Clothing and Accessories :Cheaper, Better, Faster- Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day
Consignment shops are everywhere these days and are a wonderful source for
previously owned clothing. These shops are many cuts above a thrift store and
offer wonderful merchandise for a fraction of the original retail price. Look for
specialty consignment stores just for kids. And don’t be just a buyer but also a
seller. Typically you will share 50/50 with the store’s owner when your items
sell. Call ahead to learn of the store’s policies regarding the condition of
acceptable garments and other guidelines.
Make friends with the managers of your favorite stores, and you might be able to
tap into a gold mine. Ask if their “debits,” or used merchandise, are for sale.
These are the items that have been returned for one reason or another but can’t
be put back on the floor or returned to the manufacturer. Typically these items
are sold for pennies on the dollar.
Bargains—unclaimed dry cleaner or repair shop goods
Ask your dry cleaner or neighborhood repair shops to let you know when they
have unclaimed goods for sale. This is a great way to find terrific clothing
If you have boots that are too snug, try this: Place a strong plastic bag (test first
to make sure it is watertight) in each boot, and put enough water in the bags to
fill the foot areas. Tie the bags closed, and place the boots into the freezer. As the
water freezes it will expand and stretch the boots at the same time. This
technique works well for shoes too.
Instead of using expensive boot stuffers to keep your boots from flopping over,
use one of those long, dense-foam pool toys called “noodles” that kids play with
when they are in the swimming pool. They’re cheap, help your boots retain their
shape, and are cleaner than rolled-up newspapers.
If the metal button on your jeans comes apart and falls off, it is impossible to
sew it back on. Instead, use some super glue to affix the knob and back stud
through the fabric. Let it set for a few days, and then wash and dry. Your jeans
should be perfectly wearable again.
Buttons—on new clothes
Buttons on new clothes often fall off after just one wearing and washing. Before
you wear a new item, cover the thread on each button with clear nail polish or a
drop of superglue. Just be careful not to get any on the fabric.
A button hanging by a few threads can be rescued by wrapping a narrow strip of
clear tape around the threads on the back of the garment to hold them until they
can be reinforced.
Buttons—sewing in some slack
Place a toothpick between the button and fabric as you sew. When the button is
secured, remove the toothpick. This gives the button a little slack and will make
it easier to operate.
Buttons—sewing in spares
Sew extra buttons into the seams of jackets and pants. If you need a spare, you’ll
always know where it is.
Buttons—sewing in to stay
When attaching a four-hole button, stitch through two holes, then knot the thread
before you sew through the other two holes. If the thread breaks on one side, the
button won’t come off.
Buttons—sewing with floss
Dental floss makes a sturdy thread for securing buttons on heavy fabric. You’ll
never lose a button from your winter coat again.
Buttons—sewing with nail polish
Before sewing, place clear fingernail polish on the center of a button, on the side
toward the fabric. Once the button has been securely attached to the garment,
place another dab on the top center. This will help keep that button from going
anywhere for a long, long time.
Closets—a place for slacks
Install towel racks on the backs of closet doors for hanging slacks.
Convert extra pillowcases (king-size are extra long) into garment bags to protect
the clothes hanging in your closet, especially those that are out of season. Just
cut a hole into the end of the pillowcase and insert the hangers.
Closets—increase the space
Hang a length of chain from a strong hanger. Each link can hold one hanger,
which takes up much less space and effectively doubles or triples your closet
Dry cleaning—don’t leave in car
When taking clothes to the dry cleaner, be careful not to leave them in the car or
its trunk for any length of time, especially if they’re stained. This is particularly
important in hot weather when the heat in the car may bake in the stain, making
it difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
Dye your darks for longer wear
Use Rit Dye to revitalize navy and black cotton T-shirts and turtlenecks—even
stretch pants—when they start to fade. You’ll be able to get a few more seasons
out of items you might have considered too far gone.
Earring back temporary replacement
If you lose the back piece of a pierced earring, cut the eraser off a pencil and
insert it on the post for a temporary fix.
To keep your hands warm and dry while playing or working in wet, cold
weather, wear thin latex gloves under your gardening gloves or woolen mittens.
If you have pointed hanger marks in the shoulders of a knit top, put on the top
and relax the hanger bumps with your handheld blow dryer. It’s amazing how
quickly the hanger bumps disappear.
Hangers—don’t store clothes on wood
Don’t store clothing on wooden hangers. Over time, the acid in the wood can
react with the fabric. Pad wooden hangers with unbleached muslin or cotton.
Put a piece of adhesive-backed weather stripping on the bar of a hanger to keep
slacks from slipping off.
Fasten unused shoulder pads to the ends of hangers to cushion fragile clothing
and keep thin straps from slipping off.
Hemlines—remove with vinegar
When you lengthen a garment and want to get rid of the original hemline,
dampen a washcloth with white vinegar, place it on the crease line, and just iron
the crease away. The vinegar odor will dissipate quickly. This works well on new
clothing. With older clothing, results will vary, but for best results, let down the
old hem and clean the garment according to the care label before ironing.
Hemlines—remove with vinegar and foil
To remove the permanent press line from a hem that has been let down, dampen
the crease with white vinegar and press with a piece of aluminum foil between
the material and a clothes iron.
When hemming a skirt or pants, knot the thread every 3 or 4 inches. A small
break in the thread won’t mean an entire rehemming job.
Fine hosiery, pantyhose, and tights will be easier to put on and less prone to
snags and tears if you slip on a pair of latex or vinyl gloves before starting the
According to the Morton Salt Company, your pantyhose and other hosiery will
last longer and snag and run less if you perform this little longevity trick before
you wear them the first time: Mix 2 cups salt with 1 gallon water, and immerse
pantyhose in the solution. Soak for 3 hours. Rinse in cold water, and drip-dry.
Apparently one of the properties of ordinary table salt is that it toughens fibers.
That’s true for pantyhose—and broom bristles!
To keep small holes in pantyhose or other hosiery from turning into nasty runs,
rub a glue stick over the hole. It’s less sticky and works better than nail polish.
Hosiery—wear pantyhose times two
Instead of throwing away a pair of pantyhose with a run in one leg, match it with
another pair in the same shade that has a run in one leg. Simply cut off the
“injured” legs about 6 inches below the crotch. Wear both pairs of one-legged
pantyhose at the same time. Yes, you’ll be wearing two panty tops, but that will
simply create the equivalent of industrial-strength, control-top pantyhose, for
which most of us would pay a premium. To make use of this technique more
often, always buy the same brand, style, and color of pantyhose to avoid the
embarrassment of LDCS (legs of different colors syndrome).
Jeans—make them soft
To soften new jeans, place them in a sink filled with cold water and 1 cup of
liquid fabric softener. Let the jeans soak overnight, then wash as usual.
Here’s an easy way to put on a bracelet without assistance. Place the bracelet
across the top of your wrist and secure one end to the inside of your wrist with
clear tape. Now that the bracelet isn’t sliding around, it should be easy to secure
the other end and close the clasp.
To keep silver jewelry tarnish-free and shiny, slip the pieces into a small
resealable plastic bag. Before sealing the bag, squeeze out as much air as
Jewelry chains—prevent knots
Prevent chains from tangling and knotting in your jewelry box this way: Cut a
drinking straw to half the length of the chain, slip the chain through it, then
fasten the catch.
Jewelry chains—remove knots
Lay the chain on a flat surface and, with a straight pin in each hand, gently work
out the knot. If the knot is really tight, apply a single drop of baby oil or cooking
oil to the offending area and repeat the procedure.
Kids—big tees for kids
Buy a three-pack of all-cotton, white T-shirts to use as pajamas or beach coverups
for small children. Select a size large enough so the bottom edge is just
below those cute little knees.
Kids—jeans knee patches
When your kids’ jeans require a knee patch, simply remove a back pocket, open
the inside leg seam with a seam ripper, and sew the pocket over the hole. Close
the seam. Since the pocket has been washed as many times as the jeans, the
material always matches perfectly.
Kids—patches on new pants
When kids’ pants are new, apply iron-on patches to the inside knees.
Kids—remake boy clothes for girls
Revamp little boys’ clothes for your little girl by sewing lace around the hems,
necklines, and sleeves. Use fabric paint to draw little hearts and flowers around
the necks of solid-colored shirts and onesies.
Kids—shoelaces that stay put
When first lacing up kids’ new shoes, tie knots in the laces after the first two sets
of holes have been threaded to prevent the laces from coming completely
unthreaded through active play.
Kids—sleepers and tube socks
Instead of throwing out children’s sleepers that are either too small or have
worn-through feet, cut off the part just below the elastic at the ankle. Next, get
an adult-size tube sock and cut off all but about 3 inches of the leg part (more or
less depending on your child’s size). Turn the sleeper and the tube socks inside
out and sew a sock to each leg of the sleeper at the elastic (right sides together).
Turn right-side out.
Save children’s sweatpants, even if they have holes in the knees. When summer
rolls around, cut them off and hem them by machine to make comfortable, cheap
shorts for the kids.
Kids—telling right from left shoes
Put a sticker inside your children’s right shoes or sneakers. They will begin to
learn right from left and also get their shoes on the correct feet all by themselves.
An alternative to making your children always wear their siblings’ hand-medowns,
trade with neighbors or friends who have children of the same sizes. The
kids get a new look, and the price is right.
Kids—tube socks save time and money
Buy tube socks for your kids rather than the traditional type of sock. Tube socks
last longer since the heel is not always wearing in the same spot. Get in the habit
of always buying the same brand, same style, all-white tube socks, and you
won’t have to spend half your life matching socks into pairs.
When buying kids’ clothes and shoes, set a budget figure, and if the child wants
to upgrade to a trendier brand or style, require her or him to pay the difference.
Label scratching solution
If back-of-the-neck labels cause irritation, don’t cut them out. That just produces
a scratchy raw edge or a lump, and removes important care information you’ll
need in the future. Instead cover them with iron-on bonding tape.
To remove cigarette odors from a blouse, skirt, or pair of pants, place a fabricsoftener
sheet on the hanger with the garment and cover with a plastic bag. The
cigarette odor will be gone by morning.
Remove mothball odor from clothing by placing garments in the dryer with a
couple of fabric softener sheets. Run on the “air only” setting for fifteen minutes.
Odor—preventing in shoes, boots
To keep shoes and boots from developing an unpleasant odor, make your own
odor eaters. Pour a few teaspoons baking soda onto a small piece of cotton
fabric. Tie the ends of the fabric together and secure them with a rubber band to
make a sachet. Set one sachet in each shoe overnight. The sachets can be used
again and again.
Odor—removing in shoes, boots
Stuff some newspaper into your shoes and boots to remove unpleasant foot odor.
The paper absorbs odors.
Odor—smoke in clothes
To remove smoky odors from clothes, fill the bathtub with the hottest water
available. Add 1 cup white vinegar. Hang garments above the steaming water
and close the bathroom door.
Padded cases for many uses
Surprisingly some eyeglass cases fit a cell phone or digital camera better than
they do spectacles. Even more amusing, some padded cases created for cell
phones or digital cameras are much better suited for eyeglasses. Just another way
to use “this” for “that.”
Repairs—collar and cuff turn
Save money on men’s dress shirts. If the collar or cuffs wear out first, take the
shirt to a dry cleaner or tailor (or learn to do it yourself) and have them turned
over. It will cost about $5 to $10, which of course is much less than the cost of a
Use an old electric razor to “shave” the collars of men’s cotton oxford dress
shirts when they begin to pill. Men’s neck whiskers chew up collars, and the
“shaving” actually helps to slow the wearing process. They come out looking
Repairs—handbags, backpacks, luggage
Don’t throw out that handbag, backpack, or piece of luggage because of a broken
strap, tear, or busted zipper. Have these items repaired at your local shoe repair
shop. You’ll be amazed at the low cost and high-quality service you’ll receive on
the repair of all kinds of things—even belts, gloves, bags, and so on.
Repair, resole, and reheel shoes. You can easily double or triple the life of a good
pair of shoes with simple repairs. Even expensive sneakers and athletic shoes
can be resoled and repaired at some shops using new techniques and products.
Check with your local shoe repairer or sporting goods store to see if they offer
Rest your clothes
Your clothes will last longer if you allow them to “rest” between wearings.
Clothing should hang for at least 24 hours between wearings to allow the fabric
to return to its original shape.
Ironically, the enemy of many good shoes is not walking but driving. While
working the gas and foot pedals, the back of the shoe repeatedly scrapes dirty,
abrasive carpet. Wear sneakers when driving, then slip into your good shoes
Protect high heels from wear and tear by having your shoe repair shop cover
them with heel shields, a thin protective plastic wrap that goes around the heel. If
the shields get scuffed, they are easy to remove and replace.
Shoes—leave them at the office
Leave your good business shoes at the office. Change into an older pair for the
trip up and down steps and out to the parking lot.
Out of shoe polish? Spray dull, dirty-looking shoes with furniture polish, then
buff lightly with a soft cloth. Self-polishing floor wax works particularly well on
You’ve heard of rotating your car’s tires to make them last longer, but how about
rotating your footwear? Research shows that your feet produce about ½ pint of
water every day. If you wear a particular pair of shoes no more than once every 3
days, three pairs will hold up as long as four pairs worn more frequently. Shoes
need 48 hours to rest, dry out, and resume their normal shape.
Save and use your fabric softener sheets to shine shoes to a high gloss.
Shoes—slip ’n’ slide
When the soles of new shoes are too slippery, rough them up with a piece of
To stretch leather shoes that are a bit snug, pour rubbing alcohol into a fine-mist
spray bottle. Spray inside the shoes, and then wear them immediately; the
alcohol evaporates quickly. This technique works beautifully, but only on leather
Rub very fine sandpaper on suede shoes to remove stubborn scuff marks.
Shoes should be stored with cedar shoe trees in them. Cedar absorbs moisture
that damages the leather.
Shoes—white sneaker protective coating
Before wearing a new pair and after each wash, spray white canvas sneakers
with a fabric protector like Scotchgard. They’ll be sparkling white till the day
they wear out.
Shoes—white sneaker quick restore
To keep white canvas shoes looking new, apply white shoe polish after they are
washed and while they are still wet. Allow to air-dry. You won’t believe the
Think twice—or three times—before buying something that says “dry-clean
only.” This kind of expensive maintenance will double or even triple the cost of
a garment over the years.
Shopping—girls in boys’ department
To cut down on clothing costs for girls and young women, shop for T-shirts,
shorts, jackets, and other accessories in the boys’ and men’s departments.
Think twice about leather, suede, and silk. They are lovely but very expensive to
Try on more than one size when shopping at outlets. Think about it: All of these
items landed in this store for some reason. Maybe they were mislabeled.
Shopping—remnants for making clothes
Keep a list of yardage and notions needed for your favorite clothing patterns in
your purse. When you’re out shopping, stop by the yardages store or sewing
department and check out the remnant table. If you find fabric you like, check
your list to see if it works for any patterns you have. This is an easy way to add a
cute skirt or blouse to your wardrobe for hardly any cost, and keeps you from
buying fabric or notions that won’t work with the patterns you like.
When trying on shoes in the store, walk around in them on a hard surface.
Standing on a carpet is deceiving. It makes the shoes feel more comfortable than
they would be on hard floors or other surfaces.
Shopping—women in men’s T-shirts
Ladies, buy men’s white T-shirts to wear under jackets. They’re cheap, easy to
dye or trim, machine washable, and quite fashionable.
Take an old pair of jeans or canvas overalls and turn them into cheap and
comfortable ski pants. Simply spray them with good waterproof fabric protector
available at fabric, sporting goods, and hardware stores.
Uses for widowed socks: (1) Slip one over your hand to use as a waxing,
dusting, or shoe-polish mitt; (2) put one over the top of the bathroom powdered
cleanser can when not in use to avoid spills; (3) when you travel, slide one over
each shoe to keep the clothes in your suitcase clean.
“Dry-clean only” garments that are stained with perspiration should be taken to
the cleaner as soon as possible. The longer the salts from perspiration remain in
the fabric, the greater the chance of permanent damage.
Try spraying stains on your winter coat with oven cleaner and allow to dry
overnight. This is a tried-and-true trick used in some used clothing stores to get
coats ready for sale.
Storage—belts on a hanger
For a great belt holder, install a row of big cup hooks along the bottom of a
Storage—shoes in socks
Store your off-season shoes inside socks to keep them scuff-and dust-free.
To pack away your winter scarves and hats, store them inside a handbag or purse
that you don’t plan on using during the spring and summer. The winter
accessories will help the purse keep its shape.
Static cling—use fabric spray
Mix 1 part liquid fabric softener and 20 parts water in a spray bottle set to spray
a fine mist. Use as you would commercial aerosol antistatic spray by spraying on
clinging petticoats, pantyhose, socks, and dresses.
Static cling—use hand lotion
Annoyed by static cling? Massage a small amount of hand lotion into your
hands. Then lightly rub your palms over your pantyhose, tights, or
Arrange a clothing swap with friends. Ask everyone to bring at least five items
in good condition that no longer meet their needs. One person’s disaster could be
If the man of the house wears ties often and easily tires of his favorites, find
another such person to participate in a tie swap. Twice a year the swappers
should go through their ties and get rid of the ones that have become boring or
were unwanted gifts. Make sure the items are freshly cleaned, and then do a tiefor-
tie swap. Donate anything left to a local charity.
To prolong the life of swimsuits that are exposed to harsh chlorine, buy a bottle
of chlorine remover, sold in pet supply stores for removing chlorine from the
water in fish tanks. Add a few drops of the liquid to a pail of cold water, pop the
suits in when swimming is over, and rinse with cold water.
Someone skilled at alterations can take in, let out, take up, let down, and
redesign any classic or well-made garment.
To clean and soften new, washable winter woolens, add ½ cup of hair
conditioner or creme rinse to 1 gallon of lukewarm water and soak. Rinse the
woolens thoroughly with tepid water.
Throw wrinkled clothes into the dryer along with a wet towel. Turn it on for a
few minutes and all the wrinkles will steam themselves away while you’re
Paint those fraying threads that constantly get caught in a zipper with clear nail
If the tab on your zipper is lost or broken, replace it with a safety pin or paper
clip. Paint or wind fine yarn around it in a color that complements the garment.
You can do several things to get that stubborn, sluggish, sticking metal zipper
back into tip-top shape: Run the lead of an ordinary pencil along the metal teeth
to lubricate them. Or with a cotton swab, apply a bit of lubricating spray such as
WD-40 to the teeth. Be careful to wipe away any excess so it won’t soil the
garment. Another solution: Rub the edge of a bar of soap or an old candle up and
down the teeth and along both sides of the zipper.