A reader from Portland, Oregon writes:
I am a poor working girl who saves her money to buy nice clothes. My wardrobe is not very big, but what it is in my closet is carefully chosen and sometimes hard-earned. Unfortunately, even the best-quality clothes wear out eventually. I have beautiful skirts whose hems are fraying after several years, a jacket with fraying wrists, and a few items with missing buttons (which went missing after I’d already used the extra buttons that came with the shirts, to replace other buttons which had gone missing). And let’s not talk about the zippers, which I seem to abuse more than normal. Is there any way to hide these flaws? I hate to get rid of clothes that cost so much and which I used to wear constantly, until the constant wear started to show. Help!
Frayed at the Edges
Good for you for picking a few items from which you get much use! That is, ultimately, the best use of your money. It is far better to buy a $100 skirt which you will wear 50 times (at $2 per wearing) than a $30 skirt which you will wear twice (at $15 per wearing). Francesca does wonder what you are doing to those buttons and zippers – perhaps you need a cup of coffee in the morning before you get dressed? — But, as you say, even the best purchases eventually will show their age, even if you are very gentle and careful.
Francesca cannot repeat often enough: Make friends with a seamstress! All of the clothing you mentioned can be saved.
First, the buttons: Get thee to a store which sells pretty buttons, and replace ALL the buttons on those shirts. Francesca once did this, replacing plain black velvet buttons on a wool winter coat with fancy gold ones, and many of her friends asked where she had purchased her new coat. Remember to buy extra buttons for future emergencies!
Second, the hems. There are two possibilities here. First, a seamstress may be able to “roll” the hem without too much deleterious effect. It will make the skirts a little shorter, but if they are not already very short, this may not matter. Second, is the possibility of hiding the flaws in the hems. Depending on the design, you may be able to replace the material (for example, if the jacket has a decorated wrist which can be removed and replaced with other fabric) or with ribbons or lace. Get thee to your nearest fabric store and have fun!
Third, zippers are quite easy to replace; bring the item to the fabric store and ask for replacement zippers. If you are handy with a sewing machine you can replace them yourself, or your seamstress can do it for not too much money – certainly less than the cost of replacing the skirt!
It is worthwhile to spend a little money at the fabric store than to spend much, much more money at the fancy clothing boutique.