Detoxing your closet can be a heartbreaking experience. When you let go of a favorite piece, even if it’s in complete shambles, you’re losing a member of your wardrobe family. Sure, pretty much everything can be replaced, but you’ll inevitably end up having the same fashion funeral all over again. It’s important to know when to throw away your favorite basics, but the best way to delay that tragic throwaway is to learn how to extend the life of your favorite clothes — and you don’t even have to be a fashion girl to do it.
We chatted with SunnyLou Notario, a ready-wear stylist for Prada (oh la la) based in Chicago, about the best ways to help give your closet favorites a long and happy shelf life. These tricks are easy for even the least fashion-savvy gal to execute. Extra care, proper tools, rotation and proper storage are just some of the ways you can boost the lifetime of your best garments. Follow these rules to become a closet care pro.
1. Embrace the hanger. Hanging delicate pieces is a given, but it’s also important to be careful about what you hang them with. Say it with me: No more wire hangers! “Proper hangers are essential to maintaining your clothes, to keep it shaped, make sure it doesn’t get pulled or snagged,” says SunnyLou. “Metal hangers are notorious for snagging and pulling clothes. Plastic or fabric hangers are the way to go to treat your garments right.” SunnyLou adds, “It’s definitely an investment, but in the long run, it saves you a lot of money because you’re not damaging your clothes.” SunnyLou is also a huge proponent of hanging up, well, pretty much everything. Not-so-delicate items like t-shirts are an exception, but most other garments deserve some closet space. Sweaters can be tricky, but SunnyLou has a tip for those too. She says, “For longer sweaters, instead of putting it on the hanger properly, I would fold it over in half. That way it doesn’t really stretch.” Say bye to those goofy little shoulder bumps!
2. Tough fabrics and materials need love too. Every fabric or material requires a particular kind of care, but leather can be particularly difficult to manage. Since genuine leather is on the pricey side, many leather pieces are usually an investment. “Always use a leather cleaner and leather moisturizers for your leathers,” says SunnyLou. “They’ll make it look brand new and polished.” It’s important to make sure the product you’re using is specifically for leather goods. Another high-maintenance material is suede, which some people tend to steer clear of because of the work that goes into taking care of it. SunnyLou, however, says she has a secret weapon for suede: Scotchgard. “Scotchgard is actually really great for suede to help keep it weather ready, especially during winter or in the spring when it rains,” she says. “Even if you get it dirty, just Scotchgard it.” Another way to help preserve your suede is to invest in a suede spray and a thick suede brush. If you have the necessary tools, you can give even the most difficult of materials a second life.
3. Storage hacks help. We know that good hangers go a long way, but there are some less obvious hacks to help get some extra mileage out of your favorite pieces. If your purse collection falls flat (literally), some department-store-style stuffing will breathe life back into it. “If you have a big tote, I always recommend stuffing it when you’re not using it,” says SunnyLou, speaking from experience. “At work, we roll up tissue (we call it burrito!), and we stuff the bag to maintain the shape so it’s not slouchy. It’s going to look brand new if you keep it like that.” Basically, it’s the only burrito you should ever put in your bag.
Good shoe storage is super important too. “Use shoe trees for your shoes to keep the shape, so they don’t get slouchy or deformed,” says SunnyLou. No tree? Hey, stuff a burrito in that shoe! SunnyLou says, “If you don’t have shoe trees, use whatever you can to stuff them, like with the handbag. Use paper or an old ragged t-shirt — anything to keep the shape intact.” For items that aren’t worn as often but are precious to you (fancy dresses or suits, for example), garment bags are a girl’s best friend. “You want to put your specialty dresses or suits in garment bags and hang them up so they don’t get dusty,” SunnyLou advises. “Keep it sealed to help prevent fading and discoloration.”
4. Avoid quick wear-out with some heavy rotation. Your favorite clothes are your favorite for a reason. They make you look and feel good, so of course you want to wear them all the time. This is when you have to be careful, because your favorites could be out of commission before you know it. “Even your clothes needs rest,” SunnyLou says. “You’re cutting down the lifespan of that favorite article of clothing — you’re wearing them and washing them too often. That’s how wear and tear happens.” Here’s where math comes into play: They won’t die if you multiply (especially your basics). SunnyLou explains, “I like to buy multiples when it comes to a white or black t-shirt, something that you know you’ll get a lot of wear out of.” It may sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, with t-shirts, SunnyLou says, “If it’s the right price, I would buy one or two of the same shirt in a black or white, mainly because white stains quickly and black can fade. The less you wash it, the longer it lasts.” Another anti-fade pro tip: “Wash your jeans, especially darker washes, inside out.”
5. Up your shopping game. So you’re probably wondering where a stylist for Prada shops, right? While SunnyLou does get a killer discount (so jealous), she probably shops at the same places as you, even if you’re not a fashion girl per se. “I love shopping at Zara and H&M because they have great, affordable pieces that are trendy,” she says. “Topshop is another place I like to get pieces from. I love their jeans. I think they are pretty affordable, and they’re a great fit.” Believe it or not, she even pops into Forever21 every once in a while. She admits, “I’m not going to lie — if you want just basic pieces at a very low cost, Forever21 is somewhere I would recommend going, but you have to keep in mind that you’re going to wear it maybe one or two times.” If you’re looking for some quality office attire, she recommends brands like Theory. “They’re classic pieces, if you’re in the professional world,” says SunnyLou. “They’re a great brand for suits, pencil skirts, dresses, blazers and trousers. Those are timeless pieces you can splurge on, so think of it as an investment. They’re going to be around for a while.” She also has a few shopping tricks up her sleeve. “If you want to invest in a leather jacket, All Saints is great,” she says. “I go to the All Saints outlet by my mall — it’s my hidden gem.” Who even knew All Saints had an outlet store? It’s totally worth a Google search for the nearest one. SunnyLou also swears by investing in vintage clothing, even if that requires some tailoring or extra care. “If you want good quality clothes, vintage clothes might require some maintenance, but the quality of clothes made in the past is definitely different from the quality of clothes now,” she says. “Back then, they handmade everything, and they used sturdier fabrics.” Old or new, it’s important to remember that the clothes you love need some extra love to make them last. “Like any type of relationship, you need to work on it,” she says. “That’s how I feel about clothing in general. Whatever is in your closet, you really need to nourish it, take care of it. If you want it to last, you treat it well.”
6. Investment pieces (even when they’re basics) are so worth it. Sure, some investment pieces, like a designer handbag or some killer leather boots, are great additions to any wardrobe, but they aren’t items you’ll necessarily use on a regular basis. Quality staple items are investments that really pay off. SunnyLou explains, “When it comes to shelf life in your closet, investing in important staple pieces is a must. I always suggest investing in a great pair of jeans, an iconic leather jacket and a classic LBD.” This also helps create some versatility in your outfit options. SunnyLou says, “Once you have those staples in your closet, you’ll be able to pair them with other items you have to dress up or dress casually.” There are also certain fabrics to look out for that are sturdier and more investment worthy. Natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool, silk and cashmere will have a longer shelf life when given proper treatment. Fabrics with the shortest shelf life are polyester, acrylic and rayon. It’s important to keep an eye on those care tags.
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(Photos via Getty)