Monday, May 14, 2012

How Long Should Clothing Last?

If you were reading my blog last week, you may recall this post about caring for your clothing.I wrote that post because I feel that my laundry routine needs to change in order to better care for my clothing. You also know that I have yet to decide upon a new laundry plan to ensure the survival of all my clothing, not just survival of the fittest. So, today, I though we'd talk about the lifespan of clothing. How long should clothing last?

Obviously, the type and purpose of clothing is going to be the leading factor in determining the life of clothes. A cocktail dress, assuming it doesn't go out of style, will have a much longer life than a basic t-shirt.

I am so tired of purchasing clothing from the store, only to have it fall apart a few washes later. I expect my clothing to last more than one season. I don't want disposable clothing!

For basic items that are worn on a regular basis, such as white camisoles that I like to layer , I expect these to last a minimum of one year. Do I always get a year out of them? Sadly, no. The longest lasting one I have was purchased at Eddie Bauer on clearance, but I have not been able to track down anymore. How long should a basic camisole last?

Next up is sweaters and cardigans, which I purchase mainly at thrift stores. These items seem to have a very short life span for me, despite gently washing them and always laying flat to dry. I wish I could afford to dry clean all my sweaters and never have to wash them in water. I think that a sweater or cardigan should last at least two or three years. I only have one black cardigan, a Cable and Gauge brand purchased at Ross, that has made it to the three year mark. I think I need to start washing all sweaters and cardigans by hand with Woolite perhaps.

Jeans are the next item on the list. While jeans seem to be a popular wardrobe splurge item, I will admit that I buy jeans from two places only: the thrift store and the clearance rack at Ann Taylor Loft. I never pay more than $20 for a pair of jeans. I have two major problems with jeans. Either the color fades too quickly, or they become worn on the legs where my thighs touch when walking. Jeans normally have a life span of about 18 months with me, though I have one pair of DKNY brand that are still going strong after 4 years. Ideally, I wish jeans would last for 3 to 4 years, but I don't know how to deal with the worn between the legs dilemma.

Next is regular, everyday tops and blouses, both woven and knit. This is a huge problem area and seems to be the most impacted by the disposable fashion mantra! Have you seen how thin t-shirts now seem to be? You're lucky to get five to ten wearings out of some of these! Knit tops seem to pick and pill almost instantaneously, which is unacceptable. I am lucky to get 4 to 6 months from a basic top before the worn effect starts to take over. I think a top or blouse should last 1 to 2 years, depending on how much it is worn.

Now lets talk about jackets. While it seems that RTW jackets are still of a decent quality, they still don't top the quality you'll find in vintage. The biggest problem with jackets, both vintage and new, is weak seams in the lining. It seems that shoddy sewing causes these week seams in new jackets, and in vintage jackets, years of perspiration weaken the underarm seams of the lining. A jacket should last at least 3 to 5 years, preferably more.

Next up is a rather tricky category: dresses.  Depending on the type of dress the lifespan varies greatly. A cocktail or party dress that worn just once a year will probably stay nice until it either goes out of style, or you get pregnant or hit menopause ( whichever life stage you're in) and it no longer fits. However, things like sundresses aren't going to last as long, particularly knit sundresses which a prone to picking and pilling. I think a basic, casual dress should last at least 3 years, where a dressier church or professional dress should last 5 years and onward.

Lastly, I will talk about coats. I greatly prefer vintage coats to modern ones. For me, a coat should last at least 10 years. Unfortunately, just like modern RTW jackets, the linings are pitifully thin in most coats and the seams are weak. I'm sure you can still buy a decent coat if you're willing to shell out a few hundred bucks, but alas I am not.

So, readers, I want to hear from you! Are you as bothered as I am about the lifespan of RTW clothing? How long do you expect your clothes to last?


  1. Great post. For the last 10 years I haven't had a need for clothes other than jeans and t-shirts. I buy my jeans thrifted and mostly bought cheap t-shirts.

    That said, yes I am disappointed with the quality and lifespan of my clothes. When I worked in a more professional work environment I spent a lot of money on my clothes and it showed. They lasted and looked really good. I don't know if that has changed since my work environment has changed, but I suspect it has.

    One of the reasons I started sewing again is to get away from disposable clothing. At least when we make something we can control the fit and how well it is mad, and hopefully make clothing that lasts and lasts.

  2. I get annoyed when clothes start fraying and the short cuts are so obvious. But, I buy the basics and I go with the flow... vest tops is deffo something taht I wouldn't make myself and I reuse them as dusters when they are kaputt!

    Caffy @

  3. Well, it's a yes/no thing. I don't expect RTW to last, but I don't buy quality RTW, I get it from Target.

    Jeans...I expect 2 years. One year for them to look nice and hold up, another to run around in, aka, casual jeans. I spend about $30 on mine, from Lee or the Gap (although my local Dollar General has Bobbie Brooks for $8 that I'd expect a year out of because they are thinner) and they are a nice thick denim. T-shirts, if I'm lucky a season, and I buy Hanes in the pack for those. Mostly due to stains is the reason I get rid of them.

    The rest...this is why I sew. Dresses last longer, but I still wear full slips (and I replace those every 18 months or so) and that does help with the longevity. I make my own coats, and I have to make another one after, gosh, 8 years because I am tired of it. Like anything else though, you get out of it what you put in. I don't expect any clothing I go cheap on to last, including those I make that have less expensive materials used in the construction.

  4. Great post,! Most store bought clothing is made of such crummy fabric you would pass it over in the fabric store. Companies use cheap fabric to cut corners and make a bigger profit.

  5. As far as jeans when I buy expensive brands like Joes or Seven or Lucky the denim is higher quality and they last about 4 years or until they go out of fashion.

  6. This post reminded me about why I started sewing. The quality of clothing is so crappy and in Australia clothes are much more expensive then Europe or US. I hope that by learning to sew I will actually be able to produce much better quality clothing for a fraction of the cost. I don't expect anything cheap to last long but lately some more expensive items that I have purchased have not lasted more than a season which I think is unacceptable.

  7. nice posts, i just have few brands in my wardrobe like adidas golf, nike and Hanes Shirts, i think they create some cheap fabrics in market.