Be sustainable and learn how to make your clothes last longer Experts' tips.

May 21, 2021

Our routines have changed completely since last year, and although we’re all looking forward to going back to normal, we don’t want life to be exactly as it was before. For instance, there’s a common growing desire for sustainable fashion and, instead of disposable clothes, we long for garments that last longer. The pandemic is making us re-think our old habits, and we’ve come to realize we don’t need to buy new clothes every week. In fact, we’ve found joy in updating our favourite pieces with new styling tricks. Additionally, we are buying more decor items, preparing our homes to entertain friends again.

Does that mean we don’t want to shop anymore? Of course, not. We love fashion and we love shopping. But we certainly want to buy less and buy better. And we want to take better care of our clothes so that they last longer. After all, what better feeling than wearing something that once belonged to your grandmother? I, for example, have handbags, scarves, and even a coat that my grandma use to wear when I was a child, and every time I take them out of my wardrobe, they bring me so many memories. I also like to mix classic, timeless garments with trendy ones. Because, as much as I enjoy following fashion’s new trends, I find it rather tacky to dress from head-to-toe in the latest collections. Vintage clothes are not only sustainable but also very chic and French girl style.

So, how can you make your clothes last longer? To answer this question, we prepared a list with tips from experts on sustainable fashion like Orsola de Castro, who wrote the book “Loved Clothes Last”.

Vintage paper doll with several clothes.

1- Clothes live longer when less washed

Over-cleaning causes clothes to wear out faster. Consequently, you should avoid washing your clothes when not necessary so they’ll live longer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to go around in smelly clothes, but there are other ways, more sustainable, to clean them. For instance, you can use damp sponging to clean a stain instead of washing the entire garment.

Stella McCartney, a strong advocate for sustainable clothes, explains,” if something is made from good-quality wool, such as a suit, it’s designed to be brushed clean and not washed”. 

Remember to always follow the washing instructions on the label to avoid disasters such as shrinking your favourite wool sweater. Use low heat when possible, and laundry bags to protect delicate fabrics from tearing.

2- Your mother was right; wash your whites with white only

If you like white shirts as much as Charlotte Casiraghi does, never wash them with any coloured garment. Additionally, you will have to wash your whites after each wear. Otherwise, sweat and dirt can build up and turn the crisp white hue into yellowish, making your clothes look old.

3- How to wash your jeans

Firstly, we tend to wash jeans on average after 1 to 3 wears, but Levi’s, for example, recommends washing them after 10 wears. Unless you sat on wet grass or rolled in the hay, if your denim trousers pass the sniff test, there’s no need to put them in the washing machine yet. Additionally, wash them inside out in cold water to retain their original colour.

4- How to make silk clothes, including scarves, last longer

Silk absorbs sweat and dirt; hence needs to be washed after each wear. But to ensure your beautiful silk clothes last longer, wash them by hand with the proper detergent or delicate baby shampoo.

  • Fill your sink with cold water.
  • Add the detergent, and put your silk garment in the water.
  • Stir gently and let it soak for a couple of minutes.
  • Rinse and place the garment on a towel.
  • Gently blot with the towel to remove the excess water.
  • Hang the dress or top on a padded hanger and let it drip dry, avoiding sunlight.

If it’s a scarf, let it air dry on the top of a dry towel, gently smooth out wrinkles with your hands and adjust the corners to make sure the scarf dries in its original shape.

Be careful; wash one garment at a time as the colours may bleed. When I was younger, I sadly ruined several silk scarves I had inherited from my mother by washing them together.

5- How to treat cashmere to last longer

The luxurious cashmere can last very long if you know how to take care of this delicate fabric. To wash it at home, follow the exact same steps as with silk.

  • After washing, don’t wring your sweater. Instead, roll up a towel with the cashmere piece together to remove the excess water.
  • Put it gently back into its original shape and let it air-dry, laying over a dry towel.
  • Never hang cashmere clothes, and once dry, fold and place them in a drawer or shelf with some cedar chips, a sustainable way to keep moths away.

6- Removing stains

Stains can make your garments look old and ruin them. The first step to take, for most stains, is to soak your garment in cold water or, at least, blot the stain with cold water to prevent setting. Do not rub.

  • For oily stains, sprinkle talcum, baby powder or cornstarch over them to absorb the oil. Leave it for 10 minutes, and then brush away.
  • Do the same with salt over red wine spills. Then, wash your garment.
  • White vinegar can do wonders, mixed with an equal amount of water. Use it in your wash to refresh clothes and remove stains like perspiration or deodorant patches on silk, for example.

7- Take proper care of your shoes

Besides your clothes, you can also give a longer life to your favourite shoes by looking after them properly. And we all know that shoes can make or break your outfit, so make sure they don’t look frumpy.

  • Firstly, spray your leather shoes, bags and even jackets with a water-resistant leather protector every few months.
  • Wipe clean any stain immediately as leather absorbs liquid easily.
  • Polish your shoes regularly and use a leather conditioner.
  • If possible, have wooden shoe trees to prevent creasing.
  • It is better to avoid wearing the same footwear two days in a row.
  • And lastly, replace the soles when they start looking worn out.

Images: copyright pilllpat (agence eureka), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.