Wardrobe 101

Caring for Your Wardrobe

Happy day, dear reader!

This post may come across as bossy… (Me, bossy? NEVER! Just ask my children!) Since working as a Wardrobe and Image consultant I am often asked how to take care of clothes, and it’s not just young men and women asking me. I find women and men my age who haven’t been taught the basics of caring for their wardrobes. That makes me sad, because with proper care, your clothing can serve you for a long time! Which saves you money! So let the bossing begin!

Read the Tags! Buy Smart

Know yourself. Do you only wash in hot water and dry on nuclear hot? Then please make sure to read the care tags and only buy pieces that will tolerate that treatment. If you store everything hanging, consider that when you buy knitwear. Heavy pieces will pull out of shape. If you hang nothing, and fold everything, you want to focus on pieces that will not rumple easily when folded. If you hate to iron, stay away from linen and 100% cotton items. (Unless the cotton is treated to be wrinkle resistant.) To minimize wrinkling, take clothes out of the dryer when still warm and slightly damp to hang them to finish drying. This allows the wrinkles to fall out.

Follow the Washing Instructions

It makes me crazy when I read negative reviews (of for example a blouse), that blast the manufacturer for poor quality when the author of said review clearly did not follow the care instructions. Don’t complain about the silk chiffon blouse you bought dissolving in the washer when you threw it in there on hot with your jeans and cargo pants. Every item you purchase has a tag inside that tells you how it should be washed. If it’s not inside the back of the neck, check the side seams. If it says Dry Clean Only, it may be washable, but you will need to do your research. That poor silk blouse didn’t deserve to be abused. The shredding wasn’t the manufacturer’s fault. That was operator error. Don’t blame the manufacturer.

By the way, many clothes don’t need to be washed after every wear! If you want your clothing to last longer, air clothes after wearing if they aren’t dirty enough to merit a wash. You don’t need to wash the whole piece if there’s just a spot. Give it a spot clean, and air it! If washing is necessary, wash on the coolest temperature water that will get the clothes clean, minimize the soap, and line dry rather than tumble. Much of our clothing wear comes from tumbling against other clothes in the dryer.

Related to wash and dry wear is pilling. Pilled knits can be handled with a de-pilling shaver. If the knit is very smooth, you can try a regular twin blade razor followed by a lint roller. Knits tend to pill where rubbing occurs, especially under the arms and where your seatbelt crosses your shoulder and chest.

Store Clothes and Accessories Properly

Don’t crowd your closet. There should be room between the hangars so that your clothes can breathe. If they are crammed in there, or double hung, it may be time for a wardrobe audit, or at the very least a store-out-of-season-pieces session! PS: Those spiffy racks in all the minimalist bedrooms storing clothes out in the open? They make a great visual, but aren’t so good for your clothes. Storing them in a closed closet or wardrobe protects them from dust and fading!

The standard of care is that knits should never be hung, only folded. I fly against the popular wind and hang my knits, just not the regular way. I prefer all my clothes in the closet where I can see them all at once. My chest of drawers is for undergarments, jammies, and PT gear. I hang tee shirts over the bar to prevent shoulder bumps and the body dragging longer and longer.I hang most sweaters over the bar. Before I made the switch to flocked hangars, I used to hang sweaters like the picture on the right, to prevent stretching and sliding!

Alternate shoes so that they can rest and breathe between wearings. Please don’t heap them in a pile on your closet floor. If you can, buy a shoe rack or shoe cubbie, and store the shoes for the season there. Out of season shoes can live in their little apartments (boxes) safely out of reach. I prefer to leave them in their cardboard boxes for air, rather than the spiffy plastic ones, but I know others who swear by the plastic. Speaking of shoes, unless you are a vegan, buy quality leather shoes that can be improved and repaired. Polish them regularly. It makes me sad to see so many “disposable” shoes being purchased and thrown out after a few months. Such a waste of money and resources!

Roll neckties, and hang belts. Rolling belts can cause the leather to crack. Scarves are tricky; their care depends on the fabric and weave. Silk scarves are often best stored folded and flat. Knitted scarves may be rolled or folded; hanging them results in the same stretching as other knits. I find pashmina-style scarves wrinkle badly, so I fold or roll them. If you love the fun multi-scarf hangars for your closet, make sure to reserve them for the scarves that don’t rumple or crush easily. Take a handful of fabric and give it a squeeze. If it resists wrinkling, fold it gently and drape it through the scarf hangar. If it wrinkles, fold it to store.

Don’t roll belts! It makes a lovely photo, but a poor storage technique…

Store handbags stuffed to prevent the leather from crushing and creasing. Some people like them in dustbags. I prefer to see mine so I remember what’s there to choose from… I keep evening bags and the like in a storage box on the shelf with my handbags. Yes, I need a stool to get them, but I don’t need them often, and rarely is the need a surprise!

You can find hundreds of ideas to store your underthings on Pinterest, from the Marie Kondo folding technique, to scented paper boxes, and lovely and expensive storage systems built into your cupboards. I’ve been managing with plastic baskets from the dollar store for years and years. Low tech, but it’s been working just fine! (Yes, I still fold my underwear like the Navy taught me all those years ago…)

Protect Your Clothes (As Best You Can…)

Wear an apron when cooking or cleaning! I wear mine (at home) when I eat as well, because I am not poetry in motion. Sometimes you try your best and there’s still a mess! A few years ago, hubby and I went out to brunch at The Willcox in Aiken, South Carolina. The Willcox is an elegant hotel, known for its Southern charm and menu. I wore a beautiful blush silk blouse and jeans that morning. (You can see that outfit, here.) Knowing my penchant for mess, I unfolded my napkin and laid it over my lap, not only on my lap, but far up over my tummy, just to be safe. I took great care with my coffee, and ensured my plate was not at the edge of the table. Breakfast arrived. It smelled amazing. My cornmeal waffles were steaming, and Curtis’s sausages sizzled. He cut into a sausage, and managed to squirt me from across the table! My shirt front, sleeve and cuff were stained with the oily juice of his lovely and perilous sausages. I tried to spot clean the stains at home, and took the blouse to the cleaners, but to no avail. The stains faded, but were still there. It wasn’t until I decided to spot treat and wash the blouse at home (Risky, I know, but I wasn’t going to wear it stained.) that the stains finally came out.

Maybe I need to keep an apron in the car…

Also on the protection front, I have seen many a gorgeous pair of suede shoes ruined by water. If you love suede, do yourself a favor and treat it before you wear it. There are sprays out there that will help repel water. They won’t make it waterproof, but will buy you some time when you splash through a puddle.

This post could certainly go much longer, but those are the main things to know about caring for your clothes! What other questions do you have? What have I forgotten to include? Let me know in the comments below, so I can get an answer to you!

Stylishly yours,


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