Replace or Repair?

Have a few favorite wardrobe pieces you’ve worn so much, they’re nearly worn out? You’re not alone. When I see people walking around with worn heels, frayed straps, and threadbare cuffs, I know I’m seeing pieces that have performed faithful service.

But as comfortable as those old standbys are, they don’t last forever – even with meticulous care and cleaning. Since worn pieces suggest inattention to detail or a meager bank account – neither of which will help you climb the mountain to self-actualization — at some point you have to ask yourself, “Should I replace – or repair?”

In our disposable, throw away society, our first inclination is often to just replace. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the saying goes. But as headlines report of mounting credit card debt, dwindling savings, and tardy mortgage payments, it’s obvious that replacing isn’t an option for everyone.

So what’s “Plan B”?


Now some of you might think this is obvious. If you grew up with parents or grandparents who were heavily impacted by the Depression or World War II, when luxuries were few and rations were plenty, you were told repeatedly to take care of what you already had. “Waste not, want not” and “A penny saved is a penny earned” play in your head every time you face a purchase.

But for many, those hard lessons are long forgotten. They like to have the “latest and greatest” of everything, from new cars and gadgets to cocktails and clothes. They can’t get another thing in their closets, attics, garages, or basements, but the siren’s song of “new and improved” is just too tempting to ignore. So off they go on their latest quest.

Yes, everyone likes new things. But if your bank balance or retirement fund is suffering from regular spending sprees, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and make your old favorites LIKE new again instead of just replacing them.

Here are a few ways to do that:

Re-Heel or Re-Sole Your Shoes

If you’ve worn the heel or sole off your favorite shoes, take them to a cobbler and have them repaired. He can re-stitch, re-glue, re-heel, and reinforce and have those babies back on your feet in a couple of days. I still remember when one prominent socialite made the best dress list years ago, she said one of her dressing secrets was a good cobbler. He’d re-soled her favorite pair of black pumps FIVE times.

Repair or Replace Handles, Straps, and Zippers

If the handles or straps on your favorite handbag, tote, or briefcase have frayed, become unstitched, or are hanging by a thread, take them to the shoe repair shop and have them fixed. Replace the zipper or other closure, if necessary, and have the cobbler add a leather layer to the bottom of frayed bags to hide the wear and reinforce the bottom.

Patch Holes, Repair Pockets, and Replace Cuffs

If your favorite coat, jacket, pants, or whatever require minor repairs, fix them rather than replace them. Lost buttons, loose hems, and small holes can all be remedied with a needle and thread. Sewing-challenged, like me? Take them to a seamstress. She can even do more complicated stuff, like replace frayed cuffs, worn collars, broken zippers, and the like.

Do a Dye Job

Have pieces that are in good shape except for a permanent stain or faded color? Try bleaching them white or dyeing them to a new color. It doesn’t always work, depending on the fabric and the color, but sometimes it does. You may be able to salvage something.

Update and Re-Design

Have a nice calf-length skirt that would see more use if it were knee-length? Have it shortened. Hate the collar and cuffs on your old holiday favorite? Replace them with ones you like. Have an old bridesmaid’s dress that could work well as a formal or cocktail dress? Change it and wear the dress. Updating old pieces is often cheaper than buying new.

Recycle and Repurpose

Use your imagination to transform your old favorites into something completely new and wonderful. Some of the most unique ideas I’ve seen include turning an old winter coat into a teddy bear, a leather patchwork skirt into a handbag, the ruffled train of a wedding dress into the ruffle on a bassinet, and old kimonos into new shoes. Waste not, want not indeed.

Hetty Rose Shoes
Shoes made from old Japanese kimonos

Replacing worn apparel and accessories can be expensive, so always try to think of ways to extend their life instead of throwing them away. Repair worn items, add new embellishments, change the design, or transform them into something else completely. Not only will you get to keep your old favorites, you’ll get to save money as well.

Or, as Gloria Steinem once observed, “Rich people plan for three generations. Poor people plan for Saturday night.”

Want a few more ideas on how to extend your wardrobe? Download a copy of ACCESSORY MAGIC to learn how to define your style and stretch your budget with accessories.

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