Friday, March 09, 2012

UPKEEP...


It makes me very happy to rejuvenate clothes. I always go by the principle of quality over quantity and I'm surprised at how many people still don't get this. Buy three well made, but relatively expensive, pieces of clothing per year, wear them for ten years vs. buying a whole new wardrobe every season from the high street: Guess which is more economical?

I am seriously hardcore about this: I'd prefer my clothes to last at least fifteen years, so I wouldn't have to replace things I love that I've searched for high and low to find the perfect, cut, colour, fabric etc again. I've thought of having a dressmaker I know remake a few pieces that became too sad looking to wear, but that I was too sad to part with. Nothing lasts in perfect condition forever, however well made.

The things I really love are the things I end up wearing a lot, so I've learnt to look after them. I can sew, which helps with repairs and I'm on great terms with my dry cleaner and shoe repair man. Now I have the fabric de-fuzzer/de-bobbler, I will never have to shop again! My god, that thing works! I don't know where this thrifty make-do and mend side comes from, but I do remember my dad welding pieces of bicycle tyre onto the bottom of his tennis shoes to repair them when I was a child... I promise I will never go that far. (In his defence he was born during the second world war and grew up with rationing, which didn't end in the UK until 1954.) But I get coats re-lined when they look tired, I get my shoes re-soled and heeled often (professionally!), I hang everything properly, put my cashmere in boxes with anti-moth stuff, get things dry cleaned, sew loose buttons back on. My wardrobe is generally a well oiled machine.

And people think I'm insane to do this. No, really, they do. It just makes sense to me - why would I throw stuff on the floor or not take care of it? When I worked in swanky designer stores people would often try things on and leave them in a tangled heap on the changing room floor. And I bet they did that at home because their maid would go round and pick everything up and get it dry cleaned. Since many of those people went shopping on Sloane Street all day every day anyway, they probably forgot all about an item having worn it once (I have stories which illustrate this but I cannot tell!) and just went to buy more. Also not economical - though if you spend your life going shopping with your husband's black Amex card and having facials every day you probably don't care!

It's not just about money - I'm not sitting there with my de-fuzzer hoping the batteries won't run out because I can't afford to buy any more. It genuinely makes me happy that a Miu Miu coat that I couldn't wear for years except for gardening or dog walking - or something else I never do - I can now wear again in civilised society.

19 comments:

Badaude said...

So true! In his "Treatise on Elegant Living" Balzac said that Upkeep was the most fundamental - and expensive - element of luxury. (BTW my favourite 1970s velvet jacket needs relining: any recommendations very welcome)

charlotte said...

i LOVE this post. the end.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone here, so dont worry. I do care about my clothes a lot, repair them, store them with lavender etc, but well, the frugal means run in my blood, as I grew up in Communistic country, where you had to make do as there was hardly nothing new on offer. I like keeeping my treasured clothes in good state, I only wish I had more storage space:)! And I agree about the Sloane Street clients, but from my observation in 'normal' shops transpires that generally people dont care about the clothes they indended to buy. Thats what 15 years or so of prosperity does to the nation. End of rant:). Domi

Camille said...

I'm like you, I want my clothes to last and I make them last. And it runs in the family: my mother comes from a fairly poor family of 7 children, and two of my most cherished pieces are items she passed down to me that her parents invested in, one of them being a wool jumper dress my grandmother made her in my grandfather's old coat. I used to use a de-fuzzer, but a great alternative if you ever need one (for traveling and stuff) is cheap one blade razors.

lola is beauty said...

Badaude - that expresses it in a perfect nutshell! Balzac and I are obviously in tune!

For re-lining I've had luck with dry cleaners doing it - if you can find one that has a good tailor, often Turkish run ones are really good. Maybe try them with an alteration first. Otherwise I know a nice Polish lady who could do it, but would be more £££.

Charlotte - thank you. The End.

Domi - I can believe that. I actually edited out part of this post that mentioned it being a product of the blingy/aspirational 80s and 90s - you know, the whole box fresh trainers thing. Which tends to be favoured by people who suddenly have access to lots of money. To me, frugality reminds me much more of middle/upper classes.

Camille - that's a great tip! For years I never believed shaving fabric would really work, or would damage it somehow. And also I love things that were handed down where you can see a well-done repair in the fabric - so exciting!

lola is beauty said...

Badaude p.s. my point being only that both Turkish and Polish older ladies tend to have very good sewing skills!

Just realised how that might have sounded...

Anonymous said...

For Badaude-If you find a cheap tailor, before handing your jacket over, get a piece of silk lining fabric, you can buy them cheaply from fabric shops (Shpherds Bush for example have lots of well stocked ones). Good luck, Domi

If Jane said...

oh...shall get balzac's "treatise on elegant living"!
the core of my wardrobe is from the 90's. i spent crazy money then but i am still wearing the said items now. and i have been raiding my mum's closet as of late. ;)
funny that you posted this today...as i passed in front of h&m, super excited to see the marni collection but a cloud quickly masked the sun: i was sadly disappointed by the quality...and it is quite expensive. too bad.

Anonymous said...

Oh god, I wish I could be like you, unfortunately my sewing skills are practically non existent (does being able to sew loose buttons back on count?), I totally lack the patience.
Maybe you could give me lessons?
xx
Mia

elizabeth said...

just another reason I love you-- oh, and so glad you put your cashmere in with "anti-moth stuff"-- cause, you know, I hear moth infestations can be a total pain in the ass . .

xoxxo, e

BB said...

I agree and practice it! But I wish I had started practicing this at a younger age... xo bb

Ally said...

I agree with everything in this post! I am constantly having my shoes resoled, sewing buttons back, re-hemming and mending holes and buying lots of anti-moth things to protect my dear jumpers.

Also having spent the last year working in a high-end boutique (although it's not quite Sloane Street) I too have seen the carelessness and disregard so many have for expensive clothes. It drives me nuts! Of course this is not everyone, but I just cannot get on board with people who do not respect their clothing - to me it reveals a lack of thought and respect that I am sure is echoed in how they treat other humans.

With that rant over I want to end on a positive note and say this post makes me so happy that there are lovely people like you in the world that do understand the importance of taking care of things. You are not insane at all, in fact rather the opposite!

random cat said...

i must admit that up until recently i thought that i did not have enough money to buy quality clothes so i bought cheap and a lot. i ended up accumulating too much stuff that i didn't even like in the end. i still had so little money but so much clothes. your blog was one of the first that actually got me thinking about quality over quantity in buying clothes. as they say i'm too poor to buy cheap stuff.

and it's great that so many new bloggers appeared that are not just showing pictures of the new clothes on and on but are dressing mindfully and in quality and timeless pieces. i downsized my wardrobe and i'm aiming at having a few pieces that i adore and that's enough.

also i take good care of my things. i started using razor blades long time ago for de-fuzzing knits and coats you just have to be gentle as you would be shaving legs for example.
:)

Unknown said...

amen to everything, this all rings very true.
may i ask what anti-moth things you find work well? I've just found some holes in previously-immaculate cashmere & alpaca jumpers, all of which i love too much to ever retire.

The few cedar-ish type balls i did have stored with the jumpers were obviously not enough, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

lola is beauty said...

Unknown - For folded knitwear I use these: http://www.pestcontroldirect.co.uk/acatalog/Rentokil_Moth_Killer_Strips__2_.html

They're papers impregnated with insecticide which you cut and place in the folds of clothes - they don't smell or leave any trace. I also put cashmere in separate plastic bags folded over, in plastic boxes but if you have drawers it should be fine. They just need to be kept in a contained area. You can also get hanging units of the same thing for wardrobes. Not very natural but it works and doesn't smell!

lola is beauty said...

random cat - I like that phrase "too poor to buy cheap stuff" - I'm going to use that!

Chloe said...

My sentiment exactly - I feel the longer you have and wear something the more special it becomes anyway. Its a cosy, safe feeling being able to repair the things you already own.

E. said...

Lovely post! There's nothing quite like having a wardrobe built over the years with care and love. That's what style is about for me.

x E.

Clara Lea said...

Geeze! Thank you for making me feel a lot less nutty for my love of mending. A good friend once returned a borrowed vintage coat to me, completely apologetic that a button had fallen off. She was nearly distraught! I just laughed and said I'd never get very far if I didn't know how to at least mend a button.

I love collecting a little pile of mending for a quiet evening or morning. There's something really satisfying and industrious about caring for the things that have lasted you, that you love...I am completely with you on this as I step back and take hard looks at my wardrobe and finally have the budget to slowly acquire those sturdy gems that really flesh out a closet. I regularly get shoes resoled (a must in NYC) but have never thought to get a coat re-lined!!! You are a genius!

My tip is baby Dr. Bronner's - great for all dry cleaning, delicates, etc. It has changed my life and I almost NEVER need to go to the cleaner's now! For stubborn odors add a splash of white vinegar.