The fast fashion industry thrives on you not taking care of your clothes. Clothing is made cheaply so that you can buy many pieces for very little money and you won’t mind when they fall apart in the wash. The point is to wear that cute top a few times, toss it and start again. Slow fashion businesses like mine spend more time creating each piece. They choose higher quality fabrics to last longer. They pay their workers more money too, so each piece will cost more. That said, your $100+ slow fashion top will look great well beyond that $20 fast fashion top no matter what and if you treat it well, it’ll actually save you money in the long run since you won’t need to buy a dozen cheap tops over the course of its lifetime. Here’s how you can help all your clothes (even the fast fashion pieces 😉 last as long as possible to save you money and stay as beautiful as the day you fell in love with them.
- Understand care labels. Small brands may have care instructions on a paper hang tag or a hand written label in the garment, but all clothing you buy should have a care label to tell you how best to care for your garment. All Stephanie Davis Designs pieces say “cold water wash and hang dry.” The reason for this is that cold water is the most gentle on fabric, regardless of the fibre content (“fibre content” means the materials used to create the fabric.) Similarly, air drying is much gentler on fabric than the heat of a dryer. Some fabrics really hate heat and putting them in warm water or the dryer will really shorten their lifespan. A good example of this is Spandex/Lycra. This is essentially a type of rubber so subjecting it to regular heat will weaken it over time. That’s why I always hang any workout clothes, underwear, bathing suits or bodysuits to dry. Heat is also the culprit when it comes to shrinkage.
- Do not overwash! My kids are still learning this. The less you can wash clothes the better. The act of agitating your clothes and using detergent on them does shorten their lifespan a little every time. Obviously, you need to clean your clothes sometimes. They can start to smell, start to look a little stretched out of shape in spots or get spilled on (I’m talking to you, busy moms 😉 However, if you can stretch the time between washes a little longer, your clothes will thank you by looking newer longer. Jeans are a great example of something you can get away with not washing often. Pants, shorts and skirts in general are pretty great for this because unless you sit in something or have a bad spill, you won’t likely get them very dirty or smelly quickly. Tops and dresses could need more frequent washing since they’re close to your armpits and are more likely to be spilled on, but don’t automatically toss them in the wash because you’ve worn them once. Take a look (and a sniff) to see if it’s necessary. Do they smell like deodorant? That’s fine. A freshly washed top will smell like that within minutes of wearing it anyway. Does it look a little wrinkled? That’s not a problem. Depending on the fabric, you can spritz it with water (or this Norwex spray) and hang it to straighten out as it dries, give it a quick iron or steam (hanging it in the bathroom during your steamy shower is also a good trick.) If you have items that are dry clean only and you want to avoid the trip to the cleaners for a while, try this costuming trick: put some vodka in a fine mist spray bottle and spray on smelly areas like armpits. You’d think it would make you smell like a distillery, but by the time you go out in it again, the alcohol scent will have dispersed and stinkiness will be gone.
- Understand fabrics. Remember how I mentioned fibre content? Different fibres behave differently and require different care. Here’s a quick rundown of some commonly used fibres and the types of fabric that can be made from them.
Types of Fabric:
Knit: Fabric that is stretchy like a t-shirt but that does not need Lycra to give it stretch. It is knit by hand using knitting needles or using a knitting machine. This includes many fabrics used to make casual clothes like jersey (a thin knit often used for t-shirts,) most athletic fabrics, bathing suit fabrics and sweaters.
Woven: Fabric that is woven on a loom. This fabric will not have stretch unless Lycra is woven into it. This includes fabrics used to make most pants (other than leggings, sweatpants and yoga pants) like denim and suit type fabrics as well as most blouses.
Below is a list of frequently used fibres. People tend to love the idea of natural fibres because they’re often (not always) better for the environment, but man-made fibres have their place too and can often be a great addition to natural fibres to increase their strength, ease of care or elasticity.
Some Frequently Used Natural Fibres:
Rayon (Made from wood pulp)
Tencel (Made from wood pulp)
Cotton (Made from the cotton plant)
Bamboo (Made from bamboo)
Wool (Made by shearing wool-bearing animals)
Silk (Made from the fibres spun by silkworms)
Some Frequently Used Man-made Fibres:
Polyester (Made from coal and petroleum) - Can be blended with natural fibres. Polyester is used a lot because it is very durable and keeps its shape very well. Since it’s made from what is essentially a sort of plastic, it is not very breathable, but is available in many different colours and prints and can be made into a multitude of types of fabrics from thin to thick for any season.
Nylon: often used to make bathing suits, it dries quickly, but isn’t very breathable
Elastane (Made from polyurethane) - lightweight, strong and resistant to perspiration
Spandex/Lycra - (Made from polyurethane) lightweight, comfortable and resistant to perspiration
- Mend your clothes. When your clothing starts to show signs of wear, bring them to the local dry cleaner or seamstress to be repaired (or better yet, learn a few basic sewing tricks and do it yourself! Rebecca Rowe has posted several good videos of mending tips) Know what issues are simple repair jobs: Clothing torn along a seam with fabric intact but thread broken is a quick fix, as is a fallen hem where thread has let go in spots. A hole can be a bigger issue, but small holes are generally not bad. Recently, I’ve really gotten into visible mending - if you like working with your hands and want to be creative, Google it. It’s pretty fun.
- Recycle your clothes. Just like a friend, the better you take care of your clothes, the longer they’ll want to stick around so treat them well and enjoy them for years. If you’re a mom, you’ve likely gotten a kick out of seeing your child’s hand-me-downs worn by other kids. If you stop wearing your favourite clothes so often, a well-made garment can often last so long that you can give it new life by sharing it with a friend or charity when you’re done with it - talk about making your money go far 😉