Swapping Out Your Seasonal Wardrobe? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Storing Clothes to Make Them Last

published Oct 9, 2021
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The seasons are changing and depending where you live, your go-to tanks, shorts, and sundresses may not cut it anymore. If so, it’s time to swap out your wardrobe and bring out the sweaters, jackets, and boots that carry you from the first hints of fall through to spring. 

If you cycle out your clothing with the seasons, you know the highs and lows of the process; it’s fun to reunite with your cold-weather favorites, but it can be a huge pain getting everything organized, cleaned, and ready to be used or stored. However, caring for your clothing is the easiest thing you can do to extend its life, and the seasonal change-out is the perfect time to get started. 

Whether your clothes have been stored for a few seasons and need a refresh or they’re a bit sweaty from summer adventures, give them a good cleaning before storing or wearing them. All it takes is some careful prep, smart storage, and a few small repairs to keep your favorite seasonal clothes, shoes, and accessories in their best shape for years to come.

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Skip the cleaners and hand-wash your sweaters.

Wool and cashmere sweaters don’t need to be sent to the dry cleaner; you can easily wash them at home by soaking them in the bathtub in cool water with a gentle shampoo or special detergent. The Laundress makes one specifically for wool and cashmere, and this extra gentle detergent from Woolite is a good budget-friendly option for your delicates. Rinse the sweater well, lay it on a clean towel and roll it tightly to press out excess water, then lay the sweater flat to dry. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Know when to call in a pro.

Clean any small stains or marks on your leather jacket with a mild dish soap and water mixture applied with a clean, damp cloth. (Less is more, and it’s best to test a small, hidden section to make sure there are no major reactions.) If the jacket needs a total makeover or intense repair or cleaning, though, it’s best to take it to a pro. 

Give your clothes some air.

Never underestimate the power of fresh air. A bit of time in the sun can help deodorize and brighten your clothes, so hang them on your fire escape or lay them in the yard for a bit of breeze.

Declutter before you store your items.

The end of the season is the absolute best time to take a look at your seasonal wardrobe. Whether it’s shoes, clothes, outerwear, or accessories, you don’t need to spend time on items that don’t serve you. Grab a donation box and before you examine your garments for rips or stains, and start storing items, take out any items that you didn’t wear or that you didn’t feel good in while you were wearing them — you know which things those were! — and put them in the box. Your next year’s self will thank you for the seasonal wardrobe that’s been edited down to the best, favorite, and necessary.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Prop Styling; Tom Hoerup

Examine items for tears, rips, snags, or other mending.

Wanting your clothes to look their best means giving them the TLC they deserve. If you can sew buttons or mend rips on your own, do so. If not, make a pile for the tailor or a handy friend and get it taken care of! 

Don’t donate or toss out items simply because they’re less than perfect. Sweaters pill, dresses snag, stains happen, and colors can run, but with a bit of hard work and some simple skills and hacks, you can breathe new life into your clothes on your own. 

Guard your shoes from the elements.

If you live in a climate with lots of rain, snow, slush, and salt on the sidewalks, you know how important it is to weather-proof your favorite leather and suede boots with a spray before adventuring into the outdoors. And when your leather shoes look a bit dry and worse-for-wear, gently buffing them with a conditioning balm can bring back their luster and suppleness.

If your summer heels are missing heel caps or need some love, take them and any shoes that need to be resoled or repaired to your local cobbler for a quick fix. Getting your winter shoes re-soled before the first snow falls can help you avoid slips and falls before it’s too late, so think ahead now. With care, your favorite shoes can last for years, but they do require regular tune-ups. 

Store and hang everything properly. 

Whether you’re storing summer tops or bringing out sweaters, it’s important to hang or fold them properly to keep them looking their best. Sweater necklines can stretch out and lose shape if you use hangers to store them, so fold them flat if you have the space. Silky or strappy items will stay in place best on velvet hangers, and suits should be hung on sturdy wooden hangers with the pants folded over the bar. 

And if you’re storing spring and summer clothes in plastic totes or under-bed storage containers, do the future version of yourself a favor and fold them nicely so they’re not a wrinkled mess when you bring them out of hiding next year.

Protect the pieces you hold dear.

If you’re transitioning certain garments out of your closet and want to make sure they stay in good shape, cloth garment bags may be worth the investment because they’re more breathable than plastic. They keep your items protected from dust, dirt, and any wear and tear from the closet environment — ideal for things you really want to protect, like special occasion dresses, suits, and anything with sentimental value.

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

What about long-term storage?

If you’re storing clothing in a basement, attic, or anywhere moths could be hiding, don’t let those merciless insects destroy your precious pieces! Small cedar balls or blocks are an easy way to protect them and infuse them with a subtle aroma. Plus, they can be refreshed easily with a spritz of cedar spray.

Keep shoes in their original boxes or clear shoe boxes if you have them, but if not, they can be wrapped in shoe bags to keep them from getting dusty until it’s time to wear them again. And don’t feel ashamed if your summer loafers or fall boots smell less than fresh — it happens, and charcoal bags are a simple way to absorb any odors in a short amount of time so you can get back in your favorite pairs faster.

Credit: Minette Hand

Label your storage containers.

You may think you’ll remember what’s where, but labeling takes the guesswork out of finding your favorite sweater for that trip you’re taking to a colder climate. Additionally, labeled storage instantly reduces stress because there’s no niggling question about what’s in that under-bed box. After all the care you’ve taken to store your seasonal clothes, a label is the perfect finishing touch.