April 8, 2018

Clothing for Hard Times

Coats and Jackets at Goodwill
Coats and Jackets at Goodwill

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I received a great email from reader Linda who brought up an important aspect of preparedness:  clothing.  If there is some kind of large scale collapse, manufacturing and shipping may be interrupted, and clothes will be come scarce.

During the Great Depression, many people could not afford store bought clothes and therefore had to make their own.  Many had to trade items for materials or cloth, or used burlap sacks that chicken feed came in.  Fortunately for them, they knew how to sew, but how many of us in the present time can make an actual outfit.  I can sew a basic hem or reattach a button, but I can’t say I could make an article of clothing.   The scarcity of clothes continued for many years; even during World War II, clothes and shoes were rationed along with other commodities such as fuel, coffee, tires, cheese, meat, etc.  Clothes could be only during certain days, and by buying through the black market at steep prices.

Clothes will wear out and will need to be replaced, and kids will outgrow their clothes.  Even if nothing happens, if you stock up on inexpensive clothes now, you will be glad to have them when prices are higher.  Of course, fashion conscious folk will have to give up having the latest styles, but at that point, people would just be glad to have something to wear.

What you can do now

  • Shop in your own closet and set aside a few pairs of jeans, sturdy clothing for your “bug-out” bag.  Have a set for different seasons.  Choose comfortable shoes as well.
  • Give away or sell clothes and shoes you no longer use to make room.
  • Go through your kids clothes and do the same thing.  Sell or give away outgrown items.
  • If you know families who have kids who are close in ages, set up a hand-me-down exchange.
  • Visit Goodwill and other thrift stores and shop for clothes of varying sizes in anticipation of kids’ growth spurts.  Take advantage of “buy one get one free” or “buy one get one at half off” days.
  • If you have the room, keep a few clothes for barter.
  • Buy classic styles that are well made and will look good for a long time.
  • Have some repair materials on hand such sewing kit, zipper repair, sewing awl,  (used to repair heavy duty items such as thick jackets, sleeping bags, tents etc) Shoe Goo, heel savers on hand.

Old Sewing Machine at GoodwillAcquire Skills

  • To get started, choose one skill that will help you create clothing in the future:  sewing, crocheting, quilting or knitting are all good to know.  Concentrate
  • Take a free class at a sewing machine seller, or have a friend show you how.
  • Stock up on materials by buying them on sale at discount stores or thrift stores.

Make your clothes and shoes last longer

  • See Basic Shoe Care for tips on how to make your shoes last.
  • Wash colors in cold water and 1/3 cup vinegar rinse.  The vinegar sets the color and does not impart the vinegar smell.
  • Turn clothes inside out before washing.
  • If you have the room, line dry clothes.  Drying in a clothes dryer wears them out faster-this is where lint comes from.
  • Take care of stains right away.  Hydrogen peroxide is a good stain remover for organic stains such as blood.  Rubbing alcohol works well on ink and grass stains.
  • Many items of clothing (except for underwear) really do not need to be washed after every wear.  Unless you sweat heavily or live in a hot, humid climate year round, your clothes stay fairly clean wearing a couple of times between washes.  Just hang them up to smooth out wrinkles.


  • Stains and body oils attract moths and other bugs.  Store only clean clothes – wash and dry all clothes prior to storing.
  • Fold clothes properly as best you can.
  • Plastic under the bed storage bins are good; space bags also work well for clothing.
  • Toss a used dryer sheet to avoid musty odors.
  • Store in clean, dry places.  Moisture will cause mold and mildew to form and ruin the clothes.
  • Use cedar hangers or cedar chips to repel moths.  Mothballs not only smell bad, but they also contain harmful chemicals.  Other natural moth repellants include lavander, rosemary, eucalyptus.  In a future post, I will cover how to make how to make natural sachets that repel insects.

© Apartment Prepper 2012

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7 Comments on Clothing for Hard Times

  1. If can be afforded, Duluth sells some clothing with labeled ‘Fire Hose – – – – – ‘, the material is the same as fire hoses, an extremely durable material that outlasts standard denim by a long shot. Cost is about double a standard pair of jeans, but their long life is worth it. Give it a look if you can.


    • Hi j.r., Thanks for the link to those Fire Hose pants-they look really sturdy and look great too. I am adding some to the Christmas gift list. I appreciate the comment.

      • These pants are great! I use them now for protective gear when riding my motorcycle…and they are tough as nails…They’re a bit stiff, but that’s probably because I don’t wear them for everyday use. I’d guess they’ll last for years!

  2. I shop goodwill stores for used, name brand clothing, mostly of organic material, ie wool. Wool shirts and jackets which provide durable, long lasting, fire resisitant material, and at a great price. I also stock up on socks and under clothes for the kids, you will always need them, you mine as well get them now. I can imagine in a collapse scenario pulling out a new pack of socks for a special occasion. Nothing like new socks. Shoes are a big concern for me with two kids one wearing a size 13. I try to keep one or two pairs the next half or full size up. This way I know in a pinch we would be ok for a year without purchases. This goes for boots as well. It’s expensive, but better to have them ahead of time, then to need them and not have them.

    • Hi countrygirl, Sounds like you already have a system set up! I was impressed at the warm clothes selection at the goodwill I visited. I am stocking up as well. Thanks for the comment.

  3. As much as I hate them, 5.11 pants are very good quality. I use them for work. The only problem with them is that you look like a cop or someone in the military as they are the only ones who typically wear them. I’ve had some pairs that I wear twice a week for months on end and you’d never know they were years old.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot and trying to figure out what clothes to buy that will last. Do you know if the Chamois cloth shirts last? I don’t really want to buy 5.11 stuff because its too expensive and I am just not a fan, so I’m looking at alternatives.

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