I. Choose wisely
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Skin oils degrade petroleum-based synthetic fibers, whereas absorbent natural fibers breathe better and generally feel more comfortable. Look for closely woven garments that bounce back into shape when crushed between fingers. Sheer fabrics generally don't last as long as thicker material. Good wool should be soft, not stiff. The higher the cashmere gauge, the thinner and more delicate it will be. In most instances, smooth fabrics last longer and tend to resist stains. For accessories, patent leathers are more durable than kid and easier to clean than synthetics. Compared to manmade, leather linings / soles last longer and breathe more.
Seams and stitching should be straight, tight, or reinforced, hems even and invisible. Pull buttons to ensure they are securely attached. Buttons should be functional and buttonholes closely stitched with no signs of unraveling. Lined clothing and garments with grosgrain and bias strips maintain shape, last longer, and hang better. Concealed zippers indicate quality. Shoes should be stitched, not glued, together. Check for smooth, well-padded inner surfaces, with no raised seams or rough areas. Rub each shoe against the other to determine whether they'll scuff. Cashmere stitches should be knit flat and tight.
II. Proper care
Clothing and undergarments
Let garments rest 24 hours before re-wearing. Air and brush after each wear, wiping wool items with a barely damp, lint-free cloth. Along with spot-cleaning, this reduces the risk of overwashing clothes, which prematurely shortens their life span. If clothes are heavily soiled or sweaty, wash immediately rather than letting dirt and perspiration deteriorate fabrics. Use dress shields, camisoles, slips, and scarves to protect from hair and skin oils. If possible, hand-wash lingerie immediately after use, since skin oils degrade synthetics and are absorbed into natural materials. Add a capful of vinegar when rinsing to sanitize and maintain shape. Never wring- gently roll in a towel, then dry flat. Do not wear undergarments for more than 12 hours at a time.
Never put purses on the floor or ground. Brush hats and freshen with vodka or white vinegar periodically. Wipe with a barely damp cloth and spot-clean using a gentle bar soap as necessary. Alternate shoes so they rest between wears. Wear socks, stockings, or liners to protect the interior. Stuff with cardboard, old socks and rags, shoe trees, or paper to maintain shape, prevent boots from creasing, and absorb moisture. Replace heel taps and tips as soon as necessary, and re-sole before holes develop. Click here for a complete natural shoe care guide. Clean gloves by brushing with Fuller's earth and alum, or by emptying the fingers of debris and soaking in water with mild soap. Squeeze gently, dry flat, then condition with candelilla or beeswax.
III. Appropriate Storage
Clothing and undergarments
Air closets periodically, and ensure clothes are completely dry before storing. Do not overcrowd clothes, which promotes wrinkling and inhibits air circulation. Hang clothes zipped or with the top, middle, and bottom buttons fastened. Make sure all pockets are empty first. Shaped wooden or padded hangers reduce fabric strain; you can also stitch loops of ribbon in garments to distribute weight. Never store clothes in plastic drycleaning bags, which encourage mold and yellowing. Muslin and canvas garment bags are preferable, or use undyed fabric or white, non-patterned sheets. I hang most things, folding items that might stretch or warp under their own weight. Store bras fastened, one cup inside the other. Recently, I started keeping lingerie in a fabric-lined box. I don't know if this makes it last longer, but it keeps the cats from sleeping on them.
Store hats wrapped in clean muslin or in a hat box with tissue, a hat stick, or fabric inside to maintain shape. You're supposed to keep gloves flat, in a box or drawer, but I keep my gloves in my coat pockets. It's best to wrap them in cloth or tissue paper before storing, because sometimes the color can transfer. Place shoes on shelves, not the floor, if only to keep cats from laying on them. I store shoes in their original dustbags and boxes. This maintains shape and protects from dust, which cuts into material like tiny knives. Shake off debris and ensure shoes are completely dry before storing again. Never store shoes or accessories in plastic boxes, since these encourage mold. Store purses upright in a dust bag or clean, breathable pillowcase. Cross the handles over each other or unclip straps before storing. Stuff with an insert (old scarves, fabric, or paper is fine) to preserve shape.