Monday, December 21, 2009

Wardrobe Repair- to fix or to trash?

A few people have asked me to weigh on on my opinion as to what you should repair or alter in your wardrobe. What's worth the time, effort and cost? What should just be trashed and replaced? I tend to do a fair amount of my own repair and alterations, but that's to be expected as I am a fairly decent seamstress. But for someone without a sewing machine or sewing skills, it's not so simple. So, here's my humble guide to wardrobe repair.

To start, I just want to say that when considering altering or repairing any garment in your wardrobe, be it a jacket, a pair of shoes, or an earring, you should always take into consideration the value of said piece. I do not mean the cost of said piece, I mean the value. Stop and assess how often you wear it. It may be a $3000 designer jacket that you got at a sample sale for only $60, but does that mean it will be worth the time and effort you may potentially take to get the required work done? Is it a staple in your wardrobe- something classic that once repaired will be able to be worn countless times in as many different ways? Or is it something trendy that may only be in fashion another couple of months? Once you have determined the item is worth the work, then go for it.

Step one: Find yourself a reliable tailor and a reliable cobbler. A lot of dry cleaners offer both of these services, but I do not recommend that you use them. 99% of the time the dry cleaner's tailor and/or cobbler do not work on the premises and call me a control freak, but I don't like a middle man explaining my repairs and alterations. It's true that if a garment is returned and the work is not correct, any reputable dry cleaner would have it fixed for you free of charge, but do you really want to go through that extra time and trouble? I don't.

Step two: If you have a major project for your newly found tailor or cobbler, hold off. Give them something smaller to do and then check the work. If it's not satisfactory, keep looking. It may seem like a lot of legwork at first, but I can't express the value of a relationship with a tailo and cobbler you trust.

Step three: Assess the damaged goods. This part can be tricky, but once again, having professionals you trust comes in handy. If you're not sure something is worth repairing, just ask!

Step four: Learn to do simple repairs yourself, such as sewing a button, mending a ripped seam, replacing a drawstring and even replacing a clasp on a necklace or bracelet. If there is any doubt in your mind as to whether or not you can complete the repair yourself, then leave it to a professional.

Here's what I recommend taking to a professional for both repairs and alterations:  

Broken zipper: Repair it! This is an incredibly simple repair job, not to mention quick. At about $10-20, it's also relatively inexpensive. Why? Because the tailor simply removes the broken zipper and pops in a new one. It can be more expensive on handbags, backpacks, boots, etc. but still completely worthwhile.

Broken shoe buckle: Repair it! Often it's not even the buckle that's broken, but the small piece of leather, fabric or elastic that holds the buckle in place. This is another simple repair job that could run about $10-20.

Broken heel: Repair it! It doesn't matter if it's a little loose or if the heel has broken off completely, a good cobbler can fix it. Now, if your stilletto broke in half, that's another story. Still take it in to have it looked at, but since high stilletto heels are so narrow, unless it broke off at the point where it meets the sole of the shoe, it might be a little more difficult. If that did happen, contact the manufacturer about getting the heel replaced.

Worn out sole: Repair it! For less than $25, you can have brand new soles on your shoes, so if your favorite pair of leather loafers are starting to wear thin, just take them in to the cobbler and they'll be good as new in a day or two.

Loose hem: Repair it! Whether the hem is coming loose, or the garment is just too long to begin with, I recommend taking it to a tailor to be fixed. On most skirts, dresses and pants (not jeans), clothing manufacturers use what is called a "blind hem" which is something you generally need a sewing machine to do. If you hand stitch a hem that's fallen out, chances are you'll be able to see the stiches you've sewn. A professional can sew a blind hem that will look far more professional. Remember when taking a garment in to be hemmed that you wear the appropriate shoes!

Holes NOT on a seam: Toss it! It is possible to patch a hole that is not on a seam, but it generally looks pretty terrible. If the hole isn't too visible, consider repairing it, but take it to a professional. If the hole is in a sweater or loosely knit piece, you might be in luck as many sweaters come with a few strands of the original yarn for this exact purpose. This type of repair you could do on your own. Click here for a brief tutorial.

Resizing: Alter it! To me, fit is always worth the effort. If you need the size to go up, your tailor can look at the seam allowance and let you know if there's enough extra fabric to make it large enough. If it's being sized down, that's almost always possible. Keep in mind that the more drastic the size chance, the higher the price will be. Either way, plan on spending about $30 minimum. If you have a reliable tailor, you might look at a garment in a shop with new eyes. Where before you might put it back because the straps were too long or the sleeves too poofy, now you'll purchase it knowing they can quickly and inexpensively make them fit just right.

Broken handle on bag: Repair it! Depending on the damage, you may need to have the handle replaced, but often times a little stitch reinforcement will go a long way. And if the rest of the bag is in good shape, it's a solid investment.

Broken jewelry: Repair it! If it's something you can do yourself like replace a jump ring or clasp, then quit reading this and get to it! If it's a chainlink that broke, or an earring post that came off or worse yet, a stone that fell out, by all means, take it to a jeweler and have them fix it! If you take it to the same jewelry who made it, they shouldn't charge you at all, especially for a stone that fell out. Often, other repairs can be as simple as soldering the damaged piece back together, which is pretty simple for a professional.

Once you've had a few garments repaired, you'll be addicted, I swear! And before long, you'll start getting creative with your repairs, too. For example, let's say you have a gorgeous maxi-dress that has a huge bleach stain right on the bottom of the skirt. Instead of tossing what you might consider to be a completely ruined garment, take it to the tailor and have them hem it to knee-length. Or maybe your favorite blazer is starting to fray at the cuffs. Have your tailor cut the sleeves down to 3/4 or even cap sleeve length for a completely fresh look. A dress can become a blouse, pants can be made into walking shorts, and a maxi can be a mini with a few simple cuts and stitches.

I hope this has been a helpful post for all of you. It's far from comprehensive, but I think it should give you a good jumping off point. Feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments and I'll be happy to answer them. Have a great Monday, everyone!

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