Time to rethink your wardrobe in a down economy

-A A +A

As families face a new economic “normal,” they are shifting toward a cultural zeitgeist, perhaps permanent, that embraces financial conservatism.

At home, this conservative behavior is illustrated by the rise in families who clip coupons, buy store brands, frequent discount stores, and delay purchases. Many family budgets now emphasize essential purchases, reducing debt and increasing savings, and limit treats and luxuries.

Clothing is not exactly a luxury, but it can eat up a large portion of a family budget. To save money, many people are rethinking the items in their closets to come up with creative ways to make clothes last and seem “new.” Basic repairs, maintenance and attentive care throughout the lifespan of a garment can extend it by many years.

Here are some tips:

Allow clothing to rest in between wearing, especially shoes. Shoes also benefit from cleaning before they are stored. Using a shoe tree will help maintain shape, which extends life. Store shoes in breathable cotton shoe bags or the cardboard boxes they came in, not plastic, which traps mold and mildew.

Air clothing after wearing it to let moisture evaporate and wrinkles relax. Airing also naturally helps to deodorize clothing. Minimize washing and dry cleaning to extend the lifespan of clothes. Invest in a clothes brush and try airing and brushing your garments to refresh them, particularly woolens. Wrinkled woolens can also be hung in a steamy bathroom, which will refresh them and eliminate any creases.

Properly store clothes, using appropriate hangers. Promptly remove the dry cleaner’s plastic bag. Leave closet doors open to promote airflow and leave room in each drawer, rather than stuffing it full. Leaving on a light in the closet can inhibit moths and mildew.

Get the most out of your clothes washer, using proper water temperatures and settings as well as the correct amount of detergent and whitener. Front-load washers are increasingly common, though still pricier than top-load washers. But, if you are in the market for a new one, front-loaders are energy efficient, use less water and help preserve clothes, since there is no agitation.

Remember to wash soiled clothes promptly to avoid letting stained or soiled areas become permanent. If you cannot wash immediately, treat stains promptly to prevent them from setting.

As for drying, consider installing a clothesline. You can use it to dry clean clothing as well as to air out woolens, quilts and rugs. It probably won’t take the place of your dryer, but it comes in handy for certain things.

Ironing is a skill, and one that practice makes perfect—or at least, better. Learning to iron can give you a significant savings if you forgo the dry cleaner. Choose “no wrinkle” shirts and easy care, wash-and-dry clothing. Many of these easy-care items can hang to dry, reducing use of the dryer—which lowers your utility bill.

Learn to mend clothing. Basic repairs and maintenance are quick and easy. Plus, sewing on buttons, snaps, and repairing tears or holes will save money.

Learn to sew. You will be able to reinvent your wardrobe, revamping collars, hems, sleeve lengths, and even turning shirts into skirts. Your imagination is the limit.

Source: Marjorie Baker, UK extension associate, textiles and clothing

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.