Extending the life of your clothes

From a very young age I was taught how to sew by my grandmother. I started by adding button after button on a simple piece of fabric she gave me even though people tried to convince her that it was much too dangerous for a five year old to be using a needle and thread. All ended well though and by age twelve I knew how to knit, crochet, embroider and fix my own clothes. A small hole or tear in a cashmere cardigan? I’ll fix it in five minutes and you won’t be able to find it. Sounds easy right? Because it is! With just a few simple measures you can affect the life span of your clothes tremendously.

Learn a few sewing techniques so you can make small fabric repairs to your garments as needed. For instance, learn to sew on buttons or repair small tears or holes. Of course you can always bring your clothes to a tailor but honestly, save yourself the money as it’s super easy and isn’t that what (Youtube) tutorials are for? Here’s as great explanation on how to fix a small hole in a cashmere sweater. A small note: usually a new purchase comes with extra buttons or yarn, make sure to keep it all in the same spot. I keep them in a small box with a simple sewing kit (also great for when you’re travelling).

Much of extending the life of your clothing is making sure they’re stored properly. Yes, those designer wire hangers look great (looking at you HAY) but I strongly suggest you invest in wooden hangers. Thin hangers can put a lot of stress on the fabric and seams of your garment and ultimately stretch out the shoulders. This also goes for heavy pieces of clothing such as wool sweaters. It’s much better to store them folded on a shelf. Also, cedar products offer natural protection against damage from moths and are able to absorb any dampness or odours in your closet. When they loose their scent you can easily revive it by rubbing the cedar with sand paper.

This is going to sound really boring but read the care instructions before you wash a new purchase and line dry your clothes. Dryers can wear out garments in a hurry so it’s good to hang your favorite items to dry whenever possible. Hanging clothes to dry also prevents shrinking. For my Dutch readers, use ossegalzeep for the most stubborn of stains (sorry, I have no idea what it’s called in English) . It’s a biodegradable natural product that doesn’t contain any chemicals or bleaching agents which affect the fabric of your clothes.

I’m sure there are many other tips out there but these are pretty easy and work great for me personally. Of course I’m always open to other wonderful tips. Let me know!


I don’t shop very frequently but when I do, I often wonder if I’m the only one that goes straight for the tags to check the materials before I try something on. To me, one of the most important things to look for in a new wardrobe investment, besides the fit, price etc., is the use of natural fibres. Not only is natural fiber clothing generally more sustainable, it’s also a better investment in the long run. Let’s talk about the most common natural fibers, their pros and cons and how to take care of them in a nutshell:


Cotton is the most popular and common fabric used today. It’s a soft, single-cell fiber, that grows from the epidermis of the seeds of the cotton plant. The fibers are spun into threads and are typically used to create soft, breathable textile. The fabric quality depends strongly on the length of the fiber. The longer the fibre the stronger and more expensive the fabric. However, when you’re on a budget, cotton clothing is definitely a good choice as it’s relatively affordable and can still be very well-made.

Pros: Comfortable and durable. It breathes well. Easy to clean.
Cons: Very absorbent. Shrinks easily.
How to wash: Machine-wash in warm water with all-purpose detergent.


Linen is spun from fibers of flax stems. The production process is similar to that of cotton, but flax fibers are longer and rougher. It takes quite a few steps to create a flexible wire from the stiff fibers and that explains the price. I own two linen t-shirts from Isabel Marant which are brilliant. They don’t wrinkle as much as expected and they drape exceptionally well. But truth be told, my overall experiences with linen are not that positive. Wrinkled clothing drives me crazy and ironing is not my favourite hobby.

Pros: Very strong and breathable. Will keep you cool during hot summers.
Cons: Wrinkles and shrinks easily. Poor elasticity.
How to wash: Machine-wash on gentle or hand wash in cold water with a mild detergent.


A natural, animal-derived fabric. Wool has scales that stick together, which makes it easy to spin. During the spinning process the fibres are twisted into a long, continuous thread, or yarn. Wool comes in various types, depending on the source of the raw material. Common types are: merino (merino sheep), mohair (angora goat), angora (angora rabbit) and alpaca (alpaca lama). Although usually not considered a type of wool, I’m a huge fan of cashmere (goat). Wool is often mixed with other fabrics to improve strength and endurance.

Pros: Soft and warm. Dirt and water resistant. Can take up to 30% of its own weight in moist without feeling wet.
Cons: High maintenance. Can be itchy. Prone to pilling.
How to wash: Dry-clean or hand-wash in cold water with mild detergent. Air-dry flat.


A delicate and luxurious material made from the cocoon of the silkworm; a process that many people find very troublesome. Extracting raw silk starts by cultivating the silkworms on mulberry leaves. Once the worms start pupating in their cocoons, these are dissolved in boiling water in order for individual long fibres to be extracted and fed into the spinning reel. Luckily there’s also such a thing as ‘wild silk’, where only the cocoon is used after the butterfly has fledged. Chiffon and crepe are examples of silk fabrics.

Pros: Feels and looks luxurious. Smooth and warm. Easily adjusts to different temperatures.
Cons: Very delicate and difficult to clean. Not always animal friendly.
How to wash: Dry-clean (preferred) or hand-wash in cold water with mild detergent. Air-dry flat.

Synthetic fibres

Although there’s nothing natural about synthetic fibres (obviously), it should be mentioned that they can also serve a purpose. When combined with natural materials, even the smallest amount of synthetic fibres can contribute to a better fitter and overall longevity. I wouldn’t neccesarily recommend clothing made of 100% synthetic fabric as it’s most likely being used to replace natural fibres to cut down costs. I do however like strange materials such as lyocell (tencel) which is neither synthetic nor natural, but a form of rayon which consists of regenerated cellulose fiber made from dissolving pulp (bleached wood pulp). It’s considered very environmentally friendly.

To end this post, I’m aware that even natural fabrics can be linked to numerous environmental issues, such as genetically modified cotton (for more info see: the true cost).  It’s definitely a subject that I would like to explore further in the near future. That said, I do believe that investing in natural fabrics is a good idea when you’re working towards a small well-edited wardrobe. Pieces of clothing of exceptional fabric quality should last you a very long time.

What are your preferred fabrics?