How can we unlearn fast fashion’s throw-away habits to shop and care for clothes to wear forever, not toss them into landfills?
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As we roll into a new season and I rotate my wardrobe with pieces appropriate for the longer and warmer days, I find myself happiest slipping into loved and worn favorites. I find the least joy in cheap thrills that have come apart at the seams… literally. This got me thinking. How can we shop for clothes that are “made to last”? How does one shop for t-shirts that can last wash after wash or sweaters that become softer with age? The idea of holding onto pieces in your wardrobe for a longer period is not only sustainable but also what I’m loving about my wardrobe the most. But, since most of us are unlearning fast fashion’s throw-away habits it feels like now might also be a good time to re-learn how to make clothes last.
Making clothes last begins with your buying habits and investing in quality pieces made to last longer. Yet, when we say ‘invest’ the term doesn’t always relate directly to money. Sometimes, these pieces will cost more. Other times, they can be hidden gems that you can nab for an unbelievably good price. You just have to know what to look for. Here are a few ways to spot quality pieces when shopping for your next wardrobe staples.
- Look for natural fabrics- linen, wool, cotton, hemp, cashmere, silk– which tend to be sturdier than manmade synthetics.
- Hold your hand underneath a shirt to see how sheer it is. A sheer t-shirt that you intend to wear regularly won’t wear as well as a shirt that you can’t see your hand through.
- If you have a really good eye you can tell how tightly bound the fibers are which is another indication of how long a garment will last.
- Pay attention to the seams. If they’re neat and tight, a garment is made to last. If there are already loose threads, it’s a sign of poor quality and it won’t last more than a few washes.
Treat Delicates As Delicates & Clean With Love
Does your top have lace inserts? Is your skirt satin or silk? What about your wool sweater? Depending on the items’ care tag you might be able to wash these items at home instead of dry cleaning. Just don’t be tempted to toss them into your regular load of laundry.
Invest in a detergent for delicates that will clean your clothes without damaging delicate fibers or causing them to lose their shape. These formulas are milder and might even be specifically formulated for items made of wool or cashmere. While you can use your regular detergent for towels and sheets you might want to give extra care to a dress or a favorite t-shirt that you like to wear often. These are pieces you can wash together in the laundry in separate delicates bags. For even more protection, avoid washer machines for these items altogether and gently handwash your favorite pieces.
Air Dry & Save Energy
Countries like Italy and Australia aren’t known for relying on dryers for their clothes. In fact, many houses in these countries don’t come with dryers since people prefer to hang their clothes to dry. This energy-saving tip not only has the potential to reduce your carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds yearly, but it’s also gentler on your clothing.
The high heat and tumbling action of dryers can shrink fibers, damage the shape of your clothes, and warp elastic. If you need proof of what your dryer is doing to your clothes, just check the lint trap. All that microscopic damage is clumped together right there in your dryer.
Store clothes in a well-ventilated area that is cool and dry. Avoid the chance of any moisture sneaking into your clothing fibers. Use sturdy hangers and garment bags for pieces like dresses and coats to keep their shape. Items like blouses and sweaters can be folded and stored in air-tight containers to avoid pests or moisture (yes, this is a recurring theme) from getting in and damaging your clothes.
When packing your clothes away for a new season, make sure that they’re clean before long-term storage. Even if your clothes might not look dirty, give them a quick cleaning before switching out your wardrobe and storing them for next season. Any dirt in your clothes can attract pests or moisture that could result in musty smells when stored for months at a time.
Treat your clothes with love and they’ll reward you by looking good for years to come.