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You Asked for It: Saving the Beautiful Clothes | Manolo for the Big Girl

You Asked for It: Saving the Beautiful Clothes

A reader from Portland, Oregon writes:

Dear Francesca,

 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

 Dear Frayed,

 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.

Happy mending!

Xoxo,

Francesca

4 Responses to “You Asked for It: Saving the Beautiful Clothes”

  1. Twistie May 15, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Replacing buttons and wrist/hem trims is so easy it doesn’t even require a seamstress…though I do believe firmly in Francesca’s advice to make good friends with either a professional seamstress/tailor or a talented amatuer with whom you can barter for such services. Say quick wardrobe fixes in exchange for your famous chocolate chip cookies, brilliant way with a cover letter, magic with houseplants, or whatever you happen to be really, really good at.

    Barter among good friends saves everyone cash allowing us to spend more on new wardrobe pieces to treasure.

  2. La BellaDonna May 16, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    Oh, Francesca! I am Queen of Fix This, and my wardrobe bears witness to it. It sounds as if Frayed would do well – and enjoy – the, ah, magic that is learning to sew (full of wonder and frustration, like other magic). She invests in treasures in the first place; it is wise to learn the ways of their upkeep, and the skilled people who can help her with it. AMEN to buying full sets of replacement buttons (which I was doing the other day); AMEN to: shortening hems, or, preferably, binding the edges in either a matching or a contrasting binding – not the “seam binding” sold in cello packages, but various types of more sophisticated bindings; good lace has saved many an edge, and so has a quality braid, a/k/a passamentarie. You can pass my email onto Frayed, if she’d like it, for greater depth on this subject. Frayed might also enjoy Erin McKean’s blog, Dress-A-Day, http://www.dressaday.com/dressaday.html, which covers salvage, among other pertinent subjects.

    Believe me, Frayed, you can get more mileage from your lovelies!

  3. Formal Dresses August 30, 2008 at 6:28 am #

    Well done for blowing the whistle on scammers. I am so glad you posted this