Look stylish on a budget – part six, maintenance

Maintaining a groomed appearance means taking care of your clothes – especially important if you’re on a budget.

Nine-tenths of a finished appearance is to do with grooming, not with what you’re actually wearing. Your hair, nails, teeth and skin are all more important than your clothes, but if you’re dressing on a tight budget, you still need to take care of your garments. Sadly, the last 10 or 15 years of cheap clothing has meant many women have forgotten how to mend a tear, change a button or darn a sock, but these might all be lessons we have to re-learn. Here are a few tips on maintenance.

* Treat everything you own as if it cost 10 times the price. No matter how much it actually set you back, treat your clothing with respect.

* Deal with stains immediately – products such as Stain Devils or Vanish are very useful. Don’t give stains time to set.

* Iron garments that require it, using starch or silicone spray if need be. It’s well worth the time and trouble to pep up a white shirt, for instance.

* Hang up your clothes rather than dropping them on the floor at night. You’d think this one would be obvious, but so many women don’t bother.

* Don’t pack things tightly into the wardrobe so they get creased – buy extra racks if you need them, or get rid of something instead.

* Keep your footwear in shoe trees, and out of season, store them in boxes.

* Put mothballs in the pockets of coats when you store them.

* Never put clothing away dirty – it’s asking for a moth infestation. 

* Tape down your clothes with parcel tape before leaving the house, or keep a clothing brush handy. Fluff can completely ruin an outfit.

* Keep a mending pile and one Sunday per month, fix loose buttons, hanging threads and dragging hems so that all your clothes are in wearable condition. 

* Change when you get home. For instance, don’t go straight to the sink or the cooker as soon as you get in. Hang up your workwear on a proper hanger and brush it down – stand a dish of vinegar underneath if you’ve been in a smoky or smelly atmosphere. Over your house clothes, wear an apron when you’re doing dirty work – don’t ruin your casual clothes with grease splashes and stains. Pension off your old jeans for gardening and make sure you have one outfit dedicated to filthy work such as hair dyeing or painting the house. 

* Keep your sweat and skin oils off the necklines of tailored garments by religiously wearing a scarf. This is particularly crucial with leather or suede. 

* If money is tight, avoid clothes that need dry cleaning. It’s horrendous for the environment and bad for your pocket too. Underwear, shirts, blouses and knitwear should all be machine washable, along with as many of your skirts, dresses and trousers as possible. Jackets and coats tend to be dry clean only, but try to keep it to once per garment per year. 

* Wash on 30 degrees or zero to save electricity bills. Modern wash powders are designed to work at low temperatures. Even better, use soapnuts.

* Use the economy programme on your washing machine. This tends to take longer, as it works by soaking. Or if you have a top-loader, soak your clothes then put them through the fastest wash cycle. 

* Line-dry rather than tumble-dry. Not only will it cost less, it results in less wear and tear on the garment. 

* Ironing ramps up your electricity bill, so consider buying clothes in fabrics that don’t need ironing. I wear mainly jeans, skirts in moleskin or suedette, long-sleeved cotton jersey tees and knitwear, and I barely pick up an iron from one year’s end to the next. 

* Change the buttons for better ones. Nothing peps up a garment faster.  I buy good buttons whenever I can find them, usually vintage.

* If you wear skirts long enough to cover the tops of your boots, you can save a lot of money on tights throughout the year as less of them will be visible if snagged. But keep a bottle of clear nail varnish in your desk drawer in case disaster strikes.

* If you buy a suit as two separate pieces, buy two bottoms with it – trousers or skirts. The bottom half always wears out faster than the jacket. 

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