Thursday, April 3, 2008

Clothing Longevity How-Tos

As a society, we are obsessed with "maintaining" our youthful looks: we go to the gym (at least occasionally), we eat health-conscious foods (sometimes), we get Botox (those of us who are brave enough). But what about our clothes? A recent inquiry has confirmed my belief that we treat our clothes shabbily and shamefully. Many people believe that I am a rabid shopper, but the truth is I've carefully maintained my clothes over several years, and I still wear the same clothes my mother used to wear back in the 60s (people usually assume they're recent purchases). How, pray tell, can YOU maintain your frocks season after season?

1. This may be shocking, but it's the MOST IMPORTANT rule of all: Don't over-dry clean anything. Dry cleaning ruins clothing, but unfortunately it's a necessary evil. Only dry clean clothes that are actually stained. Most people mistakenly believe that it's necessary to clean something after one use. You should limit the dry cleaning to a couple times a season, and you'll be amazed how long that garment will actually last.

2. Wear "HOME CLOTHES" at home. I have a drawer full of tees, thermals, sweatpants, and a prized oversized terrycloth sweater that I throw on when I'm at home (I think I bought this comfortable but hideous sweater in high school). My mother taught me that when you get home, you should immediately change into these so-called "home clothes." Wearing your outside clothes will only wear them out faster.

3. In addition to changing your clothes upon immediate entrance into your home, carefully hang up your worn clothes in your closet, which prevents wrinkles and other additional stains. (Many people dry clean items that are wrinkled; if they just hung up their clothes, they could save themselves a lot of money.)

4. Sweaters must not be placed on the hanger like blouses; fold them and hang them on pants hangers or place them in a drawer (or any flat surface) to prevent stretching.

5. Clothes should not be cruelly smushed together in the closet. Allow some breathable room in between clothes. If you must smush, then position them on the hanger to prevent wrinkling (if you have several dress shirts, for example, align all of the sleeves on both sides, and fold the arms against the front so the sleeves don't wrinkle; the arms should look crossed across the front).

6. If you sweat a lot, wear light undershirts or camisoles to absorb the sweat. Having a barrier between yourself and your clothes ensures that the garment will last longer and will not seem "dirty" to you.

7. Keep clothing in a dark place. The same is true for your handbags, which should always be kept in the cloth bags they came in. Direct sunlight wears away clothing, so don't leave anything out by the window.


Farrell & Lauren said...

Do you have suggestions for how to handle dry clean only dresses that get sweaty in the summer? Sometimes it is difficult to wear an undergarment with a sleeveless dress.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

This is a difficult question, but part of handling clothing is also preventative. You have several options:

1. Wear a slip.
2. Be careful about the kind of deodorant you use. My mother told me that deodorant is what stains clothing, more than sweat itself. I rarely use deodorant (I don't sweat a lot) and I've never had a problem with a sweat stain remaining after a cleaning.
3. Avoid silk dresses or delicate clothing in extreme heat. On really hot days, I wear cotton, which is best (it's also cheaper, generally, and more durable).
4. Determine where you sweat the most, and work around that. For example, some women sweat more on their underarms, and others on their thighs. If it's the former, wear a cotton tee and a silk skirt; if it's the latter, wear a silk top and a cotton skirt.
5. Even if you sweat somewhat (a normal reaction), you don't need to dry clean it right away. Try to wear it again before you clean it. (It obviously depends on how severe the sweating is; if it's mild, it's usually not a problem.) I know this may sound gross to some, but it's really not necessary to clean the dress every time you wear it, even if you sweat somewhat in it. The constant dry cleaning is actually worse for your clothes.

miss cavendish said...

I'm a firm believer in "home clothes." I couldn't imagine performing my daily household tasks in my outside clothes; I would be irritable indeed. I also like to let my clothes breathe after a day of wear before I relegate them to the drawer or closet

Anonymous said...

There are some deodorants you can wear which don't stain too. I think Kiehl's makes a cream roll-on which doesn't stain.

deep_in_vogue said...

very informative! After a night out, I usually let the clothes air out, that pretty much does away with all the smoke and other unpleasant smells. I only wash them when there is a stain or when it's apparent that airing them out won't get the bad odor out. With home clothes, I agree, they are a must.

tckkid said...

thanks! this stuff is really useful! and i myself treat my clothes really badly - often just leaving them unfolded for days until i have to bring myself to put them back properly!

Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe said...

I loved the home clothes recommendation: I, too, was brought up with this notion.

Even though my wardrobe has few of the kinds of couture clothes you feature here, I do have some outfits, both inherited and contemporary, made of rare textiles, so these are great ideas. Another idea, used by preservationists, is to fold clothes around a core of acid-free tissue. This prevents a hard crease from forming and breaking the fiber at the fold. Also, be sure not to stack folded clothes too high, since weight and pressure also damage fabric.

Fine clothes are fine clothes and the care of them should reflect both the good sense and love we have for them.