How to increase the longevity of your wardrobe
Today, many of us are buying new clothes too often, and not holding on to what we already own for long enough. In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that 11.2 million tons of textile waste in the US ended up in landfills. Across the pond, in the UK, the average lifespan for a garment is just over two years, according to a 2017 report from the Waste and Resources Action Programme.
In our increasingly throwaway culture, it's now common for someone to wear an item only a handful of times -- or just once -- before getting rid of it. Even charitable donations have a big catch: Your lightly or never-worn clothes will more than likely wind up in a landfill or overfilled market in developing countries.
So before throwing out a garment at the first sign of wear, consider how you can extend your wardrobe's lifespan. Here are a few tips.
If you don't have access to an affordable tailor or seamstress, learning how to do simple repairs yourself is a great way to make your clothes work longer and harder, and slow down the cycle of buying and disposal. If you've never fixed a broken zipper, hemmed a pair of pants or patched-up a torn jacket, not-for-profit platform Fashion Revolution offers videos on everything from a simple button fix to basic darning techniques.
"Visible mending" refers to the process of repairing holes and signs of wear on clothes in bold, obvious ways. In Japan, such flaws are embraced through the handiwork of Japanese Sashiko (literally "little stabs"), a practice that uses hand embroidery to create a delicate pattern over tears in jeans, sweaters or dresses.
Lily Fulop, author of "Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker's Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes," uses her Instagram page to show her followers how to make similarly eye-catching, creative fixes, often by hand-stitching colorful thread. In some cases, she proves the best way to fix a hole is to not fix it at all: Fulop's embroidered hole jumper shows how damaged threads can add to a garment's charm.
Stains may not mark the end of the road for a piece of clothing. If you spilled your tea or coffee, soak the garment in water and vinegar. Have a makeup stain? Apply shaving cream to the area, let it sit for 10 minutes and rinse with cold water, then repeat the process with hot water.
Other household items can come to the rescue, including dish soap and baby powder for grease stains, and soap and salt for wine spills. Fashion Revolution's "Loved Clothes Lasts" offers a few different methods for at-home stain removal, and the internet is brimming with domestic solutions to all sorts of clothing discoloration problems.
Upcycling and repurposing
Sometimes a garment can't be saved in its current form, but it can have a second life in your closet. If you've got sewing prowess and are up for a challenge, you can try upcycling pieces at home, creating something new from used clothes.
If you need inspiration, look to emerging designers like Priya Ahluwalia and Bethany Williams, who create their collections from predominantly deadstock and disused fabric; or YouTube personalities like Annika Victoria and April Yang (aka Coolirpa) have dedicated their channels to DIY upcycling projects and sewing tips.