Top 5 tips for looking after your clothes to make them last
You've invested in a few designer pieces, you've stocked up on classics and you've treated yourself to a few indulgences. But how do you make sure that you get the most out of that amazing collection of clothes?
In order to really benefit from your fabulous wardrobe, you need to make sure you're looking after your clothes and giving them a fighting chance to make it past one season. By storing them properly and taking care of them correctly, you can prolong the life of your most-loved garments and really make the most of what you've got.
But this doesn't mean spending hours folding jumpers up in tissue paper and hundreds of pounds spent at the dry cleaners. Even small changes to the way you look after your clothes can help to keep them looking gorgeous. Here are a few of our top tips.
1. Don't overcrowd your wardrobe
Few of us are lucky to have the closet space of Mariah Carey (above left) and if you have more clothes than space things can quickly get messy. But cramming as many coathangers as possible onto a creaking, overloaded rail (above right) is doing nothing for your clothes OR your sanity. If you can expand the space you store your clothes in, that's brilliant. But if you're short on space, you have to be creative, and a little bit ruthless!
The first place to start is with a very large bin bag! Ditch anything that doesn't fit, anything that doesn't suit your style any more, and anything that you haven't worn in the last 12 months. Donate the good stuff to charity and take the more worn-out pieces to your nearest recycling centre. Keeping unwearable stuff in your closet just takes up valuable space and hides the clothes you love.
2. Rotate, rotate, rotate!
Pack up clothing that's unworn for a large portion of the year in suitcases and store it away in the loft / attic / garage. There's no point having your winter coats taking up space in July, and you probably won't need that tropical print strappy dress in January, so why not free up space in your wardrobe by stashing these elsewhere? The suitcases themselves should be enough to keep the clothes protected in the short term, but use vaccum bags to give yourself some extra peace of mind and keep the moths out, and make sure you put expensive / delicate items in dust bags for extra protection. If you're short on storage space, try putting things under the bed in underbed storage boxes.
3. Clean your clothes straight away
How many of us have a stained dry-clean only dress loitering somewhere because we've not had the time to get it cleaned? Or a bright coloured tee that we know will run hidden at the bottom of the linen basket crying out for a wash?
The longer you leave a mark or stain, the harder it will be to get out, so if you've got something that needs attention, sort it out sooner rather than later. Find a dry cleaner you trust (go on personal recommendation from a well-turned-out friend or colleague), keep some washing powder and stain remover in your kitchen cupboard for emergency hand washes, and take advantage of products that'll make your machine washes easier too. Pop a Colour Catcher sheet in with your laundry to stop colours from running all over each other - particularly useful for stopping dark denim from turning your undies grey!
4. Get to grips with the ironing!
Modern irons have a plethora of settings, and if you don't know how to use them, you can end up killing your synthetics with heavy steam, spending far too long ironing your clothes, or ruining them with clouds of chalky white residue.
The basics are simple. Firstly, never, ever leave water in your iron. This is what causes limescale to build up, which then undoubtledly comes out in powdery flakes on your new black dress. Empty it after you're done - no excuses! This is particularly important if you live in a hard water area where limescale is a huge problem. Use distilled water to keep your iron in good condition for longer, or try one of the special scented waters made for steam irons.
Next, learn how hot each setting really is, and what works for each fabric. You may need to turn it up a little hotter than recommended, especially for blended fabrics, but be very careful not to go too far from the guidelines. Synthetics need a lower temperature because higher ones will wreck the bonds in the chemicals that make up the fabric. It might take longer to iron on a cooler setting, but you'll protect the look of your clothes in the long run. Ever ironed a pair of cheap black trousers with a hot iron and noticed they go a bit 'shiny' - there's your problem!
Cottons, linens and natural fibres need a hot iron - and usually steam - for a really sharp look. Don't even think about ironing a cotton shirt or pleated skirt without filling your iron with water and pushing that steam button - you'll be there forever. Use the water spray button for particularly stubborn creases, and iron over until dry to flatten.
You can iron things like beaded, sequinned and velvet fabrics, too - just put them face down on a towel, and iron the bottom with a fairly cool iron.
5. Be careful what you mix
It might sound stupid, but prolonging the life of your clothes goes as far as being clever when you put together your ensembles. Even things like the type of handbag you carry can affect your clothes.
Be careful how you pair up your fabrics, textures and embellishments so you don't damage them. Carrying a studded bag with a fluffy jumper, for example, can lead to all kinds of pilling of the fibres. The ink from brand new jeans and dark coloured clothes can rub off onto pale leather accessories, leaving grubby tidemarks. Tucking silk too tightly into heavier fabrics can warp the shape making it impossible to wear loose in future. And never underestimate what a sharp stiletto heel can do to an expensive pair of tights!
Also consider your makeup. Fake tan with a brand new white dress? Not a great idea, though you can usually remove stains with a hot wash, or using a specific product for removing fake tan stains. Hair colours, foundation and any pigmented product can also cause problems for delicate fabrics or light colours. Dress from the bottom up whenever you can to avoid getting makeup on your clothes.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks from us in the coming months, and keep that wardrobe looking fabulous for longer!