Recently, I worked with a style consult client who had a question about replacing her worn-out clothes. I don’t know about you, but I find the process of replacing beloved wardrobe items to be difficult and stressful. Once you’ve gotten used to wearing a certain item, and then absolutely worn it out, hunting down a replacement that has the same fit, quality, and characteristics can feel like a wild goose chase. It’s possible, but it’s not much fun.
So I actually talked to my client about other factors to consider, including …
Determining if an item is in need of replacement
My client showed me a pair of chinos that she’d worn almost constantly the previous summer, and asked about where to look for replacements. But the chinos were in excellent shape! I talked her out of replacing them by giving her a list of potential reasons to replace a garment:
- Faded color, especially spotty fading which is more noticeable
- Chronic seam problems (A single unraveling seam can be repaired easily, but if a garment is continually coming apart at the seams, that can indicate larger problems including poor construction or cheap materials.)
- Rips, tears, or holes that cannot be easily mended
- Fabric worn thin
- Deep or noticeable scuffs or snags
This list encompasses a handful of reasons you might want to consider replacing an item, and it’s certainly up to you to make the call. But I think some of us fall into the trap of believing that pieces we wear over and over again are worn out when, in fact, we might just be tired of them! If you’re sick of a certain pair of shoes or a particular skirt, replacing it with something similar may or may not help. Examine the item to see if it’s in poor repair, and if it isn’t, think about why your instinct was to replace it.
Many minor issues can be dealt with through DIY or professional repairs. For clothing, seam issues, replacement buttons and hardware, some rips and tears, and many other problems can be handled by a professional tailor or a skilled sewist. For bags and shoes, hardware, heels, zippers, and minor construction issues can often be solved by a shoe repairperson or leather specialist. If you love something but feel it might need replacing due to a flaw, consult an expert before beginning the hunt for a replacement.
Deciding if replacement is the best plan
As I mentioned above, sometimes we consider replacing items because they’ve been worn so often. That can mean they’re wardrobe staples and important to our personal styles. But it can also mean that we’re sick to death of them, and buying another similar item will be a waste of money. If you’ve worn a certain jacket a couple of times per week for months on end each summer, and this summer you feel like it needs replacing, consider if a different style or fiber might excite you more. Maybe you don’t want a close facsimile as much as you want a new, more interesting version that is equally versatile and fun to wear.
If you consider all of these influencing factors and conclude that you DO want and need to replace something, here are a few things to bear in mind:
Your search will be less frustrating if you spend time determining what you love about the item that’s being retired. Don’t just decide that you need a new pair of brown flats that are just like the old ones. Think about why you love those old ones. Is it the color? Texture? Comfort or fit? Charging yourself with finding a replacement that’s virtually identical to the item being replaced is a recipe for disaster. It will suddenly become the one item you absolutely cannot find. Anywhere.
Give yourself a long timeframe and explore as many options as possible. Again, if you decide that you must replace your pink v-neck sweater this weekend at the mall, you will find nothing but blue crew necked sweaters everywhere you turn. Look at thrift stores, online, in person, and over a relatively long period of time.
And if you find yourself becoming frustrated, ask for help. Consult with a personal shopper or sales associate at your favorite stores. Put the word out to friends over social media or e-mail. The more searchers you have on the lookout, the quicker you’ll find what you need.
That’s my take! How do you determine when it’s time to replace wardrobe items? Do you try to repair them first? Ever decide to replace something and suddenly discover it is in short supply? How do you tackle the search process?
Image courtesy Benny Lin.