I constantly seem to have at least one garment that’s on its last legs but I can’t quite bear to throw away. I do get a kick from wearing out clothes and feeling I have stuck with them to the very end of their useful life.
At the moment it’s a once-navy blue shirt I managed to rescue from what seemed like a catastrophic olive oil stain. That post was written nearly three years ago, so not surprising there seem to be holes appearing all over it!
And a threadbare corduroy jacket that’s almost 14 years old and quite see-through when I hold it up to the light. It’s been worn by wearing a cross-body bag over my right shoulder, but I’m determined to hang on till the fabric splits.
As well as getting maximum enjoyment from old favourites, wearing out clothes makes sense from financial and environmental viewpoints. Although no doubt we all vary in opinion as to when they become worn out.
Some things get better over time, denim being the obvious example. There aren’t many other clothes we will buy, even pay a premium for, when they are faded, ripped, distressed, even splattered with fake oil stains.
Leather softens and darkens with age, and scratches and marks just add to its appeal. Linen is naturally crumpled anyway, so I don’t mind a few frayed edges, I think it just adds to the character.
Other clothes just get scruffy – jumpers lose their shape and pill (although a disposable razor helps with that for a while), whites go grey. Black fades and eventually goes rusty, something I’d only read about in Victorian novels until I had a black linen skirt I repeatedly wore and washed over several summers.
Washing and ironing wears clothes out faster than anything. Some people seem to throw things in the wash after one wear, but I keep going for longer than that, and I’ve never seen anyone’s nose wrinkle as I approach.
It’s not something I’ve ever mentioned before and I’m only brave enough now because Emily of social enterprise Aerende brought it up first! Talking about her trousers she said on her Fashion Revolution Week blog post ‘they could probably do with a wash, but in the interests of the environment I’m trying to minimise that…’
And did you know should never wash your jeans? That advice comes from the CEO of Levi’s, so it must be true. He recommends spot-cleaning with a toothbrush. Other manufacturers suggest putting them in the freezer or leaving them out in the sun.
Sometimes it’s possible to prolong the life of wearing out clothes. Bargain-hunting blogger Penny Golightly posted on how she resurrected five pieces of clothing with machine and hand dye. Have a look at her before and after pictures, the transformation in the black trousers in particular is quite remarkable.
I may just be hopelessly scruffy but I quite like wearing one well-worn piece, a T shirt with a frayed neck, or beaten up leather boots, for example. Any more than that and I’d just look and feel down-at-heel.
There’s a limit to how many tattered clothes you can relegate for decorating in. (With A, it’s always ‘I’ll keep that for gardening’). When I do finally give up and let a worn-out piece go I either use it for rags or put it out for recycling so it gets another lease of life.
What’s your attitude to wearing out clothes? Do you get rid of them when you think they’re showing their age or hold on till they’re hanging off you?