Planning Your Family's Clothing NeedsIt's fun to shop for clothes -- especially when you have plenty of time and money to buy anything you want. But what happens when time and money are scarce? Buying clothes can still be fun if you first spend a little time planning.
This publication reviews eight time-tested ideas about clothing selection, and it also provides a step-by-step work sheet you can use to plan your family's clothing expenditures.
1. Buy classic styles -- they last longer.Simple styles with natural silhouettes and an easy fit remain fashionable for a long time. Tailored suits, shirtwaist dresses, and A-line skirts are always in style. Tailored or casual clothes usually are wearable longer than extremely frilly designs.
Here are some classics for women (style features that never go out of fashion):
- Medium-width collar and lapels or a cardigan design.
- Jacket hemline that is slightly below widest part of hip for taller figures and slightly above for shorter figures.
- Set-in sleeves.
- Sleeves with medium fullness.
- Moderate width in blouses and dresses.
- Straight-legged pants without a cuff.
- Pant hem at top of heel.
- 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" waistbands with side or front closure.
- Slim, A-line, and slightly gathered skirts.
- Shirtwaist dresses or ones that can take a blazer.
2. Find good quality -- it pays.A high price does not guarantee good quality in clothes. Quality clothing, however, will usually perform better and last longer than will clothes of poorer quality. Good quality is the result of appropriate design and fabric selection as well as fine sewing.
Here are some things to look for in quality items:
- Labels telling fiber content and recommended care.
- Information about finishes -- i.e., soil release, wrinkle-resistant, moth resistance, shrinkage control.
- Smooth, balanced collars and lapels; smoothly eased sleeves on tailored clothes; no puckers.
- Sufficiently wide seam allowance. (Fabrics that do not tend to ravel and knits that do not run may be durable with narrow thread-bound seams.)
- Appropriate seam finishes for fabrics that ravel.
- Firm, balanced, and even stitching.
- Seams that can stretch with the fabric.
- Trims that do not date garment or limit care.
- Nonpuckered, smooth-gliding zippers.
- Buttonholes evenly spaced and closely stitched.
- Sufficient hem width for alteration at hem and sleeves, if needed for fit.
- Comfortable, neat fit.
3. Decide on a becoming basic color plan.Choose a color plan and stick to it. Find your best neutral color and use it as the core of your wardrobe. Neutral colors are appropriate all year long. Use them for shoes, handbags, and perhaps coats -- the items that cost a lot that you wear with many other things. Navy and white are good neutrals for spring and summer seasons.
Choose lighter, brighter colors that blend, harmonize, or contrast to coordinate with the neutrals. If you can't afford separate summer and winter wardrobes, plan outfits with skirts, slacks, and jackets in fabrics that may be worn year-round. Let blouses, sweaters, and underwear help you adjust to the weather as seasons change. When colors harmonize, you can mix and match for many different outfits.
Basic Neutral Colors
White * Tan * Black * Camel * Ivory
Beige * Navy * Brown * Gray * Taupe
Beige * Navy * Brown * Gray * Taupe
4. Plan for variety.One of the best ways to extend a wardrobe is by mixing and matching garments in a variety of ways. It should start with the core neutral items of the wardrobe. Add other classic colors, prints, and fabrics to add interest and variety. Classic color choices might include olive, teal, royal, burgundy, forest, and plum. Classic prints might include tartan plaids, fine to medium houndstooth and herring bones, paisleys, foulards, and tweeds. Classic fabrics include wool, wool blends, cotton, cotton blends, polyester, silk, some rayons, and acrylics. An economical way to update garments is with accessories. They can also give clothes sparkle and surprise.
5. Plan for flexibility.Flexibility can mean several things. First, you may be a person who regularly loses or gains weight. Elastic waistbands, raglan sleeves, and knitted fabrics allow the stretch and flexibility you need.
Secondly, you may participate in a variety of activities. If one day includes cooking, driving, working part-time away from home, leading a scout group, helping children with homework, and attending a community committee meeting, you need flexible go-anywhere clothes. The time you save changing clothes is truly your own.
Plan for a cover-up to protect your outfit when you shift gears. You could wear a full-length chef or granny apron or an oversized robe or smock to keep kitchen splatters off your clothing during your kitchen duties.
6. A well-planned wardrobe doesn't have to cost a fortune.No matter how much you spend or where you shop, think about hidden costs when you buy clothes. Paying cash or paying the balance due on a revolving charge account before the end of the month avoids credit charges. The 1 1/2 percent finance charge on credit accounts doesn't sound like much, but 1 1/2 percent per month on the unpaid balance turns out to be 18 percent interest per year!
Layaway plans may help you save, but the store gets the benefit of any interest on your money. If you fail to make a payment, it keeps your money and the item. With self-discipline, you could put your money in a savings account, and the interest would be yours.
On costly items, take time to calculate the estimated cost per wearing. Think about how many times you'll wear the garment each week and for how many weeks per year; then divide the cost by the number to get the cost per wearing. You'll be surprised. A winter coat might cost $150. If it's worn every day for 5 months of the year for 3 years, it would cost only about 34¢ per wearing. A party dress might cost $100. If it's worn only two times a year, the cost per wearing would be $50. On the other hand, a pair of jeans might sell for $40 and be worn once a week throughout the year. The cost per wearing would be 76¢.
Remember, think about the cost of care and upkeep -- in terms of time and money. "Dry-clean only" items cost you every time they are cleaned. Home laundering isn't free either, but it costs less than using professional care.
In order to get the maximum value from your limited dollars, you may need to do a better job of planning your clothing expenditures.
- Analyze carefully the clothing you already have.
- Determine your clothing needs.
- Make a realistic but flexible spending plan for clothes.
7. Evaluate your present wardrobe.Once a year, take everything out of your closets and drawers. Try everything on. Sort everything into three piles:
- Clothes that fit and look good. Put these clothes back into your closets and drawers. You may discover new ways to combine them while trying them on.
- Clothes that fit and look good but need to be cleaned, altered, or mended. Put these clothes back into your closets and drawers after they have been repaired. If you won't get around to it, pay someone to do it for you.
- Clothes that are worn out, outdated, or do not fit. Plan a sale or give these clothes away. (Rule of thumb: If you haven't worn a garment in the last 2 years, get rid of it.)
8. Get organized.Organize your closet. With today's hectic schedules and lifestyles, it is hard to find time to keep closets in order. If you will take just a few minutes once a month to straighten closets and drawers, it will save you time in the long run.
Extension Service of Mississippi State University