At-home clothes surgery: from mending to upcycling, how to breathe new life into your wardrobe

As clothing enthusiasts stare down the barrel of anything from three weeks to three months being deprived of the thrills of a changing room marathon, a basement bargain or a browse for treasure, the temptation will be to start indulging our sartorial splurges and urges online.

And while supporting our best-loved independent brands with the odd online purchase is integral to ensuring their survival through these difficult times, this period also presents a wonderful opportunity to fall back in love with that which we already own.

According to research commissioned by dye brand Dylon, one in three people haven’t worn half or more of their wardrobes in the past year, and on top of this, the average person binned 12 items of clothing in 2019 alone.

But rather than casting off clothes and shoes that are stained, shrunk, ripped or worn out, why not spend some time nursing them back to their former glory, or reworking them into something new entirely?

Turn off that Love is Blind re-run and get crafty with your clothes using these tips from the pros…

Do a DIY dry clean


With all stores on lockdown, that pile of clothes in the corner of your room that was meant for the dry cleaner isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So why not do a little at-home clothes surgery and get those crumpled and stained staples back into action stat? We spoke to Will Lankston, Operational Director at Jeeves of Belgravia, for some tips and tricks on how to recreate that dry cleaner magic at home.

The secret stain removers…

A Toothbrush

“Something we all have available at home that could help in times of desperation is fairy liquid and a toothbrush. Known for its grease fighting powers on dishes, fairy liquid can also be used as a quick fix for grease or fat stains, such as those from a Sunday fry up. Simply put the item in warm water and then use a clean toothbrush to apply fairy liquid to the affected area.”

A hairdryer

“If you find yourself with a dust or dirt stain, don’t try to brush it off- this tends to spread the dust and push it deeper into the fibres of your clothes. Try to remove as much surface dust as possible by using a hairdryer to blow the excess away, and then soak the item in warm water with normal detergent before washing as normal. If the item is delicate, such as a silk blouse or dress, it is always best to take to a reputable dry cleaner.”

An iron and some baking paper

“We all love a great candle at home. However, if you find yourself with a candle wax accident, an iron and baking paper should be your quick fix go-to. If the item can be ironed, place baking paper on the affected area and then iron over the top. The heat will melt the wax and it will be absorbed into the paper. If the item is delicate, take to a reputable dry cleaner, where we have heat guns to help remove the wax.”


The posh wash

Delicates, darling

 “Caring for delicates is quite simple at home, all you need is a kitchen sink or bowl, warm water and ideally some delicate wash if you have some on hand. Move the items around to ensure that they get soaked through and then leave to soak for 5 minutes. Finally, rinse with cold water and then roll in a towel and squeeze to remove excess moisture before drying. Try to dry delicate items flat if you can as silk and lace can lose shape easily.”

Got (tennis) balls

“If you want your items nice and fluffy, we would recommend popping a couple of tennis balls in with your towels, fluffy coats, pillows or anything else that could use a good fluffing when tumble drying. Tennis balls can also help laundry dry faster as they help to circulate airflow through your garments when in the machine. And if you don’t have any tennis balls to hand, other objects can produce the same results. Small stuffed toys without any plastic parts do the exact same thing and keep the dryer quiet.”


Lavish love on your leather

(The Restory)

While most of us won’t have need for a handbag or smart shoes for some time, this period indoors is a good moment to give those worn out and tired-looking leather goods in your wardrobe some TLC. Whether you fancy breathing life back into that battered Alexander Wang Rocco bag or giving those well-worn suede court shoes another year in business, aftercare specialists The Restory, who specialise in refreshing well-loved shoes, bags and leather goods, give us a few tips and tricks for making the old look new again.

Suede brigade

“For suede shoes or bags, we recommend using a rubber brush specifically made for suede. This will not only help remove the dust and build up that suede typically attracts but it will also revive the nap.”

Shoes glorious shoes

 “If your shoes get wet from rain, stuff them with a small towel to help absorb moisture and retain shape. Then, leave them to dry in a well-ventilated area, do not put them next to artificial heat such as a radiator. You can also use an old toothbrush dipped in soapy water to clean the soles of your trainers.”

“Avoid using baby wipes to clean your leather shoes and bags at all costs as this can do more harm than good. Try a damp cloth or specialist cleaner suited to the material.”

Bag tricks

“Put a small towel or pillow in your bags when they aren’t in use. This will prevent them from folding and creasing which is difficult to rectify. And keep your handbags in their dust bags if possible, this will keep them dust free and avoid any potential scratches on hardware.”


Upcycle a la Christopher Raeburn

By getting creative and upcycling what’s already there in your wardrobe, you can transform and extend the life of your clothes, benefiting both the planet and your bank balance in the process. Cut those frayed jeans into denim hot pants, that army jacket into a utility gilet… the opportunities for reinvention are endless.

In need of some inspo? At-home fabric dyeing company Dylon has partnered with surplus fabric reworking maestro Christopher Raeburn, Creative Director of responsible fashion label RÆBURN, to provide some easy online visual guides (check them out here) on how you can upcycle three classic pieces: a t-shirt, a button down shirt and a pair of jeans. If you haven’t worn them in a year, then what have you got to lose?

Darn it

(Alex Gore Brown)

Now is the perfect time to fix your favourite sweaters that have worn at the elbow in the winter months. But rather than patching those pesky holes, why not go old school and darn them by interweaving thread over the hole? Knitwear designer Alex Gore Brown is big believer in buying investment pieces and mending them along the way, and she suggests that, rather than darning your pieces in a matching coloured thread, why not make a feature of your handiwork by making a rainbow pattern?

Her steps to rainbow elbow loveliness here:

1. Find a hole or an area that might need mending

2. Weave threads into the hole like so

3. Choose a series of bright threads for decorative darning!

4. Build up the colours, wrapping around the grey threads as you go

5. Hey presto!

For anyone that owns one of her pieces and doesn’t fancy tackling the repairs themselves, the knitwear maestro is offering Alex Gore Brown customers free repairs – “if they post their jumpers back to me I will show a jumper some much needed TLC free of charge.”


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