By Michelle Crowe Special to Tribune Newspapers
January 3, 2010
Chances are the holiday season brought at least one new favorite item into your wardrobe.
Whether your treasures arrived via a thoughtful Santa-type or your own smart shopping strategies, it makes sense to do everything you can to keep them looking great through this winter and others to come.
By employing a few insider tricks and tools, you can ensure that soft sweater or party dress keeps winning compliments, wear after wear.
A one-size-fits-all approach may streamline wash day, but it also could shorten the life of your clothes. That's why two fashion industry veterans who studied fiber science at Cornell University developed The Laundress, an eco-chic line of specialty detergents and washes formulated for washing different fabrics.
"It's important to understand that what you use to wash cotton isn't what you should use to wash delicates," co-founder Lindsey Wieber said.
She and Gwen Whiting started the line with a wool and cashmere shampoo, because dry cleaning can remove the natural lanolin from those fibers, damaging them. At the end of the season, washing your sweaters with the Laundress' cedar-scented soap will clean them as well as repel pests."
Cashmere can be washed. Cashmere should be washed. It's the best way to extend the life of your sweaters," Wieber said.
The Laundress products are available at thelaundress.com (which has other laundering tips).
Those little pills have shortened the life of much-beloved sweaters. Friction from everyday movement causes fibers to band together and form little balls that can downgrade even the most elegant sweater.
Knit fans had previously been cautioned against removing pills with battery-operated shavers because they often remove strong fibers along with those that are damaged. This can weaken the fabric and lead to holes.
Enter the Hollywood Sweater Saver. Skim this simple block of natural pumice over the surface to remove pills while sparing the sweater. "Two minutes of quick swipes with this and a sweater looks brand new," says Marie Mathay of Hollywood Fashion Tape.
Hollywood Sweater Saver, $5.99 at hollywoodfashiontape.com.
Stylists and visual merchandisers prefer the gentle wrinkle release of a quality steamer to the direct heat of an iron.
"I try to spritz out wrinkles with water bottles and steamers, only ironing as a last resort," said Amy Meadows, a retail consultant. The Esteam travel steamer by Jiffy is a trusted favorite for many wardrobe pros.
Esteam travel steamer, $69 at jiffysteamer.com
A sewing kit
Replace lost buttons and stitch up dropped hems as soon as possible to prevent clothes from drooping and possibly stretching out of shape. Put together a personalized sewing kit that contains needles of varying sizes and spools of thread in colors that correspond with your wardrobe. Stash the supplies in a stylish box or case that also can hold the extra buttons and bits of threads that are packaged with new clothes.
And that hotel sewing kit? Pop it into your handbag or desk drawer to deal with on-the-go emergencies.
Sewing supplies can be organized in containers like this one, available at Walmart stores.
Handbags, shoulders, even the arms of the season's popular cocoon coats should be stuffed with tissue before storing long-term. Olescia Hanson, representative for The Container Store, recommends acid-free tissue for vintage pieces to guard against discoloration. For newer pieces, regular tissue is fine. Repurpose the padding that fills out handbags as well as the paper in holiday boxes.
Also, "use boot shapers — they're a great solution to keep high boots from sagging," Hanson said. Top-of-the-line cedar shapers are excellent for absorbing moisture, which can curl up the toe box, a la "Aladdin." Simple spring-loaded plastic boot shapers work too and can be hung up to save floor space.
A note: "When using cedar blocks or balls, if you can't smell the cedar, it won't be that effective," Hanson said. When the scent fades, she suggests rubbing the cedar blocks with sandpaper to reactivate, or spritz with cedar spray.
Boot shapers, $9.99 at The Container Store, containerstore.com.
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