You're Doing It Wrong: Bad Fashion Habits to Break
About a year ago, I talked about how much (and why) I hate “the overhaul.” That is, the yearly razing of one’s wardrobe and hasty rebuild that follows so many “New Year, New Me” proclamations.
In that article, I said there’s no point in doing a total “overhaul” if you’re gonna not gonna address the bad habits that lead you to needing to get rid of everything in the first place, and while I touched on some of the bad shopping habits you may be struggling with…
…I have yet to get into the bad habits you may have when it comes to the clothes you already own, specifically when it comes to keeping your wardrobe wearable.
Some of these bad habits are assumptions that make sense in theory but that are ultimately detrimental to the health of your clothing, like using too much detergent in the laundry (think about what would happen to your skin if you don’t wash off all your soap in the shower), or washing and drying your clothes on the hottest setting (heat kills germs and gets rid of wrinkles, right?).
That said, some of our most harmful (for our clothes) habits are born from a mixture of laziness and lack of education. And while I cannot cure your laziness, I can provide the education you need as well as some solutions to make your wardrobe go further (with minimal effort).
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The Way You Wash
Raise your hand if you throw all your laundry in the wash at once and then, when it’s done, toss it all into the dryer on the hottest setting? Maybe you separate your lights and your darks, maybe you put your delicates in a little laundry bag, but that’s the extent of the care you take to get your clothes cleaned properly.
Keep your hand up if you’ve seen the symbols below on a care tag and said “what?” and tossed the garment into the wash without figuring out what it meant.
To be frank: Clothing quality is on the decline, across all price points. While there are brands committed to creating long-lasting and low-maintenance(ish) garments that can take a beating, the vast majority of what you or I can most readily access is just not as great as it used to be at best, and literally created to fall apart (so that you’ll buy more quicker) at worst. That means it’s on us to extend the life of our clothes by taking care of them, and that starts with proper washing, drying, and pressing, which is exactly what the nebulous symbols instructs us how to do.
Now, I’ll admit, these symbols are pretty mystifying, but some of them are actually quite important. Let’s talk about the ones you can ignore first, though.
Water temperature is largely irrelevant because you should be washing all your clothing on cold anyway, as it’s generally not great to boil your clothes. You should also be hanging or laying your clothes flat to dry for the most part, but tumble drying on low heat is fine for the majority of what you wear. I also recommend washing everything on delicate, and never, ever use bleach. Basically, it’s not that you should write those directions off, it’s that you should always, always err on the side of treating your clothes nicely.
Where you should always heed label instructions is for delicate items. Any clothing with pleats or other permanent fabric manipulation should indeed not be wrung out, and any heavy and/or loose knits should be laid flat to dry, not hung. Some things like bras should usually be hand washed or at least air dried, and anything that should not be dry cleaned, you know, shouldn’t be dry cleaned. If you’ll notice, there is a care tag that literally says “do not wash,” and that one, along with “do not iron” are the two that are the most important: you will literally ruin that garment forever if you do it anyway.
Synthetics are most likely to break down in high heat, including elastic waistbands, wearing them out way faster, and some natural fibers like wool or linen will continue shrinking if washed improperly. Overall: everything should be washed less. I understand washing things like basic tops and obviously leggings/athletic clothing after every wear but things like skirts? Pants (particularly jeans)? Jackets? They can go a bit longer. And wool garments should be washed as little as possible. I personally like to use an anti-bacterial fabric refresher (Febreze makes one!) on most of my garments between washes.
As a final tip: wash your clothes inside out in order to avoid unnecessary damage from too much friction. And please, please consider switching to eco-friendly detergents and get rid of those dryer sheets altogether (try reusable dryer balls)!
I love Marie Kondo, I really do, but, when it comes to her suggestion of folding and storing all your clothes neatly in drawers: I just can’t do it. Not just because I hate folding things, but because my closet literally is not set up in that way: I simply don’t have the space. Therefore, I hang (almost) everything. Make no mistake, though: there is a wrong way to hang (some) things.
When you make the decision to start shopping for and wearing clothes with intention, you should also be conscious of how you’re storing said clothing. And one of the biggest first steps is not just picking the right hangers, but making sure said hangers are right for what you own. For example, if you own both skirts and pants, you’re gonna wanna opt for skirt hangers (the kinds with clips), since a skirt hanger can hang pants, but a pants hanger can’t hang skirts.
But, what should you avoid hanging altogether?
Anything, and I mean anything that is knitted or crocheted, especially heavy and/or open knits. That includes sweaters but also all those cute knit two-piece sets that even I have become a fan of over the life span of the trend. Gravity does not stop, and she will warp those knit pieces overtime if you simply hang them from the shoulders/waistbands. What you should do, instead, is fold them in half and drape them over a pants hanger. The same goes for anything with thin straps: you can stretch said straps out and throw the entire fit off. I would, again, drape it over a hanger. If there is a straight neckline, you should use those annoying hanger straps that so many of us cut off (but shouldn’t). If you already cut the straps, you could try clipping it to a skirt hanger but be careful if there is any texture to the piece or if it’s a knit garment as you could crush it or add weird indentations.
Finally, any very nice shirts or suits you own are gonna require some wooden and curved hangers to maintain their shape.
And, no matter what clothing you own, no matter your space, remember:
For the record: I prefer velvet.
Check Up On It
In a bit of a departure from the previous topics, this section is not about how you maintain your clothing, but how you maintain your wardrobe.
“Lakyn, what’s the difference between the clothing you own and your wardrobe?” I’m glad you asked, Person I Made Up To Ask Me That: Unfortunately, there must be a distinction between the clothing you have and the clothing you wear, though, ideally, there’s not that much difference.
That said, there might be a vast gap between what you own and what you use that can be easily attributed to your refusal to heed Beyoncé’s advice: CHECK. ON. IT.
One of the funnest and easiest ways to get proper wear out of your clothes is to constantly be evaluating your wardrobe and the way you do that is by trying things on. Do not wait until the night of your hot date or work event to try on that dress you set aside for hot dates and/or work events. Set aside a day every month to shop your closet and mix and match everything to come up with new looks. That way, when you’re tasked with getting dressed for an event, you can pull out something fresh that you know fits and looks good.