There's a reason your favorite T-shirt, jeans, sweater, and little black dress are the heroes of your closet. As timeless threads that will never go out of style, these pieces are versatile enough to wear anytime, anywhere, and with anything.
But no piece is immune to the inevitable wear and tear. Here's how often you should refresh wardrobe basics, how to prolong their lifespans, and what to look for when buying new wardrobe staples.
T-shirts: 6 months to 1 year
Simple tees are perhaps the most "everyday" item—and for good reason. This staple goes with everyday essentials, from jeans to skirts to blazers. That versatility also means you can wear them to almost any occasion.
But if you wear your favorite tee often, it's likely you'll need to replace it sooner rather than later. In fact, most T-shirts have a lifespan of six months to a year. Yarn unravels and shirts might lose their shape, but the biggest reason for replacement is discoloration. After all, nobody will look their best wearing a shirt that's covered in sauce or sweat stains. If you want to extend the shelf life a little longer, treat stains as soon as you see them.
When it comes to replacing your T-shirt, fit is key. While everyone has their preferences, a good tactic is to find a balance between too loose and too tight (kind of like the Goldilocks of T-shirts). As for fabric? Go for 100% cotton where possible, since it's lightweight, durable, and breathable.
Sweaters: 3 to 4 years
Whether it's a turtleneck, classic pullover, or cardigan, a sweater will become your go-to piece once the temperature drops. Since you likely don't wear a sweater as often as you would a T-shirt, it will last a few years longer. While most styles can last up to four years, sometimes longer, styles made with wool blends may need replaced sooner.
But before you donate your favorites, do what you can to get the most out of your sweaters. Dry cleaning can actually break down luxe textiles like wool and cashmere. A few things you can do at home include hand-washing, shaving off pills with a disposable razor, and storing in drawers instead of hanging to prevent stretching. But once your sweater loses its luxe, invest in a new one.
Pay extra attention to care labels when shopping for new styles. If you know you're a low-maintenance dresser, opt for machine-washable textiles like acrylic or poly knits. If you're OK with putting in a little work, then spring for cashmere or pure wool.
LBD: 4+ years
There's really no limit to LBD outfit ideas. Especially if your dress is a simpler style in a versatile fabric, it can be worn with anything from sneakers to stilettos, jean jackets to fine jewelry.
But like most of the pieces in your closet, the LBD, too, has an expiration date. While stains, snags, and broken seams are inevitable, color fading is usually the Achilles heel. Limit dry cleaning to every 3–4 wears to preserve color. If you can launder your dress at home, turn it inside out and use a gentle detergent, preferably one formulated for dark colors.
Even with the best care, your dress may still fall victim to time. While we love a great trend piece, especially for a dress, you might want to consider investing in an LBD with a classic silhouette and high-quality fabric. Trends might come and go, but the right dress should last years.
Jeans: It depends
Whether you wear jeans on the daily or once in a while, you'll eventually have to part ways with your favorite pair. Fortunately, you don't have a strict timeline to stick to.
Oftentimes, it's not when you get rid of jeans, but why. Most experts will agree you should discard your favorite jeans when they no longer fit, wear out in the seat or crotch, or have rips that aren't in optimal places.
Wear and tear is inevitable, but being strategic about how you clean your denim can extend its lifespan. Turn your jeans inside-out before throwing them in the laundry and let them air-dry as much as possible—tumble-drying can erode any stretch in the fabric. And don't over-wash them. You can go up to 10 wears if you're not sweating in them and you don't notice any odor.
Since there are so many brands, fits, and washes these days, it'll be easy to fall in love with a new pair. And best of all, most labels don't retire denim styles after a single season, so if you find the perfect fit, you can repurchase the same pair over and over again.