Millennials have lived in an age where fast fashion has been par for the course. Often the clothes considered fast fashion are not meant to last and what’s trendy now changes within a season, sometimes faster. Many of us learned how to sow, mend and care for clothes at home and in school, but those skills are becoming forgotten.

There was a different outlook in the past. Clothes needed to last, so socks were darned, trousers mended and items were handed down through generations, and used until they were definitely ready for the bin.

In order to look forward, we need to look back. We know that fast fashion is having an impact on the environment – half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres are dumped into the ocean every year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles, according to the World Economic Forum – and we need to be mindful of the fabrics we wear for our health.

The cost of living has people thinking twice about how often we go shopping, the durability of our clothes, and how to care for them so they last longer.

Laura de Barra’s new book, Garment Goddess: How to buy, care for and increase the lifetime of your clothing, is very timely for these reasons.


Laura is a Cork-born property portfolio developer, author and illustrator with a background in fashion. Her previous two books, Gaff Goddess and Décor Galore, were bestsellers. She also regularly makes guest appearances on radio, television and podcasts in Ireland and the UK to give advice on all things to do with your home.

“I studied fashion in Edinburgh College of Art and illustration was my worst subject,” says Laura. “I nearly failed it. I realised that I didn’t have that kind of edgier style and didn’t draw the kind of cool fashion illustrations that were really popular at the time. I had a more feminine style of illustration.

“I loved really old-school, vintage illustrations. So, instead of trying to fit in, I thought I’ll do it my own way and become good at that. I started working in the fashion industry at night; I was illustrating for some beauty brands in London, designing perfume bottles for Primark. But I was always doing fashion on the side. It was kind of a hobby.”

Garment Goddess by Laura De Barra, published by Gill Books, March 2024

On top of that, Laura has been managing properties for years. “When I was managing tenants, I found the only way I could communicate some repairs was to draw them,” she says. “That’s when I realised I loved the more technical fashion and instructional drawings. It grew from there.

Common repairs

“I started compiling this book of the most common repairs and questions that were asked. Often, it was calls about washing machines being broken and I didn’t want to leave the tenants waiting for three days on a plumber when I knew how to fix the problem.

“It was usually that their filters were blocked or something simple like this. So, I used to send them a video of how to do it. I also started posting these videos on Instagram.”

Laura’s break into publishing came when Penguin Publishing contacted her. They had been following her on social media, and asked her to compile her advice into a book. She had her handy advice bible already, so the rest, as they say, is history.

“I wanted to create a book that could sit on your shelf and you just pull it out in case of an emergency,” says Laura.

Laura’s books have evolved over time. From practical advice and tips on how to run your home more efficiently, to how to style a house, now, her latest book tackles how to buy, wear and care for our clothes.

There are tips about production quality, washing your clothes and hanging them, every detail is covered and illustrated by Laura in her own unique style.

Production quality

“One thing that really kicked off was when I spoke on social media about the flaws of a best-selling dress from a high-street store, especially in relation to the production quality,” she says. “Lots of people wanted to know more. They were saying they don’t want to waste money and want to be able to tell if an item of clothing is well-produced and how to look after it.

“The book teaches you how to even examine stitching, the finish, fabric composition, and how to make sure the clothes are fit for purpose. I included a bit on buying bedsheets in Décor Galore, and loads of people said, ‘Oh my god, I sleep so much better now because I didn’t realise that you weren’t supposed to have this stuff in the fabric of your sheets’. So, I’m just hoping Garment Goddess will have the same effect with people and their clothes.”

“I’m the person who is never going to give you a martini, I’ll teach you how to make a martini… everything you need, here’s the information, and you can do what you want with that.

“Not everybody can buy sustainably or buy with a higher budget. There are brands that don’t accommodate people, because of budget, they don’t have clothes bigger than a size 16, or people are in locations where they only have access to certain stores.

“So instead of shaming people, which there can be a lot of in fashion and a lot of snobbery, I want people to be able to make the decision that a garment may not be made out of the best composition, but it’s within their budget and everything else is perfectly constructed and it will last a long time if it is well looked after. I am saying, with my book, that this is how you look after it.”

‘Garment Goddess’, published by Gill Books, €19.99

Laura’s clothing tips

  • Look at what a garment is made of. The book details different clothing fibres like cotton or synthetics, and why they are used. So question, is it fit for purpose for you? For example, take a polyester shirt. Are you planning on using this as a work shirt? If so, consider that it’s going to make you sweat loads and that’s not what you want. So, by examining the composition and understanding what it means, you can see if it matches your intention for the garment, ensuring you get better value.
  • If buying fast fashion items, reinforce the fastenings and seams and tighten up buttons when you get them as that will make them last much longer.
  • Washing clothes:

  • If the material is synthetic, it will shed microplastics every time you wash it and that ultimately ends up in our food. So, for everyday garments, buy natural fabrics, as much as possible.
  • Always close zips on your garments because it will agitate and scratch other fabrics when open. Buttons are the opposite, always leave open as they will get pulled in two directions if closed and will fall off.
  • Turn your clothes inside out to stop bobbling.