One of my long-time fashion philosophies is that I buy what I love. I don't mind spending extra for something perfect, something that makes me sigh when I put it on, as I said about this burgundy sweater in a post recently. But spending more on a special item means that I don't buy many pieces, and when I do find something I love, I love it for a very long time. And that philosophy, my friends, requires that I take good care of my clothes. I think of it as protecting my investment.
|My new Akris sweater is definitely an investment piece|
I don't want to waste my money on pieces that I don't love, or that I won't wear. And I also don't want to waste my money, or my time searching for just the right thing, by not properly caring for my clothes.
I learned early the importance of taking care of my good clothes. Growing up we always had school clothes, and play clothes. And we never played in our school clothes, or went to school in our play clothes. After school finished this idea continued; I always took off my good clothes when I came home from work. I still do now that I'm retired, even though the outfit might be a good pair of jeans and a sweater, instead of a suit or dress. I take off my nice things and hang them in my closet or fold them into drawers. Then I change into sweat pants or shorts and a tee shirt before I do anything else. I never sit around with my book, or cook dinner in my "good" clothes. Good thing, too. Most of my sweat shirts and casual tees have stains on them from cooking. Aprons don't cover everything and, as Hubby always says, I'm a very messy cook.
I thought that this was standard practice for everyone until a conversation around the lunch table at work one day a few years ago. Several of my younger colleagues were astonished that I did not wash everything I wore each time I wore it. And I was equally astonished that many of these girls had no clue how to make their clothing budget go further by properly caring for their clothes.
I mean it's not rocket science, is it? Good sweaters and blouses should be hand washed in cold water and laid flat or hung on the line to dry, or dry cleaned depending on the fabric. And they don't need to be washed every single time they are worn. Jackets and suits should be dry cleaned. Usually once a season. Jeans with spandex should be line dried, not thrown in the dryer. These are things I've always known, and done. You'll not catch me throwing my new Akris sweater or my beloved Tory Burch blouse in the washer.
|Last year's investment: my Veronica Beard suit|
Another thing I've done, which I highly recommend, is to find a good, independent dry cleaner. One you can trust. Like my buddy Hassan at Quality Cleaners in Manotick. Years ago he gave me a great brochure explaining all the clothing care symbols. This was before the internet, folks, when I was often stumped by the meaning of those tiny pictures on clothing tags, especially if they were not accompanied by an explanation. Over the years Hassan has sent items back home with me, uncleaned, explaining that they'd do better if I washed them by hand, or he's held onto a dress while I raced home to get the matching belt so that if the dress faded slightly the belt would be the same colour. He is a true gem. I honestly think he cares as much about my clothes as I do.
After a recent question from a reader about how I care for my clothes, I thought I'd do some research. I know that things have changed over the years. Washing machines have come a long way; I now trust some of my good pieces to the delicate cycle instead of hand washing. Maybe there'd be all kinds of stuff to learn about keeping my good clothes, well, good. In fact, there are some wonderfully helpful websites about how to care for clothes.
This article on the site Wonder How To explains that while clothing manufacturers are required to provide clear care instructions, if an item can be cleaned more than one way, they are only required to list one method. Huh. I never knew that, did you? So maybe some of those "dry clean only" items can be hand-washed, after all? I guess that's what Hassan was telling me when he sent me home with that cashmere sweater a few years ago. The article goes on to explain how to decipher care symbols, and which fabrics can be hand washed, and which should be professionally cleaned. I learned that coloured cotton, and white nylon, should always be washed in cold water. Really? Who knew all this stuff? And here I was being pompous with my young colleague who washed a cashmere sweater in the washing machine. Okay, maybe that was pretty silly, especially when it clearly said on the label not to do that. But it turns out that I was not the expert I thought I was.
Investment pieces from years past: Tory Burch tie blouse, Helmut Lang jacket, and Vince cardigan
Since my new burgundy turtleneck has camel hair in it, I found this article on the website The Laundress interesting. Although the site is mostly about selling their specialized cleaning products they have a whole section of "how to," that has tons of information.
I also found a great section on how to care for suits on the website Black Lapel. It's predominantly a shopping site, too, but I learned lots. For instance, did you know that steaming is not just for releasing wrinkles? It also can help freshen up jackets and dress pants. I've always felt that an end of season wash or dry clean just made things easier when I pulled jackets and blouses out of storage the next year. But I read that storing items clean can help prevent insect damage. Huh. And I learned the value of brushing wool jackets after wearing, and before putting them back in the closet. It seems that hair, lint, and dust can be damaging to any organic fabric. Seriously, who knew? I guess I should have paid more attention to Bates, his lordship's valet, during all those jacket brushing scenes on Downton Abbey. Now, I wonder where one can purchase a good clothing brush. And if I'll have to re-watch all six seasons of Downton to learn how to use it properly.
|Aritzia camel sweater and my leather pants, two more investment pieces|
Of course there are lots of other issues when it comes to caring for good clothes. Best ways to hand wash, proper storage for woolens and knits, etc etc. And as for the problem of pilling, which one reader mentioned a while ago, I don't have any answers. Since I don't carry piles of books, and file folders full of papers around in my arms all day at work anymore, I don't have a problem with sweaters pilling. And now that I've read this article on the website The Spruce, I know why. Have a look if you're interested.
So that's my two cents worth about caring for my good clothes. With a few cents added in from other sources, of course. And speaking of cents... and sense. It just makes sense to me, that if I'm going to pay good money for my clothes, I should protect my investment by taking good care of my good clothes.
It's a good thing, as Martha Stewart might say.
Or maybe Hemingway. As in... "The sweater was very beautiful in the fall. And she washed it carefully. And then laid it in a clean well-lighted place, where the sun also rises. And it would be good by the morning."
Okay. So that's not really Hemingway. I know you weren't fooled.
I'm not that good.
And now, dear readers, it's your turn. Any good advice for us about how you care for your good clothes? Or how you protect your fashion investment?