
4. Or tie-dye those whites that need a refresh
Tie-dye the quarantine print Du Jour, so you’ll be “sustainable” and “on trend,” not “unable to remove the receipts from Spaghetti Sunday.” Investing in multiple rainbow-hued inks like this One-Step Tie-Dye Kit ($30) means you’ll have plenty of ways to customize those pieces that might have dulled over time.
5. Unshrink your clothing
Ugh, shrinkage, the worst… but not impossible to reverse. Every fabric is a little different when it comes to unshrinking clothing, but probably the easiest one to restore is cotton. According to Max Appel, cleaning expert and founder of OxiClean, you want to fill a tub or sink with lukewarm water and a tablespoon of fabric softener, detergent or shampoo. It doesn’t hugely matter so long as the product fully dissolves. Then let your garment soak in water for 30 minutes, before gently and evenly stretching it. Rinse with cold water, and hopefully your clothes will be doll-sized no more.
6. Give your fuzzy sweaters a haircut
If you have a cardigan that’s driving you effing crazy with snags, don’t toss it yet (especially if it’s cashmere, that stuff’s expensive!). Using a sweater shaver can breathe new life into your favorite knitted pieces. I’m into this Conair Fabric Defuzzer ($12) for both shearing off pills and removing lint.
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