Anyone who has had a magazine subscription or followed social media pages deemed fashion gurus has been a spectator of the ongoing war between mass fashion and upper-echelon brands regarding quality.
The recent advice, in efforts to curb the carbon footprint on the earth that the clothing industry induces, is to buy better and buy less. Editors and designers want consumers to go ahead and splurge on the $100-$200 shoes or the handbag that costs upwards of $500+ in order to "make it last" but in truth, it likely isn't the middle and lower classes who are buying tons of clothes only to throw them away or wear them only once.
It isn't just the lower and middle classes that are the main consumers of brands like Zara, H&M, Nordstrom Rack and similar price-points, particularly in larger cities. Anyone who is conscious of managing their money so that it can be better allocated and spread around would be crazy not to spend less on clothing. It is consistently being produced, rather than to save up for that family trip or self-care procedure that comes with a heftier price tag and happens less often.
The truth is you don't have to spend on pricey shoes, or coats, or suiting or tops or anything else that you gravitate towards in order to get your money's worth, but it isn't a crime to buy RTW or couture if you choose.
It is all about how you maintain its care after its purchase. I have several items that I have had for over 12 years that I purchased with a coupon or discount from places The Limited (now a private label for Belk), Cache (now defunct), Charlotte Russe (which recently went through bankruptcy and has adjusted its brand), and yes, even Wal-Mart and Target.
All it takes is a lot of personal hygiene and level of awareness when handling your fabrics. Follow this advice to avoid having to constantly replace clothing until you are ready to recycle them or resell them:
Always keep stain removers and fabric shavers in your home.
I make it no secret in previous posts that I love Shout Spray. I buy the refill bottles and they last me several washes. Some people use the bleaching pens from Clorox or other brands, which is also fine, but I have found them to be less helpful due to the amount of time I have to take on large stains.
When I had my daughter, no doubt she got food and other materials all over her clothes, Shout Spray has helped me keep her clothes looking like new until she grows out of them or it's time to recycle.
As you prepare to wash your load, go through the items that have specific stains on them, and apply your stain remover. Rub the fabric together for 3-4 seconds and then toss it in. I have found that it works best if you don't do this too far in advance of the actual cleaning. I do it as I'm loading the machine.
Sorting and Water Temperature Matter.
I often hear others say that they either hate or just don't sort their laundry before they throw everything in but if you have certain pieces that are favorites or that you consider to be staples, how you wash them is critical if you want them to last.
What has always worked for me is only washing my white clothes with hot water and never mixed with other colors. If an item is primarily white, I wash it with whites. If white is an accent color,, I load it with the dominant colors.
My bright colors like reds, oranges, and yellows, pinks, etc., I use warm water and my dark colors like deep blues, greys, blacks, greens, dark purples, etc get cold water.
I have seen advice online to wash everything in cold water for energy purposes or for fabric content but for me, the whites come out best with hot water and I rarely ever have stains after using a stain remover. I have whites that have lasted me well over 10 years but you should try which method works for you.
Inside Out and Water Fill
Those settings and knobs on your washing machine really do serve a purpose. When doing small loads, ensure that your fill settings are not set to large and vice versa. Too much water will dilute the effectiveness of your detergent and not having enough water will not fully remove your detergent.
Another thing to watch for when doing your laundry is turning something embellished (such as sequins, appliques, or studs), delicate (like sweaters), or ripped inside out. This reduces the likelihood of damage occurring during the wash, such as snagging, detachment, and pilling.
Once dry if you do have a small bit of pilling or lint rolls remaining, a fabric shaver or lint roller will help safely remove them and prevent further damage. It is amazing how this keeps your clothes looking fresh. You can also trim any loose threads before they get the chance to unravel.
Avoid Using High Heat to Dry
The other place that temperature will make or break your ability to sustain your key items is the dryer. Some suggest air drying everything but we all know how difficult that can be if you live a lifestyle that is consistently pressed for time.
I do believe in air drying certain items if it suggests it on the care label or it is made of an extremely delicate material but there is another option for your items that are not quite "premium".
Prioritize the tumble dry or fluff air option on your dryer. The fluff air option uses room temperature to help de-wrinkle items that you may not necessarily need to wash but need to throw on. It is also an option for textured items that may need to be "refreshed". Some of your items you can fluff after air drying as well.
If you actually need your clothes, towels, bed linens, etc., dry after a wash then you can use the tumble dry option. It uses the lowest amount of heat that your dryer produces and can also help with de-wrinkling. You can add dryer sheets if you did not use fabric softener during the wash or have concerns about static.
I usually cycle my clothes twice on tumble dry and if I have cotton products that I am concerned about shrinkage or shape, I just get them a mild tug and stretch them out once I remove from the dryer. It is that simple to keep your favorite T-shirts or sweaters!
Frequently clean appliances.
Like anything that gets frequently used, upkeep and maintenance affects performance. Ensure that you regularly clean any filters or interiors of your washer and dryer. Here is where those handy-dandy user manuals become purposeful.
If you don't have one for your brand, you can often contact your manufacturer or find the information online for what not use and how frequently to clean, as well as the procedure if you have never done it.
As we discussed with those whites or pricier items, you do not want undesired residue building up onto your clothes. As with any filter, once they are filled up with catching the undesirables, they need to either be replaced or cleaned to continue protecting our pieces.
Minimize washing after every wear.
The laundering process, regardless of how you do it, involves levels of agitation to the fibers that make up the fabric in the clothing being worn. Over time those fibers will get weaker and weaker until you begin to get holes, detachments, rips, fading, etc. The more you wash your clothes the faster the breakdown will begin.
Ways to avoid having to overly clean include:
Frequent bathing and effective deodorant spray: You can use gel or traditional roll-on deodorant but my experience has been that they leave too much residue on clothes. If you put the deodorant on first, you run the risk of it smothering onto your fabric. If you put it on afterwards, you run the risk of accidentally applying to the inside of your fabric. For me spray leaves the least amount of residue either way and is the most easily removed.
If you are doing workouts try to make sure you are wearing actual workout gear so that your tanks and tees don't get ruined by sweat and frequent washing.
Apply perfumes and colognes before getting dressed. Applying scents to your pulse points and then putting your clothes on prevents any staining or yellowing that could result on the outside of your clothes if you spray your clothes by doing it the traditional way. Putting it on your skin first gives your body and air the chance to mingle before introducing the fabric, making it more subtle.
This goes against the common "spray it in the air and walk through" advice but it depends upon whether you want your clothes or your scent to last longer.This method also helps to help make sure you aren't retaining any excess product in your clothing after you wear it and reduces the need to wash every time.
Washing undergarments every time, go for it! These items are already delicate and not designed to endure years of abrasion anyway. My previous post 6 Reasons to Always Buy Clothes gives you permission to always buy these anyway!
Inspect and spot clean. Hand-washing and spot rinsing are very effective if you only have a small spot that needs to be cleaned. This is particularly good for items like denim, which you should wear two to three times before washing, or for outerwear items like coats or jackets. Many accessories such as wallets and purses are spot-clean only with a damp cloth. Afterwards you can hang dry and then steam or iron if wrinkled.
The same applies to dry cleaning. You want to minimize how often you dry clean the pieces that are not machine-washable because it also involved applying special solvents to fabric which over time can break down fibers.
These are just a few tips that can get you started on getting your money's worth. Of course, these are things that I do for washing but stay tuned for my post later this month on how you can manipulate your items once they have a little bit of damage in order to use them longer.
Are you a style magician when it comes to the laundering process? Make sure you leave your best tips in the comments or let me know if any of this helps!