8 Simple Habits to Maintain Your Wardrobe Investment

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We all want to be smart with our money. For many people, saving on clothing simply means scooping up bargains. After all, a straightforward way to cut wardrobe expenses is to spend less at the store (or stop shopping altogether.)

But there are many less obvious ways to trim clothing expenses. Today we’re going to focus on one: properly caring for what you already own. 

Investing in a wardrobe is really no different than owning a home or a car. If you sink money into something and you intend to use it long term, taking care to maintain it properly just makes sense. It’s part of being a mindful consumer.

Why maintenance matters

It’s better for your schedule. Finding exactly what you want again is sometimes impossible and replacing garments drains time and energy fast. Making a shopping list, finding parking, surveying options, ransacking a fitting room…it takes ages. (Just ask the person who’s waiting for you in the car.) A little daily wardrobe maintenance is a small price to pay in comparison.

It’s better for the planet. According to one report, compared to the year 2000, we’re buying twice and much clothing and using it for half the time. Twenty percent of global production waste comes from the textile and apparel industry. The environment cannot sustain this. We must do better than replace our garments year in and year out.

It’s better for your wallet. If you break down the cost, you’ll quickly see how investing in and caring for high-quality items just makes sense. Buying one linen tee every two years is cheaper than replacing a poorly manufactured flimsy cotton lookalike three times a year.

It’s better for your heart. Maintaining a wardrobe is a simple exercise in gratitude and contentment. Mending seams and replacing buttons are healthy reminders that time brings stories and new is not always better. Good clothing, like good character, ages with grace.

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Mother knows best

I am a preacher’s kid and we didn’t have excess anything when I was growing up. My mother was faithful to help me understand that if you took care of things, they would last longer.

Mom taught me volumes about maintenance: how to store clothing, treat stains, launder garments, perform basic repairs, and care for leather goods. 

I can’t possibly cover everything she taught me in one post but I’ll hand over a list of helpful habits and send you off with a list of things every woman needs to own.

8 Habits to help maintain your wardrobe investment

1. Put your clothing away immediately

When I was a little girl, I had a really bad habit of throwing clothes under my bed. Can you believe it? Somehow I thought that if they were out of sight I wouldn’t have to deal with them. My poor mother!

Her wise words now ring in my ears! “Marilee, hang things up right away! That way you only have to touch them once.” If you respect your clothes and hang them or fold them neatly right away, you’ll prolong their life and they’ll be always at the ready.

2. Do away with cheap metal hangers

They may be perfect for roasting marshmallows but those wire hangers are not the wisest choice for storing most garments. Dry-cleaning shops are happy to receive recycled hangers and you’ll extend the life of your wardrobe by switching to something more robust.

My favourite hangers are the ones covered with a non-slip felt-like material. They have a soft sloping edge so they don’t leave weird indentations on the shoulders of fine garments. You can also successfully hang casual pants on them as well. These wonderful hangers are often at Costco for a song and a dance.

Skirts and quality trousers deserve specialty hangers. Many fine fabrics lose their wrinkles when hung so storing trousers by clipping them upside down from the hem will spare you time spent ironing. These hangers are terrific for maximizing closet space.

Not everything should be on a hanger, however. Some knits are happier folded. Lightweight cardigans are fine on hangers but heavier knits will stretch and lose their shape if stored on hangers. You’re better off folding them neatly.

3. Inspect your clothes before filing them away

You don’t want untreated spots, loose buttons, fallen hems or splitting seams in your closet. Doing a once-over at the end of the day makes sure everything is in good condition. If not, don’t let it enter the closet.

Take it to the cleaners or the tailor--or better yet, mend things at home--but don’t hang up anything that isn’t fit to wear. The goal is that everything hanging is always ready to go. 

This is a good principle to embrace when seasons change too. Don’t put a summer dress in hibernation until it’s cleaned and ready for next year’s wedding season.

4. Consider maintenance costs as you shop

The price of a garment is never final so be aware of what you welcome into your closet. Mom taught me to inspect care labels before spending a dime. Upkeep costs time and money. Maintenance can be expensive so it’s worth consideration before you invest. 

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If something says “dry clean only,” you will need to honour the label. Are you prepared to spend the money and make trips to the cleaners?

Likewise, cold-water hand washes are also mildly inconvenient. Your time is valuable. If you like to throw everything into the machine, will you bother following the instructions? If not, I suggest you find a low-maintenance substitute to meet your needs. It’s not worth owning something you won’t properly care for.

5. Endeavour to wear things a few times between washes

Keeping stains at bay is a major part of maintaining a wardrobe but ironically our desire to keep things clean can backfire and shorten the life of a garment.

Unless an item is thoroughly soiled, it is not necessary to wash it after each wear. Simply inspect for stains and odours. If it passes the test, hang it up and give it another go. You don’t really want to do another load of laundry this week, do you?

6. Get picky about how you wash your clothes

Mom would say, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Here are six of her best practices.

1. Treat stains in a timely manner. 

The longer they sit, the harder they are to remove. If you don’t have your own guide, here’s a helpful chart for your laundry room. Remember: Never condemn a stained garment to the dryer. It will set the stain. If a spot doesn’t vanish after one wash, try again. 

2. Make sure the water is the right temperature. Hot is best for whites but cold water is sufficient for most garments.

3. Separate darks from lights from bright colours

This simple practice will keep your whites and coloured clothing from looking downcast thanks to dark garments. Bonus - you’ll never have to worry about your white clothes becoming pastel without your permission.

4. Always use a lingerie bag

Delicate bras, panties and shapewear pieces deserve all the TLC you can spare. If you don’t own any special washing bags, here’s a good staring point.

5. Don’t overload the machine

This is a reliable way to damage garments and shorten the life of your appliance. Practice patience and do two loads instead of one.

6. Dry accordingly

Most garments are fine on a dryer’s lowest setting but truthfully, everyone’s favourite time-saving appliance is your wardrobe’s nemesis. The drying process impacts your clothing most, not the washing. 

If you are the picture of patience and you have space, air-drying clothes will extend your investment even more (and slim down your electricity bill.) Ikea makes a great indoor rack.

That said, there’s nothing like slipping into a shirt that’s dried in the breeze. If you can swing a clothesline, more power to you.

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7. Don’t let shoes become an afterthought

Shoes make any outfit pop. They’re also one of the more costly things in your wardrobe. Embracing maintenance will not only keep your investment in good repair; it will also boost your overall appearance. It demonstrates that details matter.

Investing in good footwear is not vanity. The sooner you do so, the better off your future back and wallet will be. The leather and craftsmanship is generally superior. They aren’t inexpensive but with proper maintenance, they can last for a dozen years or more. Just be sure to clean, polish and store your shoes properly.

The trick is keeping everything you need in a shoe caddy at home. I also suggest you treat your best pairs to proper shoe trees. They prevent leather from curling or cracking as the tension of the shoe tree maintains the shoe’s shape. (Cedar ones are my favourite.)

8. Stock the necessary items

Maintenance is easily done when you have everything at home. Invest in these things and keep them on standby so you can save money in the big picture.

IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM

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Soil-removing pre-wash spray

A soft-bristle brush for gently rubbing out stains

A reliable everyday detergent

Proper soap for delicate garments

A lingerie bag for bras and shapewear

A drying rack or over-the-door hanger

An iron, pressing cloth, and ironing board

A spray bottle with plain water

IN THE CLOSET

A medium-sized sewing kit

I have a small plastic 3-drawer organizing system to store pins, needles, thread, a seam ripper, dressmaker’s chalk, and scissors at the ready. Something like this is basic enough for an amateur.

A jar to collect spare buttons

A lint roller

Garment shields

Wearing these under dry-cleanable clothing can save you significant dollars in cleaning costs. I rely on these ones.

Knit pick or crochet hook

These are handy for pulling snagged threads to the backside of knits. Never ever cut those threads! What will result is a hole! I know, because I’ve been guilty of doing this.

Disposable razor

Banishing pilling fibres doesn’t call for a special appliance. Simply lay the garment on a flat surface and gently “shave” the loose fibres with a sharp razor.

Shoe trees

IN THE SHOE CADDY

Saddle soap

This is a must. Any cleaners containing detergents will destroy leather’s natural oils.

All-weather shoe protector

Important for all shoes but especially suede

Leather conditioner

A suede eraser and brush

A kit like this is great for minor spots

A shoe brush

Shoe polish

A soft rag

Cotton is always the very best for this. I use old cotton T-shirts.. They work like a charm.

An old toothbrush

These are invaluable when you need to get into small spaces or along the edge of the sole

IN THE CAR

A purse-sized emergency sewing kit

Tide-to-go pens

Buy a 3-pack and keep them handy. They’re excellent for lipstick smudges.

Wet-ones

A mini lint roller


We all invest hard-earned dollars into our wardrobes, regardless of how much we spend on clothing, If we’re going to honour the money we’ve spent, maintenance is everything. I hope these simple habits serve you like they’ve served me.

What about you? Anything you’d like to add? Drop a comment below! It’s never too late to learn a new trick.

xo,

Marilee