How Long Should Our Clothes Last?
Clothes are a weird thing… they can last over 100 years or break down in 1 wash cycle, so why is there such a huge discrepancy in how long something lasts, and how long should our clothes last?
The reason why there’s a huge discrepancy in how long something lasts is three-fold: how something is made, how something is used, and how something is cared for. Additionally, there are cultural phenomenons such as trends and planned obsolescence make people believe their clothes lose their utility or value after a certain period of time, but those are perceived problems… For now, I’ll be answering how long I personally think our clothes should last, and I’d love your input as well!
Accessories (hats, scarves, sunglasses, etc.)
The minimum amount of time a garment should last should be around 10 years. There are exceptions to this, such as athletic gear, but in general no clothing should be designed to last for less than 10 years. If you can’t wear something for at least 10 years (because of issues with quality, fit, aesthetic, etc.) then please don’t buy it! Garments that have the shortest lifespan include undergarments, t-shirts/tanks, leggings, and shoes because of their high-use and typically lighter materials.
The next category of clothing should last at least 30 years. This includes tops, pants, shorts, and skirts. Typically bottoms last a bit longer, as they tend to be from a heavier material (with some exceptions). They may also be washed less than t-shirts, as they may not warrant a wash with every wear. Tops can also last a bit longer than a t-shirt or a tank, as they can be from more durable materials, may not always sit directly in contact with skin, and may not need to be washed as often.
Dresses and sweaters should last even longer, but dresses can vary drastically in quality of make and materials. A dress may also not be seen as “age appropriate” after some time (think of the same dress being worn by a 20 year old and a 70 year old), but that’s why it is important to buy clothes for one’s personal sense of style and not age… additionally, we must realize that “age appropriateness” is a social construct and there is no reason why a 20 year old and a 70 year old can’t wear the same thing. However, given the lifespan that dresses and sweaters should have, we should see these kinds of items as potential heirlooms or things that we can pass down to our children or people that need them.
The last two categories of clothing items should live beyond the use we have for that garment… Accessories such as hats, scarves, and sunglasses should be made to last at least 80 years, and jackets/coats should have a similar life expectancy. Since we don’t wash many accessories or outerwear often, they should last longer.
Finally, there are items that should last over 100 years easily, including handbags, jewelry, and watches… This is because of how they are made and used, with handbags being the most-used items. As long as a handbag isn’t a daily driver and doesn’t undergo heavy usage, you can expect handbags to last at least 100 years. However, all items listed above have the potential to last for more than 100 years if made and cared for properly.
So this brings us to the issue of garment care… Of course, it’s best to care for your items the way that is described on the tags, but there are some general tips to help you get the most out of your clothing and accessories:
1 – Don’t wash something just because you wore it once! This may be unpopular with many people, but your clothes will certainly last longer the less you wash them. Certain items like pants can be worn many times without washing (jeans are a good example of this).
2 – Don’t use harsh chemicals to wash your items! Chemicals in traditional detergents break down fibers in your clothes, so look for natural detergents such as this one from Earth Breeze to extend the life of your clothes (for the EB detergent make sure you dissolve it completely before washing, as the detergent itself can stain the clothes)
3 – Don’t dry everything to completion! This is particularly useful for t-shirts… Try drying them for about 7 minutes, then hanging them to finish drying.
There are other great ways to care for your garments but try starting with these 3 basic tips first… And if you have any additional tips for garment care, please leave them in the comments below!
[Bonus tip: look for ways to mend, repair, alter, and/or upcycle your garments if they don’t last as long as expected!]
#style #styling #sustainable #ethical #responsible #fashion #quality #manufacturing #garmentcare #tips