11 Tips for Stretching Your Wardrobe and Saving on Clothes

Happy Thursday! This is a guest post from Andrea Woroch.

Andrea is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who guides consumers on ways to live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, the New York Times and Kiplinger Personal Finance.

For more daily tips, tricks and how-to’s when it comes to saving money, follow Andrea on Twitter or on the web.

I’m the first one to admit that I have never enjoyed clothes shopping because I saw it as an unnecessary expense, something I “had” to do. Years would go by when I spent $200 or less on clothes the entire year.

I’m now learning that clothes don’t make the man, but they can influence mood, confidence, and comfort. That’s why Andrea’s post is not only timely but interesting. I hope you enjoy it!

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Have you noticed how clothing manufacturers are cutting back on content and quality in their products?

Long-sleeved tops have given way to elbow-length styles, fabrics are thinner (like today’s stretchy denim), zippers in place of pricier buttons and it’s nearly impossible to find properly finished seams.

Unhappily, they haven’t skimped on the cost to consumers. January alone saw a jaw-dropping 4.7% hike in apparel prices, according to ApparelStrategiest.com.

This trend means it’s even more important to stretch the shelf (or closet) life of classic and new pieces. If you struggle with making your clothes last, follow these tips that promise to promote wardrobe longevity so you can use your money on wiser investments.

1. Consider Classy

Trendy clothes come and go, but a quality white shirt, black pants or nude shoes never go out of style.

You can pay $100 for something that will be so last season come fall or you can make a wiser investment by purchasing a $150 quality item that will transition through seasonal styles.

Reduce the initial hit on your wallet by purchasing discount gift cards from sites like GiftCardGranny.com to retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus.

2. Read the Label

If you’re tossing everything into the washing machine without checking labels, you’re only putting more cash in the manufacturer’s pocket.

“Hand Wash” and “Tumble Dry Low” mean exactly what they say. If you’re not sure what the little instruction symbols on the label mean, refer to this guide for common care symbols.

It also greatly helps if you toss delicates into a mesh bag for laundering to help protect them from harsh agitation and air dry to prevent additional damage.

3. Skip the Dryer Cycle

When time isn’t tight, skip the dryer. Air drying ensures your clothes last longer and cut energy use while reducing your monthly energy costs.

Polyester, lycra and knit fabrics are best to hang dry as well as sweaters which will reduce the presence of “pills” that gather during the drying process. Always lay sweaters flat on a drying rack or towel to help retain their shape and make sure to turn them over at least once to increase air flow for best drying results.

4. Make Colors Last

The way you wash your garments is crucial in maintaining fabrics elasticity, color and shape.

Consider turning clothing inside/out before tossing in the washer or prior to hand washing. You’ll see less pilling and fading in the long run, especially with dark clothing.

5. Wash Likes With Likes

Some detergent manufacturers want you to believe it’s possible to wash a red sock with whites, but do you really want to take a chance of proving them wrong?

In addition to bleeding problems, washing dark-colored clothing in warm water expedites fading. Wash all your whites in hot water and the rest in cold to get the same clean results while saving energy dollars.

6. Use Shoe Trees

Peek into a well-heeled person’s closet and you’ll likely see shoe trees keeping each pair in proper shape. While this requires an initial investment, the long-term results are well worth it.

Using shoe horns also contributes to retaining a shoe’s toe-box shape, particularly with boots. Stuffing old newspapers or tissue paper into your shoes is a cheap alternative.

7. Darn It

Darning and repairing clothing has nearly become a lost art.

This video will show you how to darn a sock and this one explains blind stitching, two of the most important tricks for repairing fabrics.

If your shoes have seen better days, meaning they’re covered in scuffs or chip in the heel, find out what a repair at your local cobbler will cost because he can likely make the shoes look new again for a fraction of what it would cost to buy a replacement pair.

8. Hang It Up

Common sense says tossing your clothes on the floor each night isn’t the best way to make them last. Make it a habit to hang clothes as soon as you remove them.

Knitwear, naturally, should be folded for storage since hangers can damage the stitching and spread the weave. Don’t dismiss the quality of the hangers as cheap wire hangers can damage articles of clothing.

Opt for padded hangers when hanging heavier garments like suit jackets to reduce pulling and creases. Refer to these tips for best hanger options.

9. Spot Cleaning Sticks

The trick to riding stains of their ugly appearance is timing. The sooner you spot clean, the best chances you have at fighting the damage.

Tide, Janie and other manufacturers offer spot-cleaning sticks that are great for vaporizing stains on the go. This is particularly helpful for those of us with short memories who toss clothes in the washer before applying a stain remover.

Otherwise, blot–don’t rub!–the stain with cold water or even apply a touch of hand soap which has work wonders for me even with oil.

10. Lengthen Shoe Life

Dirt and water deeply damage footwear, but sometimes there’s no way around the puddle but foot first.

For suede, apply a protectant spray and use a special suede wire brush to remove dirt or water stains. Renew leather shoes with a touch of polish every few wearings and buff to a high shine.

Finally, always let wet shoes dry away from heat or you can end up with a warped shape.

11. Dry-Cleaning Alternatives

It’s always wise to review clothing labels before purchasing so you don’t end up with a laundry basket full of “dry-clean only” items. Not only is it a hassle to deal with, but it’s extremely costly.

Though you can’t avoid all dry clean-specific apparel, you can extend the period between trips to the dry cleaner by using at-home dry-cleaning packets which promise to refresh fabrics in the dryer instantly.

Make Them Last

Wojo’s note: I hope the basic message rings through–consider taking care of clothes well and repairing them as needed rather than discarding and buying a new wardrobe every few years.

It’s good practice and it will save you money!

(Photo credit)

4 thoughts on “11 Tips for Stretching Your Wardrobe and Saving on Clothes

  1. I had a pair of jeans developed a hole near the zipper and instead of tossing them, I took them to the dry cleaners (that does repair) and they patched it up. For $6 it cost me a fraction of the cost of replacing them. If I get another year out of them, it’s well worth it.

  2. These are awesome tips! I’ve heard a couple of other places that clothes have been made of poorer quality of late. I’ve noticed this is especially true with women’s clothing – and all under the guise of being specifically made for “layering.” I bought a shirt from what I thought was a high-quality company last season and it has recently developed a hole at the seam of the sleeve. I couldn’t believe it! So bummed…

  3. Consider buying from companies that guarentee there clothes forever, like Lands End and LLBean. Then if holes develop or there is another problem, they will replace the item. You just need to bring it to a store that carries their product for the refund.

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