Despite Marie Kondo helping us to spark joy, we still have a lot of stuff in our wardrobes—and stuff we rarely wear. In Lauren Bravo’s book, How to Break Up With Fast Fashion, she reveals that last year alone the UK spent an estimated £2.7 billion on clothes that only got worn once. That’s quite the sobering statistic.
Adding to this, there’s nothing quite like being stuck at home for over a month with literally nowhere to go to make you realise just how many clothes you have. For those of us who love fashion, we know that it can, at times, make you feel overwhelming guilt and shame about the textile bounty you’ve amassed. There’s no denying that this is a first-world problem. But instead of feeling bad, why not think about how you can make the stuff you actually love last longer?
I spoke to Bravo about her best tips for looking after your clothes the right way. Not only will this mean you’ll shop less (say hello to a healthier budget), but you’ll also be chucking away less stuff, which, in turn, will mean you’re helping the environment, as it won’t end up in the carbon emission–producing landfill. Keep scrolling to see her brilliant tips…
“However much money you spend on your clothes, you should always be able to wash them and they should be able last,” says Bravo. “It shouldn’t be the case that only expensive clothes last as that’s not feasible for so many people.”
One of the easiest things to do then, Bravo tells me, is just “wash clothes less.” Today, we’re so obsessed with keeping things clean that we think we have to wash something after one wash, but that’s not the case. Unless it smells or it’s really filthy, sometimes just a spot wash will do, she recommends.
When you wash clothes, always wash at 30 degrees (unless you’re having to sterilise them such as with baby clothes) and put them in a guppy bag to prevent microfibres from making their way to the ocean. These are tiny plastic particles that end up being consumed by fish and can travel up the food chain to us as well.
Another big tip is to avoid tumble drying altogether, if possible. Bravo tells me that it leaves a huge carbon footprint. “Washing and drying a load of laundry every two days… is equivalent to flying from London to Glasgow and back with 15-mile taxi rides to and from the airport.”
Sometimes, clothes just need a bit of a refresh. Hang it up on a clothing line or on a radiator or buy a bottle of Day2 spray, which will make your garments smell better. Below, you’ll find plenty of products to help keep your clothes smelling great.
Now, onto the repairing side of things. I asked Bravo to ease me in slowly. For starters, what are the easiest bits to repair? Hems and buttons were her replies. If you feel intimidated, don’t be—this doesn’t mean you have start filling in your application for The Great British Sewing Bee. All you really need is a decent pair of scissors and a modest sewing kit.
“My biggest secret is Wunderweb,” says Lauren. “It’s so handy for if you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to sew by hand. Essentially, it’s a glue tape that you can use to re-hem—or even take up—trousers and skirts. I don’t even bother with an iron. I use my hair straighteners to do it.”
As for buttons, all you need is a basic needle and matching thread for your garment. Bravo suggests looking up YouTube tutorials to find great guides on how to do it. But perhaps her biggest tip here is to remember that it “doesn’t have to look perfect.” All that matters is that it looks good to you.
Okay, so here’s where things get a little more technical, but you’ve made it this far, so keep going. Personally, I’ve had a pair of jeans with a big rip in them (on the right thigh on the front) that I didn't know what to do with. Bravo suggests mending them by adding a patch over the top and making it a key feature of the garment.
But there are other options as well. One is a movement from Japan called Shashiko, which is predominantly about repairing denim with white thread. Bravo tells me that this is to show how mending something can be beautiful and celebrated and made part of the garment’s story.
Finally, you could always cover up the “offending” areas with an embroidered patchwork. Bravo loves the Stay Home Club’s pieces, which you can iron on. Keep scrolling for everything you might need to get a bit more technical with your repairs. Remember: There’s always YouTube to help guide you through.
There are, of course, instances where a piece of clothing isn’t salvageable. For example, if there’s a stain that won’t come out. For that, Bravo suggests experimenting with tie-dye. “Everyone is going crazy for it in lockdown, and it plays into the ’90s style trend too.”
You could always consider turning a dress into a top or a skirt if you’re not a fan of a part of the item or simply turn a maxi dress into a midi. However, Bravo reminds me that you want to take it slowly as you don’t want to end up having cut too much off: “It takes bravery but always cut off less than you need.”
Finally, she says, “If something is completely unsalvageable, keep your fabric and use it as wrapping paper, use scraps for cleaning or even make some scrunchies. There are so many ways you can still use them.”