Buying clothes can be both a necessary evil and an expensive pastime. Annual American spending on clothing and accessories tops $250 billion, with global spending at $1.2 billion, according to data compiled by Statistic Brain. Chances are, if you’re an average American, a portion of your paychecks goes to clothing, shoes, and accessories. After all, you can’t show up to work wearing your old ripped jeans.
But what if instead of lining the pockets of clothing designers, manufacturers, and retailers, you kept more cash in the bank while giving your clothes new life? Instead of getting rid of damaged garments and buying something new, see if the stuff in your closet can be fixed, altered, or repurposed.
Sneaky tips and tricks used regularly by industry insiders can give new life to your closet and your personal style. By knowing how to extend the life of your clothes, you can spend less money on fashion that you don’t really need.
Clothing Hacks That Really Work
1. Rotate Your Closet
My first-ever job was stocking shelves in a grocery store, and the first thing I learned was to always rotate product. New things go to the back so the older stuff sells first. It reduces waste and moves product in an organized way.
As an adult, I’ve applied the same principle to my closet for a couple of reasons. First, because it ensures that I wear all my clothes and don’t forget about any hanging in the back of the closet. Second, it reduces wear and tear on my favorite duds by spacing out how often I put them on. Rotating your closet means that when you do laundry and hang up your clothes, the freshly washed stuff goes to the back and pushes your other clothes front and center, where you’re more likely to see and grab them.
Another simple tip for rotating your closet is to make sure all your hangers are facing the same way. Then, when you wash and replace items, face the hangers the opposite way. After about six months, you should be able to see clearly which items are worn frequently, and which remain untouched and could be sold or donated. Keeping an organized, tidy closet means that you’re less likely to buy things you already have.
2. Fast Zipper Fixes
When a zipper gets stuck or refuse to stay up properly, there are two quick fixes that can save you from embarrassing moments – and save your favorite jeans from the trash bin:
- If Your Zipper Is Stuck: Apply lubricant to the stuck part of the zipper to gently ease the pull-down. A little lip balm rubbed on the inside of the zipper usually does the trick. A graphite pencil can accomplish the same result.
- If Your Zipper Won’t Stay Up: If you’ve put on a skirt or pants just to have the zipper inch its way down your body, give it a little staying power. Spray some hairspray on the open zipper, wait about 30 seconds, and zip up. The stickiness of the hairspray keeps the teeth in place. If you still can’t get the zipper to stay up, thread an empty keyring onto the zipper pull. You can then zip up and hang the keyring on your pants button for a sneaky way to make sure your zipper doesn’t budge.
3. Break In Tight Shoes
A pair of shoes could be too tight for a number of reasons: They might have been on sale, so you purchased a pinching pair even though you knew they weren’t comfortable. Or, weight gain and water retention might make your previously comfy shoes decidedly uncomfortable. Luckily, there’s a way to fix leather, suede, and synthetic leather shoes with a pair of socks and a hairdryer.
Slip on a thick pair of socks, and then find a comfortable seated position and put the shoes on your feet, over the socks. Then, blast your feet with a hairdryer for about a minute, or long enough to heat the shoes. Turn off the hairdryer, but continue wearing the shoes until they’re completely cooled, or for about five minutes. The heat makes the shoe material stretch, and cooling them on your enlarged feet holds the new, stretched shape. When you take the shoes off, they should permanently be about a half-size bigger than they were before.
4. Stop Denim Fading
There’s no pair of pants quite as classic as straight, dark denim. That’s because dark denim works as a neutral, so it matches perfectly with all of your other clothes. However, even if you purchase a brand new pair of dark-colored jeans, it won’t be long until the dye bleeds in the wash.
Try this trick to keep the dye dark: When you toss your jeans in the wash, turn them inside-out, and then add a half-cup of distilled white vinegar to the wash water. Doing so helps keep the dye sealed in your jeans. Then, air-dry your jeans instead of placing them in the dryer with the rest of your clothes. This helps your denim remain dark for much longer than if you’d washed and dried it like your other laundry.
5. Score the Perfect Cuff
Cuffed shirts and pants are perfect for a preppy look, but you don’t need to purchase clothes with pre-sewn cuffs to have a polished look. In fact, getting a clean cuff is as simple as one, two, three:
- Begin with a straight uncuffed sleeve or pant leg.
- Fold up the hem to double the width of your desired cuff. For instance, if you want a three-inch ankle cuff on your pants, fold up six inches of the pants.
- Then, make another fold, this time starting at the bottom of the hem you’ve created, and bringing it to the top of your first fold.
This technique works on shirts and pants, and keeps cuffs stationary, so they’re less likely to loosen. What’s more, it reduces wrinkling, so when you want to wear your pants or shirts without a cuff, you don’t show those telltale signs that simply rolling or scrunching your shirt can leave behind.
6. Iron Smarter
Ironing is often time-consuming and tedious, but knowing how to iron clothes quickly can help save you the wear and tear that comes with doing it wrong (or resorting to throwing a shirt back in the dryer to banish wrinkles). First, turn the shirt inside-out so your iron glides over the buttons with ease. Then, instead of attempting to iron out the perfect collar, put on the shirt and turn on a hair straightener. It’s super easy to perfectly crease a collar by clamping down on it with a flat-iron, saving you a ton of time in the morning.
7. Fix Scratched Leather
Getting a scuff in genuine leather boots is a major downer, especially if those boots cost you a pretty penny. But you can fix it – even on the fly – with a tube of unscented hand moisturizer. Simply put a small dab directly on the scratch, and use a clean cloth to buff it until the moisturizer absorbs. The scratch should almost disappear. Make sure the lotion is scent- and dye-free, or it could leave discoloration.
This fix only works on smooth, genuine leather. If you have a small scratch in suede, use a nail file to buff away the jagged edges to make the scratch less noticeable.
8. Put a Brooch on It
I collect brooches and then use them to change up and improve some of my favorite wardrobe pieces. If you don’t have any vintage brooches lying around the house, you can purchase them on the cheap from secondhand stores.
Here are just several of the ways you can update your look with a cheap secondhand brooch:
- Pin it on a scarf to keep it in place.
- Add a couple to the toes of peep-toe shoes for a vintage, personalized look.
- Use a brooch in place of a popped button at your chest, or to close up a too-deep V-neck.
- Pin it on a boring handbag.
- Add a cluster of brooches to the lapel of a basic blazer.
- Clasp one over a belt buckle for a feminine touch.
- Use a brooch to close a jacket with a missing button.
Brooches are the workhorses of your jewelry box, and you can find them anywhere from garage sales to flea markets, or even in your mom’s old jewelry box.
9. Dry Your Hand-Washed Clothes
Some of your delicates might require an equally delicate hand when laundering. Whether it’s your unmentionables, a knit sweater, a top with a bunch of embellishments, or a special-occasion dress, it’s always best to follow the hand-wash-only direction if it appears on your garment’s laundering label.
Often, the worst part about delicates isn’t washing them by hand, but waiting for those sopping wet clothes to dry. But since wringing out delicates can cause serious damage, and simply laying them flat to dry can take forever, try this instead: One at a time, give your delicate pieces a spin in a clean salad spinner. It can help remove excess moisture so they dry faster, but it won’t do damage like wringing them might. If you have a lot of hand-wash-only clothes, you might want to invest in a $10 salad spinner just for your laundry room.
We’re probably all guilty of contributing to the massive fashion and apparel market. However, knowing how to repurpose your clothes and make them look better and last longer means you can shop less frequently, and these fashion hacks are a great place to start. Get smart with the clothes you already own, and save yourself a significant amount of money.
What are your best tips and hacks for looking great on the cheap?