The fashion industry is constantly growing and so is our desire to fill our wardrobes with new clothes. The average American buys around 68 pieces of clothes every year, while wearing the pieces hardly more than seven times. Rapidly changing trends and alarmingly low prices turn clothes into disposables, creating huge amounts of textile waste. If we want to consume mindfully we have to slow down and extend the lifespan of our clothes.
But who wants to wear worn out jeans, itchy sweaters and washed-out shirts? Fashion is supposed to be fun and make us feel comfortable. We sometimes forget that there’s a lot that we can do to love our favorite pieces of clothes for a long time.
Simple ways to make your clothes last longer
Taking good care of our clothes can slow down our fashion consumption while also taking positive effects on our environment as well as our bank accounts.
1. Storing clothes properly
Worn out cardigans, awkward odors or moth-eaten wooly jumpers – the way we store our clothes does affect their lifetime. It’s not necessarily true that we preserve our clothes as long as we don’t wear them. Cause even if we don’t, we can do some actual damage. So how do we store our garments properly? You should basically consider this:
- Knitwear belongs in your closet – rolled- or folded-up. If you put the garments on hangers they can easily stretch out and lose their shape.
- However, hang up blouses and textiles that tend to wrinkle – especially linen, silk or tencel. Wooden or cushioned hanger are great, because they go easy on the delicate materials. Metal hanger tend to leave pressure marks.
- Put scent bags or soap bars – especially lavender – in your closet. They keep away moths and leave a nice scent on your clothes.
- Do not expose your garments to direct sunlight, as colors will fade over time
2. Wash mindfully
Shrunken wool sweaters and once white now pinkish shirts? Been there, done that. But in order to make our clothes last longer we definitely want to keep these accidents to a minimum. So before you wash anything, check the care label inside your garment. Separate your clothes properly (colors, temperatures and materials) and rather use the gentle or delicate cycle with low temperatures. Even stains and odors will vanish on lower temperatures, especially if you pre-treat your laundry.
We also tend to wash our clothes way too often. Keep in mind that every wash cycle stresses the fabrics and fibers. Hard, calcareous water does the rest and contributes to the fact that materials won’t stay fluffy for long. So don’t over-wash. If you’ve worn your garment a few times but it’s basically free from stains and odors it shouldn’t make its way into your washing machine just yet. Some fresh air or hot steam can often replace a wash cycle without compromising on hygiene.
3. Steam instead of iron your clothes
Two years ago I just had to see for myself what all the steamer-fuss was all about. And what can I say? My iron moved all the way to the back of my cabinet. Both tools remove wrinkles effectively. The hot steam of the steamer does it more delicately though, as it lifts the fibers instead of pressing them down. The steamer doesn’t even touch the garment, so you don’t have to worry about damaging your clothes with the heat.
It might take a bit of practice and patience but in order to take good care of your clothes and make them last longer, the steamer is a great gadget. And like I said before: steam is a very powerful disinfectant!
4. Bring new shine to an old garment
And while we’re already talking about popular household gadgets: I wouldn’t want to miss my electric fabric shaver. Pilling, lint and tiny knots on coats, sweaters and other textiles can be easily removed with the sharp and fine razorblades. Even old and often worn items will look as good as new after a short treatment with the fabric shaver. Just be careful and don’t put pressure while you’re working with it. Lay your item out flat on a steady surface and lightly move the fabric shaver over your garment. Too much pressure can leave holes in the fabric and we definitely don’t want that.
If you don’t trust the technique and rather work analogue a simple lint brush will work as well. But please don’t use sticky tape. It leaves just so much waste and sometimes even damages the materials – especially if you use it on silk and other delicate fabrics.
5. Repair and adjust your clothes
Tiny holes, loose seams or an inconvenient waistband – not all that seems imperfect needs to be thrown out right away. If we learn to repair and adjust our clothes – of course a great tailor can do the job for you – we can significantly extend the lifetime of our clothes. Especially if we look at our favorite items, that we want to keep and wear forever, this is great news, isn’t it?
6. Invest in good quality
So of course we can repair, wash less and treat our clothes with greatest care in order to make them last way longer. All this works way better though if fabrics and manufacturing meet certain standards. If we want to love our clothes for a long time, good quality is a great place to start with. So if we invest in quality over quantity – no matter if it’s new or secondhand – we safe ourselves a lot of trouble and even money in the long run. And by investing in good quality I’m not talking about exorbitant prices or luxury fashion, but long-lasting and low-maintenance materials, with a high-quality finish.
Fashion but make it slow
Wearing our clothes longterm and with joy while keeping them in the fashion cycle as long as possible is a core aspect of the slow fashion movement and a first, very simple step towards a more sustainable wardrobe. If we stick to the clothes we already own, we can slow down our consumption of fashion. Cause once we realize we need less we therefore tend to buy less.