We’ve all been there. The run in your pantyhose as you’re late to work, the stain on your blouse during a client lunch, the unsightly deodorant streak across your black dress. With most wardrobe mishaps, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
While it may be tempting to toss these broken, ripped or stained items and purchase new ones, if you’re resourceful, there are quick fixes that will make your clothes look as good as new — and for cheap. Be prepared by keeping a kit handy with the most common emergency remedies, such as safety pins, a needle and thread, double stick tape, super glue, clear nail polish and toothpaste. (You can also buy a ready-made version, like Hollywood Fashion Emergency Kit.)
Arm yourself with these materials and follow these tips to gracefully solve even the peskiest of fashion emergencies.
You Broke a Heel
Quick fix: Glue, particularly super glue, is powerful and can quickly become your best friend when it comes to repairs. If your heel comes off on your way to a client meeting or is about to break, try to align it in its original position as best you can, apply super glue, and then apply pressure for a few minutes to ensure it will stay. (Remember: You’re going to be putting your weight on it, so try to have patience!)
Got more time? Invest in some Shoe Goo if you have a little extra time. (It needs 24 hours to dry). It’s permanent, waterproof and even binds leather to leather.
A Button Fell Off
Quick fix: Depending on where the button was, you can safety pin the area together if closure is the main concern. This is a good fix if it’s pants or a skirt, and you’re able to hide the area.
Got more time? Keeping a travel sewing kit in your desk at work is highly recommended. Buttons can and will come off, and sewing on a button literally just takes a minute to do. (And if you aren’t sure how, watch and read this tutorial to guide you.)
You Scuffed Your Shoes
Quick fix: Your solution to this everyday issue is not universal — it depends on the shoes you happen to be wearing: For leather, scrub away your scuffs with a little toothpaste; petroleum jelly will fix up your patent leather shoes and make them shine like new; brushing an eraser in one direction removes suede scuffs; and for your canvas kicks, use a baking soda paste.
Got more time? Kiwi Scuff Remover is particularly great on leather and can take off even hard-to-remove scuffs.
You Got Gum on Your Dress
Quick fix: Nothing’s quite as annoying as arriving to work after sitting in gum on the bus or brushing up against it on the subway pole. The good news is you have many options for removal, so choose whatever is handiest: Firmly apply duct tape to the gum-covered area only and lift off (repeat if necessary). A little spritz of hairspray will harden the gum and make it easier to scrape off, as will rubbing alcohol applied with a sponge (which won’t stain or remove colors from fabric).
Got more time? If you are near a hardware store, grab some Goo Gone, which is also excellent for removing bandaid residue and pesky price tag stickers.
You Tore Your Blouse
Quick fix: Rips are one of the worst emergencies, but they can also be one of the easiest to fix. For an emergency short-term solution for small tears, pull the loose and ripped fabric through to the other side (to the inside of the garment). Be sure to pull in all the little fibers and loose threads, as well, then apply some tape to the inside, covering all the edges. This works especially well on thin, dark colored fabrics.
Got more time? For a more permanent fix and for heavier fabrics, iron on a small patch on the inside (cut it to the smallest size needed to cover the tear). If done properly, the rip should be fairly imperceptible.
You Have Deodorant on Your Clothes
Quick fix: Rub the fabric vigorously against itself. Its fibers will almost always remove the white marks better than rubbing a towel or other piece of fabric against it. White vinegar will also work if your deodorant stains are particularly persistent.
Got more time? Invest in some Braza Wipe Out erasers. Use them dry, or get them slightly damp for expert removal.
You Spilled on Yourself
Quick fix: Different stains demand different remedies, but white vinegar can attack almost everything, including coffee, wine, grease, sweat and ink. Just saturate the stain with the vinegar, let it soak a few minutes, then wash it out. Heavy blotting with Club Soda is also an easily accessible fix — it even gets out blood and red wine. (Tip: Blotting works better than rubbing when it comes to fresh stains.)
There’s a Hole in Your Stockings
Quick fix: Clear nail polish can be a lifesaver when it comes to keeping a run in your hose from getting bigger just by dabbing a little on either end of the run. Plus, almost everyone has some in their cupboard or office drawer or can readily access some from a nearby nail salon or drugstore.
Got more time? While clear polish is a great emergency fix, it had some downfalls. So consider keeping some Run Free on hand, as well. It’s odorless, invisible, doesn’t stick, doesn’t get hard and holds up in the wash.
Your Hem Came Undone
Quick fix: Double stick tape is readily available and the fastest solution possible when your hemline dips below your preferred length. Place a strip of tape that runs the length of the ripped hem, then fold the hem up and apply pressure, smoothing the hem to seal it.
Got more time? Fashion tape is stronger than your average double stick tape (so it’s better for thicker fabrics like jeans) and can fix everything from a hem to a broken zipper, as well as keep a neckline or bra strap in place.
You Have Pet Hair on You
Quick fix: Form wide tape, like packing tape or duct tape, into a loop big enough to fit your hand in it. Then blot the fabric to pick up hair or lint, turning the tape as you go. You’ll likely need several tape loops, depending on the surface area.
Got more time? Mini Washable Sticky Lint Remover is compact and green (it’s washable and reusable). Plus, you’ll never have to worry about running out of the lint roller sheets again.
Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is the founder of Sociology of Style (formerly Closet Catharsis), her wardrobe and image consulting company, where she is the "thinking person's stylist." Find out more and follow her on Twitter.