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If only we could store our precious clothes like the Met did with Prada, via MSN.
I'm trying this new thing where I buy nice (and expensive) clothes and try to treat them well instead of binging on cheap crapola all the time. I've discovered, however, that I don't really know how to maintain my new purchases. What are some basic ground rules for things like cotton tees, jeans, leather shoes, and cashmere sweaters?
A Hole-y Mess
I feel you. When you start to buy the nicer stuff it's sometimes hard not to just store each precious item in its own backlit Plexiglas box mounted like a trophy on your wall for idle gazing.
It's a delicate balance: Enjoying your special purchase while treating it with enough respect to continue enjoying said purchase indefinitely. In other words: Love that cashmere, but don't love it too hard.
Here are some tips I've picked up over the years that should help:
Launder jeans, pants, and tee shirts inside out so all that rough-and-tumble washing machine friction wears down the interior of your garments rather than the exterior.
Air dry the more precious articles—especially denim, color-rich woven tops, and more delicate knits. Keeping items out of the dryer will vastly extend their lives. If you aren't set up with a breezy backyard and a mounted clothesline simply pop wovens on a hanger and let them hang on your shower curtain rod. Knits should be laid flat on a clean towel to avoid excess stretching. You can always finish these items in the dryer—five or ten minutes on low can remove lint, zap wrinkles, and eradicate that last bit of moisture.
Remington battery operated fabric shaver, $8.94 on Amazon.
Invest in the following: A small handheld sweater shaver that can quickly de-pill your cashmere and lambswool pullovers and cardigans. You'd be surprised at how a quick, two-minute shave can make a pulled, sad sweater look almost new (it's also a great tool for upholstered furniture). A compact, portable hand-steamer that allows you to wipe out minor wrinkles and freshen fabric without the heat of an iron or the chemicals of a drycleaner. And, a decent iron with various fabric settings. Use said settings correctly. And, before you iron make sure the surface of the beast is clean to avoid smudging your clothes. If you don't have an ironing board just place a clean towel on a tabletop.
Be vigilante with stains! Keep a stain stick and a stain release spray on hand—and don't be afraid to use either! Also know that various household items can also remove or pre-treat stains. Hairspray can loosen up ink stains; baby powder can help lift grease; and seltzer can often remove or soften various food stains.
Know that hot water wash cycles and high heat dryer can really fade color and compromise fabrics—reserve those intense cycles for bedding, towels, and less precious items like socks, underwear, and gym clothes.
Hand-wash your delicates in room temperature water using just a dribble of delicate detergent. Swish your items around in a tub for a minute or two but don't let them sit too long. Wring each out loosely and then spread garments all the way back out to soften creases and wrinkles. Allow to drip dry. You can also save a bundle on dry-cleaning by delicately hand-washing cotton dry-clean only items. Don't do this with wool.
Speaking of dry cleaners—know yours! I only use dry cleaners who launder and treat in-house. Letting strangers touch your previous clothing is already a leap of faith; remove the transportation variable establishments add to the equation by shipping their cleaning in and out to a central location. Things get lost. Also, don't be afraid to give very pointed instructions; point out spots you want treated; and note small repairs you want done at the same time.
Why have anything if it isn't cute, via Pinterest.
And speaking of repairs: Assemble a small sewing kit. I'm not suggesting you learn to tailor your own clothes but you should be able to sew on a button; quickly dern a knit to keep a hole from getting worse until it can be properly repaired; and use an iron-on patch if necessary. Of course--have a tailor you trust.
And speaking of kits: You should also assemble a kit for shoe care. You'll need a brush to freshen up suede—get one that isn't too stiff or bristly, you're trying to preserve your shoes not break them down. A suede eraser can help with smudges. A leather oil can freshen up the non-suede items. Use a spray-on leather protector to help make all your leather a bit more water proof and stain resistant—and don't forget to reapply every now and then. You should also keep some show polish on hand, along with a dedicated shoe polish rag or brush, for quick touch-ups. Of course—have a cobbler you trust.
So those are some basics I try and keep on top of. And my clothes are pretty well taken care of. That said, it's important to realize that a tee shirt isn't forever. It's not a diamond ring or a grandfather clock or a Picasso. It will never be an heirloom piece. Sometimes tee shirts die—but you shouldn't be afraid to rock it while you got it. Just try not to be too devastated when you and your first better garment have to part ways.
Or, you know, buy two. One to wear and one for the backlit Plexiglas trophy case.
Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
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