When clothing was less accessable and affordable, people had to wear what they owned until it wore out. They looked after it or re-invented it. Patches on knees or elbows and neat visible mending stitches were commonplace. Have we missed the point of a simple concept of yesteryear?

In Japanese culture the idea that used and worn items can become more beautiful is referred to as “wabi-sabi” embracing the idea that objects gain character, depth and a unique story as they age and show signs of wear. The beauty found in an old book, the weathered appearance of wooden furniture or the fading colours of a vintage garment tells a story. 

Attention to detail once meant that clothes often looked as good inside out as they did on the outside. Linings, double-stitched or French seams and carefully drafted patterns allowing for ease and comfort meant that clothing lasted longer. The signs of wear and tear and increasing the longevity of clothing with mending was normal. 

There is no doubt that the fast paced nature of the fashion industry has created a culture of over consumption with the constant disposal of our unwanted garments. Cheap fabrics and cost-cutting production methods have led to wearers to put quantity over quality. However, with growing information and awareness around the drawbacks of fast fashion there are now more options than ever to find and support concious brands who produce meaninful and well-made garments. 

Putting together a wardrobe of quality, carefully considered garments is the first step in making a difference but looking after your clothes is one of the most sustainable things we can do. 

Here are 10 tips to make quality garments last longer –

  1. Try washing your clothes less often. Do I really need to wash it – or could it be worn again? Give your garment a quick re-fresh with steam while you take a shower. 
  2. Treat stains straight away. You’ll have the best chance of unwanted marks disappearing if you spot clean them immediately with cold water. 
  3. Take care when washing garments. Wash your clothes inside out with zips zipped up to prevent snagging against other garments or in the machine drum. Wash delicate items in a mesh wash bag or if you don’t have one use a pillowcase. 
  4. Dry-clean as little as possible. Spot clean, hand wash or machine wash when you can as the chemicals used in dry-cleaning can be harsh. Read our Journal article for a few good reasons to avoid dry-cleanning - Why Dry Clean When You Can Hand Wash
  5. Line dry your clothes instead of using the tumble dryer. Whites outside and colours and darks inside to avoid fading. 
  6. Steam your clothes instead of ironing which can be harsh. Try hanging them in the bathroom while you take a shower. The best way to combat creases in natural fibres such as silk is to wear them. 
  7. Avoid pilling or little bobbles. Put your woollens in a zip lock bag in the freezer overnight. This helps to shrink the fibres and may help with odours. You can also invest in a gadget that carefully removes pilling.  
  8. Store your clothes correctly. Use coat-hangers that support your clothes such as wooden or soft styles that won’t misshape shoulders. Fold knitwear and silks instead of hanging to avoid stretching. Clothes should be stored in dry spaces away from sunlight with room to breathe – you’ll also avoid ironing creases.
  9. Choose quality made garments. Check the inside of the garment before you buy. Take a closer look and ask quesstions - Are the seams stitched neatly or top-stitched with extra re-enforcement? Are the buttons and zips securely fastened? Should this garment be lined?
  10. Repair or re-style your clothes. If you don’t sew or are time poor, find a good dressmaker or alterationist who can breathe new life into your clothes and celebrate the imperfections. 
You can read more about how to look after you clothes in our Journal.
September 29, 2023