Make your wardrobe last longer: an expert’s guide to clothes repair

As we enter a new year, Layla Sargent of The Seam – a platform that connects people to clothes repair experts, tailors and makers – gives Wallpaper* her tips on looking after (and refreshing) your wardrobe to make it last in 2024

Clothes repair close up details of coat, skirt and shoes
As originally featured in the January 2022 Issue of Wallpaper*
(Image credit: Photography Deo Suveera and Pamela Dimitrov, fashion by Jason Hughes)

‘There are over a million sewing machines in homes across the country,’ estimates Layla Sargent, relaying the genesis for The Seam, the clothes repair and alteration service she founded in 2019. Privy to the skills of her dressmaker grandmother growing up, Sargent’s intimate knowledge and appreciation for tailoring was the catalyst for her connecting those machines and skillsets with people who might otherwise not have access. ‘It’s about leveraging that want in order for people to have their stuff tailored and repaired on a local basis,’ she continues, alluding to the community she’s established in the past four years. While the platform is in high demand throughout the year, the fallout from unwanted Christmas gifts, impulsive sale buys, and wardrobe refreshes make January a particularly significant month 

An expert’s guide to clothes repair

Clothes repair close up of bejewelled dress

As originally featured in the January 2022 Issue of Wallpaper*

(Image credit: Photography Deo Suveera and Pamela Dimitrov, fashion by Jason Hughes)

The conduit between ‘makers’ – specialists in an array of textile-based mechanics – and consumers (as well as brands, with collaborations including COS, Net-a-Porter and Matches), The Seam is well-versed in the transformative nature of modifications. ‘Having clothes that fit you fundamentally makes you feel more at home in what you're wearing,’ explains Sargent. ‘It can influence your confidence and the way you feel in your own body – and we hear this time and time again from our customers.’ Not only providing emotional and financial gains, maintaining one’s clothes is imperative to the resale and rental markets adds Sargent, and similarly vital to sustaining the planet: by increasing the lifecycle of an item by nine months of active wear she notes, there’s a decrease in the carbon, waste and water footprints of 20 per cent.

Ultimately, however, new shopping habits and a revised mindset is required reckons Sargent. ‘The way that we see the things we own, and this element of connectivity, is really the bedrock to sustainable behaviours,’ she says. ‘The more connectivity we have to purchasing and therefore owning [an item], the more we're likely to care for it better.’ With this sentiment in mind – and as we enter a new year – below Sargent highlights five ways individuals can better approach their wardrobes to ensure longevity.

Don’t delay

Most of us are guilty of ignoring a hole in a pair of jeans or pretending we’ve not seen that scuff on a leather bag, keeping our items in action long after they were due some TLC, but time is of the essence, says Sargent. ‘All repairs will be easier and therefore probably cost less money the earlier you catch them,’ she stresses. ‘So while it’s tempting to keep wearing stuff, don't leave it too long.’

Enforce moth protection

‘Moth hole repairs are one of our most booked services in the winter months,’ advises Sargent. While The Seam has the tools to fix such problems there are plenty of ways pieces can be better preserved at home. ‘We recommend adding a moth decoy to your wardrobe, such as lavender or sandalwood oils. If deterrents aren’t enough, store your wool and silk items in tightly sealed storage bags during their off-season, and when moths do get in, it’s worth freezing items for 48 hours to kill off any bugs or larvae before sending for repair.’

Clothes repair close up of suit

As originally featured in the January 2022 Issue of Wallpaper*

(Image credit: Photography Deo Suveera and Pamela Dimitrov, fashion by Jason Hughes)

Re-work rather than re-gift

A time for giving, the festive season is unfortunately also often a time for disappointment – and subsequently the collecting of pieces that aren’t quite right, but which, for whatever reason we can’t return. But that needn’t creep too far into the new year: ‘if sending back isn't an option, a local tailor can help make tiny tweaks that have a big impact,’ shares Sargent. ‘Last January, we helped customers shorten sleeves, remove embellishments and even turn a quilt into a shoulder bag – the possibilities to rework your wardrobe are endless.’ 

Refreshing as a means for preservation 

‘If you have a coat you really love, refreshing the lining every few years is a great way to preserve its condition – linings are more likely to give way before the outer jacket shell, and we receive many requests for repairs and re-linings,’ says Sargent, relaying another of winter’s most common issues. Damage via pockets is a key culprit she adds, largely as a result of keys ripping the fabric. The easiest fix? Stashing them in a purse instead.  

Fix before you say farewell

The new year has long been marked by promises relating to diet and exercise, and wardrobe clearouts are increasingly part and parcel of this formula. While donations to charity shops are obviously welcome, take a moment to consider the condition of what you’re giving. ‘Charities are overrun with clothing donations that can't be resold due to stains, snags, tears and broken fastenings,’ explains Sargent. ‘As often as you can, take responsibility for your discards and ensure items are in a good state of repair before you part ways.’

Zoe Whitfield is a London-based writer whose work spans contemporary culture, fashion, art and photography. She has written extensively for international titles including Interview, AnOther, i-D, Dazed and CNN Style, among others.