Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Appealing But Dangerous: Hidden Dry Cleaning Costs

Lela Rose Feather-Trim Dress, $1,395 at Net-a-porter

There are women who purchase only practical clothes: work clothes, sneakers, tee-shirts. And then there are women, like me, who purchase mostly beautiful clothes, regardless of the practical use for them. If you're in the latter category, perhaps you can relate: you see a gorgeously impractical dress, like this one from Lela Rose, and you buy it. You wear it, and then you send it off to the dry cleaners. You get strange looks from them. They frown, they grimace, and then they scold you for your frivolous purchase. And then you pay the price on the dry cleaning bill.

In this day and age when the cost of basic necessities has risen dramatically, people forget to discuss the much-hated but necessary dry cleaning bill. Have you seen it recently? It's as astronomical as the gas prices. But what items jack up the cost?

1. Embellishment: Sequins, Beads, Feathers, Strips of Leather (on non-leather items), fur (on non-fur items): They are prone to melting during the dry cleaning process, so if you have a respectable dry cleaners, they will remove each item manually and resew them on after the cleaning. That accounts for the higher cost.

2. Pleating: Yes, that's right. Any additional folds in your skirt or dress will cost you, because the poor presser has to iron each of those folds. That takes time.

3. Dry-cleaned Cotton: If you don't specify to your dry cleaners, they will often dry clean an item that can also be machine washed, which is why sometimes a cotton shirt can cost more. If you want to save some money, tell them to machine wash and then iron it.

4. Delicate Items: Items that can tear or bleed easily must be carefully handled. Often, they are put into a separate bag or cleaned alone to prevent damage to the item or to other items.

5. Fancy or Loose Buttons: If your jacket has one-of-a-kind vintage buttons, for example, your dry cleaners has to remove each of the buttons before the cleaning and reattach them afterwards.

Be aware of your dry cleaners' price list and ask any questions when the bill looks higher than it should be. If your heart is still set on that feather-trimmed dress, just be mindful that it may cost you more to clean it.

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