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Maintenence 101- Preventing wear and tear on a budget

Written by admin, Monday, September 8th, 2008 in Fashion, The Style Guide

Here at WellCultured, I talk about fashion a lot- that is to say, if I had a specialty, fashion would be it. The problem is, too often I talk about the “fun stuff” (i.e. the purchasing of new and interesting fashions from awesome dealers) and not so much the maintenence of said clothing- or even how to handle them after you buy them.

So, to alleviate this (as best I can in a short article), here I present to you a quick run-down of how to make sure what you have lasts as long as you want.

The Basics

Most people have entire wardrobes built on “easy” clothing- cotton shirts, jean fabrics, and fleece. Of course, these are the kinds of things that are easiest to buy, maintain, and clean- you can get them virtually anywhere, most do not require ironing, and cleaning them simply requires a quick toss in the wash. Nice, right?

Of course, there are “rules” of sorts. When you wash clothes, it is generally best to mix darks with darks and lights with lights, and obviously try to keep fabrics that bleed away from light colors (so you don’t turn a white shirt into a pink shirt). With the advent of “color-safe” bleach and similar oddities, most normal guys will not even need to bother bleaching clothes or using stain sticks anymore. What a wonderful world.

So, the “basics” are simple. When you change clothes, put your clothes into a basket. When you have enough clothes, wash them. That’s it. There is no special detergent. Throw them in the washer, set it to default settings, and wash. Then throw them in the dryer (unless it’s a certain type of sweater, then you just hang it up to try). That’s it.

But hey, you already know this stuff. Let’s get into the more complex things.

Maintaining Dress Shirts and Pants

Most of the time (and I mean “sometimes”, fashion is never really reducible anymore), dress shirts and dress pants are made with entirely different cloths and knits, which lends them to be weaker and somewhat “fragile”, in a sense. Traditionally, these require dry cleaning and special care above and beyond the “normal” care you have to give shirts, jeans, and “everything else”. Meaning? Dry cleaning.

Thankfully, though, most dress clothes companies have picked up on the fact that the common man cannot afford dry cleaning for every single item in their closet and have compromised in a very good way. Nowadays, you can find decent quality dress pants and dress shirts that do NOT require dry cleaning- in fact, most of them can be cleaned just like a t-shirt or a pair of jeans with no noticeable damage.

The long story short on these kinds of clothes is simple: follow the tag. There is a ridiculous amount of variation in clothing so far as cleaning is concerned, so unfortunately I can’t tell you one way or the other. Most dress shirts nowadays that I have run across are perfectly fine being run through the wash, and some (not all) pants apply as well. When you purchase clothing, obviously, you will want to know these requirements ahead of time.

Maintaining Suits

Suits are ridiculously finicky. Unlike virtually anything else you will have in your wardrobe, Suits almost always REQUIRE dry cleaning- meaning you can’t halfass it at home. Suits can’t be given a quick “touch up”, you really can’t iron them in any real sense, and it’s incredibly difficult to do something as simple as getting dust off them. So what do you do?

First, if you can, ALWAYS hang your suit on a good (i.e. wood or otherwise “thick”) hangar, and give it space. Suits are incredibly delicate and most of them very quickly pick up bad wrinkles and folds- so keep the possibility as low as possible.

Second off, be careful when wearing your suit. When wearing a suit, avoid doing anything to make it dirty or otherwise wrinkle it- in fact, theoretically, that’s the reason why the rule “unbutton your suit before you sit down” applies.

Dry clean your suit often, but not too often. I have previously mentioned a “hotel steam trick” where you can stick your suit in a bathroom and turn on a hot shower to try to help get wrinkles out of a suit- but like I mentioned then, that isn’t something that should be done regularly (i.e. it’s an emergency trick). In general, nothing will clean your suit and make it better than a good old dry cleaning. Of course, the caveat to dry cleaning is that dry cleaning slowly degrades the suit (weakening the glue inside)- so while you want to keep your suit sharp, only dry clean it once every three to four wears, depending on how long you can wear it.

A quick note- never iron ties directly. This can be incredibly damaging to good silk ties- so if you must iron them, do so with a barrier or something. The same applies to nice silk handkerchiefs.

Tips and Tricks for All Clothing

Fold clothes right after the dryer finishes. This will keep the clothes wrinkle-free, and pending you fold them nicely, it will keep even cheap t-shirts from looking nasty. This is not a way to get around ironing button-down shirts, but it does help with cheaper stuff.

Fix your own clothes. As unfashionable as this sounds, there’s nothing wrong with making minor fixes to clothing. If a button falls off or a hem begins to come apart, grab a cheap sewing kit and repair it- it’s easier than you think. Of course, for some things (like sleepwear), you don’t have to do anything fancy- just make it work.

Hang clothes correctly. Shirts should hang from the yoke of the shirt (i.e. the shoulders) correctly. While there are always exceptions, properly hanging shirts have the wire (or wood) of the hangar under the very middle of the shoulder and have the shirt tag in the very middle of the hangar. Pants should be hung evenly on the pleats/creases. By ensuring that clothes hang correctly, they will hang better on you (no pun intended)- which is exactly what you want.

Iron. Yes, this sounds feminine, but do it anyway. Ironing is extremely important- it makes shirts and pants look MUCH better. There is no excuse for not ironing.

Wear undershirts.Seriously. Sweat can be damaging to nice clothes- especially nasty yellow-ish pit stains on white shirts. Get a nice tight undershirt or wife beater- if you get something that fits you well, it won’t even be noticeable.

2 Responses to Maintenence 101- Preventing wear and tear on a budget

  1. Yum22Yum23 says:

    I’ve added a small section in the guide about sewing, just in case you’d want to fix your clothes yourself.

  2. Yum22Yum23 says:

    Also, I just noticed, it’s “maintenance”, not “maintenence”.

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