So…we never imagined that 2020 would unfold like this and now most of us are stuck inside, slightly reeling from having to pivot so sharply from our best laid plans.
While we practice social distancing and try not to worry about those that are more vulnerable to this pandemic than us, many of us are probably also practising patience and mindfulness in a way that we haven’t for a long time. Mindfulness that doesn’t involve a yoga class with 20 other people…
We are not used to this lack of contact, frequent social activity and immediacy, the lack of convenience, the stillness. For the most part consumption feels quite pointless at this juncture and that feels weird because it’s something many of us (if we are being truthful) have relied on for pick me ups and moments of joy as part of our everyday lives.
If, like me, you’ve raced through ‘Love Is Blind’, you know who got jilted, who got hitched and who got ditched, and you’re now scraping the barrel with back to back episodes of the Voice and re runs of Spooks, maybe it’s time to switch up the Netflix and Chill plans and try something else.
What’s really struck me during this period of social distancing and quarantine is the idea that’s it’s a rare opportunity to give myself licence to slow down and to take stock, so I’ve made a commitment to share the love……. with my wardrobe.
When I ran a style consultancy earlier in my career, I would often tell my clients to try to periodically schedule a night in with their wardrobe. I would advise them to spend time with their clothes, to get everything out, familiarise themselves again with the pieces they own and to try things on. Pulling outfits together that you might not ordinarily have time to try out during the busy schedule of everyday life can be really invigorating.
I realised recently that I’m long overdue a date night with my own wardrobe, so in case this resonates with you, here are some pointers on how you might breathe some new life into your wardrobe, how you might restore, rejuvenate and prepare it for when we can finally emerge.
Maybe it’s something to do with being a city dweller but I almost always have a pile of things waiting to be mended that I never seem to get around to. I keep the majority of my clothes so if something is holey or gets a bit threadbare I put it aside for when I’ll have time to mend it.
Now seems like the ideal time to show those jeans that have got torn at the knee, crotch or the seam some love. It’s the perfect opportunity to upskill your mending game by learning to darn your socks, stitch a pretty patch on to an elbow, or to craft your visible mending style.
If you’re a beginner who needs to learn to hand stitch a small hole to get started, or you know how to sew but you never have time to attend to those pieces you can’t bear to part with (but you can’t wear in their current state), there’s no time like the present to get started.
I’m starting with some denim mends. If you want to show your denim some love there are some great tutorials and lots of tips over at @wrenbirdmends. Sign up to Erin’s newsletter for info on her online mending workshops.
If it’s just a basic mend tutorial you’re after to breathe life into your everyday essentials then embroidery artist @tickover has the perfect darning tutorial here (you will need a darning needle/ a bigger blunt-ish needle, a soup ladle or an orange, and yarn).
Hanging on the doorknob of my shoe wardrobe (yes you read that right – I have a shoe wardrobe…), I have a drawstring bag of things that have picked up minor stains or that I have fallen out of love with in their current guise. I have never been a minimalist (god love my parents, all housemates who have ever endured me, and my long-suffering husband) so I tend to hang on to things. I love all of my many clothes and shoes and rotate them as much as possible in and out of my everyday wardrobe.
With time on my hands now feels like a great time to not only take the opportunity to dye a few of these pieces to give them new life but to learn to make some natural dyes. I’ve wanted to give this a go for such a long time. As many of us now realise, synthetic dyes can be extremely toxic and bad for the environment so a re-education in the use of natural dyes can not only be a great way to tackle this, but it’s also a fun way to utilise non-edible leftovers at a time when we are stuck inside possibly eating ourselves out of house and home.
Check out Charlotte Turner’s guide to dyeing with Avocado to get you started and if you catch the bug for it, consider investing in ‘The Modern Natural Dyer’. Charlotte advocates this book as one of the guides she referenced heavily while she experimented with natural dyeing ingredients like Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Lavender and Onion skin.
A quick guide to colour creation:
- Avocado – pinks
- Rosemary – greens
- Black beans – blues (and you can cook them to eat after you’ve soaked them to get the dye)
- Onion skins – yellows / oranges (white and red onions)
- Bay leaves – yellows
Restoration and Rejuvenation
Cleaning and storing shoes
I don’t know about you but I rarely have time to clean my shoes as often as I would like to make sure they are preserved for as long as possible. Cleaning and storing shoes properly away in dust bags is key to their longevity.
Cleaning suede shoes that have got wet outside while you’ve been tramping the rain sodden streets can be daunting but I have used this simple process time and time again on my favourite shoes.
- Remove excess dust and dirt with a soft micro fibre cloth or brush and stuff with newspaper to hold shape while cleaning.
- Use a clean (colourless or colour fast) soft cloth or suede brush and warm water to wet and clean the whole shoe (don’t soak the shoes and brush or wipe on one direction).
- Stuff the shoe with a filler (tissue paper or similar) .
- Let the shoe dry naturally (and crucially away from artificial heat sources – do not be tempted to use a hair dryer).
- If you own a suede brush – gently brush the nap. I have used a very soft make up brush or toothbrush before (don’t use a bamboo toothbrush as it may be too harsh).
Aeration, Restoration and Storage
Tackle your jumper collections. Jumpers need a lot of love to keep them fresh and one of the key things you can do is aerate them and debobble them. Often our favourite quality wool, cashmere or cotton pullovers do not fare well if over washed, or in some cases washed at all. But to care for them we simply need to air them out next to an open window regularly, debobbling them gently using a razor. Nine times out of ten following these simple care regimes, you’ll find them looking and feeling fresh and almost good as new.
For storage – if you have mint leaves you can dry them, wrap them, tying them up in some small fabric offcuts and place inside your wardrobe or on hangers. This can act as a great natural moth repellent. Alternatively, you can use peppermint oil on a handkerchief.
Much like with my fitness and exercise rituals, I see this moment of pause as an opportunity for a bit of a lifestyle change in the way I interact with my wardrobe and it’s up keep. It can now be far more intentional and consistent going forward. If you fancy coming along on the journey with me I hope these pointers provide some inspiration to show your own wardrobe some long lasting romance.