Cork designer tells us how to care, share and repair your clothes

Ali Wheeler of Hot Knickers lingerie is among the speakers at a clothing swap in West Cork next week. Here she shares some tips with EMMA CONNOLLY on how we can make our clothes last longer
Cork designer tells us how to care, share and repair your clothes
Ali Wheeler of Hot Knickers Lingerie in Clonakilty.

SHE Is Sustainable is following on from the success of a sell-out conference earlier this year with a clothes swap event.

This is the group’s first ‘bite-size’ event which has an ethos of ‘care, share and repair.’ With the fashion industry being singled out as one of the world’s worst polluters and a growing awareness among consumers of fast fashion, it’s an opportunity to expand your wardrobe, just not at the expense of the planet.

Taking place in the West Cork town of Clonakilty this Sunday, July 14, the event will be hosted by Olive Finn of Twig Refill whose innovative business attracts shoppers from all over Cork.

She says the event will interest anyone ‘interested in reducing their carbon footprint on this lovely planet of ours.’

“It’s about showing how to get more, but to use less,” she explained.

The afternoon will also feature advice on how to make your favourite pieces last longer.

Among those sharing their tried and tested tips are Ali Wheeler of Hot Knickers Lingerie in Clonakilty.

Ali hand-makes her shapewear from ethically sourced materials and sustainability is at the heart of her designs, making her a perfect fit for the event.

Among the most treasured items in her wardrobe is a blouse that’s at least 100-years old that was owned by her great grandmother and worn by four generations of women in her family.

“It had gone an off-cream colour so I dyed it a tomato colour and changed the buttons. I must have it 40 years and I still wear it at least twice a year,” she said.

Here are some of her gems of advice to help our clothes last longer:

Wash clothes less

Ali says she’s not talking about our gym gear but stresses that there’s absolutely no need to wash outerwear after a single wear, which she says is bad both for the environment and the garment.

“Consider sponge washing more as well,” she said.

Use chemical free soaps

Ali get hers in Twig Refill and also makes her own stain remover.

“It’s hydrogen peroxide, available from a chemist, hand wash liquid soap and bicarbonate soda and is quite effective even with things like oil and lipstick. An ice cube is also very good at removing blood,” she said.

Fasten zips

Always turn items inside out and fasten their zips before they go into the washing machine. “Revolutions can damage them very easily,” she explained.

Drying and wringing

Items are pulled into unrecognisable shapes in a tumble dryer, even at a low heat, so where possible try to dry items flat.

And to avoid over wringing, she advises gently rolling the garment into a towel, rolling it up and pressing the water out, say in the shower, before you reshape it.

Repair and reimagine

Add in a dart if something is too baggy, she says; or take them out if you want something streamlined.

And if something really won’t ever see the light of day again, repurpose it. Ali suggests making something like a flower broach out a skirt you may be done with; or at the very least use an old t-shirt as a duster or rag.


Don’t over-cram items in a drawer but fold them carefully, she advises.

“Also, use good quality and appropriate hangers. If you hang trousers on clip hangers rather than folding them you won’t have to iron them which will help the fabric.

“That same idea applies to hanging clothes as soon as you take them off rather than putting them on the floordrobe!

“Things will pick up bits of dust etc off the carpet and again they’ll have to be ironed. And don’t forget that the steam in a shower really is an effective way to get rid of creases.”

She stresses using quality hangers with good padding as this puts less stress on a garment: “And if you don’t have any, then wrap old t-shirts, etc, around your existing ones,” she said.


When packing away your winter wardrobe for your summer, pop a few silica gel sachets in with them. They’re the sachets you find in the bottom of a new handbag and Ali says they’re great at reducing moisture.

“Keep a few at the bottom of the wardrobe as well where your shoes are or make bags of lavender and bicarbonate of soda which are good for dampness,” she said.

Getting rid of musty smells

If you’ve bought something second hand and it’s got that ‘old’ smell, she suggests unpicking the lining and putting a sprinkling of bicarbonate soda inside.

“Leave it to air outside for a while and then hoover it out afterwards, or brush a little of it into the seams with a toothbrush.”

Petroleum jelly is also great for bringing old leather jackets or handbags back to life.

Parting advice

It’s not about how much you buy but what you buy and we should buy things that will stand the test of time, is her big advice.

“Looking after and caring for our clothes is part of caring for yourself,” she said.

The clothing swap event runs from 2-5pm. For tickets and more information see

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