When Are Clothes “Worn Out”?

I understand that I’m supposed to replace things when they get worn out. But when, exactly, is that? When it is no longer “like new”? When it breaks completely? When I’m no longer comfortable using it?

I’ve been thinking about this relating to clothes lately, since I replaced those shoes. They weren’t totally worn out, but I replaced them anyway because they stopped serving their function for me.

But let’s take a shirt, say, that has stains on it. It still functions as a shirt. It could still be soft and comfortable and a nice style and fit well and be loved. Should the shirt be replaced only if the stain bothers the wearer? Or because it has a certain societal connotations to wear stained clothes? Like, that person is dirty or that person can’t afford new clothes or what a slob that person is.

I guess even then it comes down to whether those connotations bother the wearer or not. Do they give a hoot about what other people think of them? Or are they confident to wear a stained shirt because they know they’re not dirty or broke or a slob? Just that, maybe, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in a restaurant or something.

In some situations, it may not even be up to the wearer to decide to replace a stained shirt or not. A boss may say, “You can’t wear that here – you need to look presentable”, i.e. more put together, i.e. not like a dirty, poor, slob. Definitely different jobs have different standards. Someone working retail in a fancy purse store would be required to dress very differently than someone who works in the kitchen at a local restaurant.

It may not always be a job that tries to dictate what someone wears, either. It may be a small group of peers, the culture at large, or someone’s own internal beliefs about how they think others are pressuring them, even if no one really is.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to figure out, is when clothes are too worn out for me. I wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to work, but I’m fine wearing them at home. I know I’m not a slob, but I do feel a bit slobby when I wear them. But honestly, my infant could spit up on me at any moment, so why bother dressing nicely? Except, from my experience, dressing nicely can improve mood and self-confidence. Even if no one else sees me.

Okay, I’m going around and around here. Wearing slightly worn clothes is still different from deciding when to get rid of items that are worn out. My sneakers: not totally worn out, but I got rid of them anyway. My sandals: really showing wear now. The bottom soles have been re-glued, the color is faded, the inner soles are worn down, the stitching is frayed, the straps are a bit stretched out. But they are still serving their function as sandals for me.

How can I tell the difference between when something is worn in and loved and comfortable and a staple, distinctive piece for me or when it is worn out and just looks bad? Oh jeez, I just realized that answer is probably different for everybody. So I have to make up my own rules. Or just go with my gut for when it’s time to let go of each item? Whew! So much pressure. Life is so hard!

Just kidding.

Deciding when clothes are too worn is an individual decision based on personal comfort levels, job requirements, style expression, and also budget. For me, it is also a balance between getting the most use out of a purchase (the most bang for my buck, as they say) while also not feeling like I’m wearing dirty rags.

I suppose like many things in life, this decision is a complicated mix of rational thought and gut feeling. Making decisions that way can be scary because what if… x 1,000, but the more I make decisions this way, the better I get at it. So, you know, leveling up at life in general.

Anyway. I guess that’s all I’ve got to ramble on about this subject for now. Stay tuned for a detailed list of my complete capsule wardrobe! (I’m scared it’s going to be even bigger than I think it is…)

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