How To Make Your Clothes Last Longer
What’s good for your wardrobe and good for your wallet? Simple: taking care of your clothes.
Most clothes look better once they’ve been worn in a bit – something that Ms Diana Vreeland, one-time editor of US Vogue and general style know-all, called “chic fatigue”. And in order to get to that state of well-worn elegance, we have to pay attention to how we look after our clothes.
Take, for instance, a much-loved pair of shoes: re-soled and polished properly, they will be almost as good as – and, often, even better than – a brand-new pair. Plus, they also have that nice comforting familiarity.
We often speak of clothes as “investments”, but that’s only true if you care for them properly. So, to help you do that, we have spoken to some experts about how to ensure that your clothes survive the rough and tumble of life.
The expert: Mr Arthur Leclercq, Super Stitch
“Firstly, jeans have to be washed. It’s wrong to believe that you should not wash your jeans for months and months. If you don’t wash your jeans and keep them rigid, the dirt will eat the cotton and the fabric will eventually become like plastic and break.
“When they are brand-new, wash them inside-out on a cool temperature to avoid the ‘marble’ effect. Use a denim-specific detergent and wash them every 10-15 wears, so they don’t go grey. Also avoid strong spinning to ensure they retain their shape. To dry, hang them upside down with the legs wide apart, so they can dry faster and retain their shape. I also iron my jeans so that the train track, or outseam, is well-pressed.
“I recommend you wear your jeans as much as you can. Love them and spend good times in them, as that will also make them look better.”
The expert: Mr Sean Dixon, founder and managing director, Richard James
“The most important thing with suits, especially with bespoke suits, is to not dry-clean them too often. The chemicals can strip the life out of the fabric. Most Savile Row tailors will offer a ‘sponge and press’ service rather than a dry-clean. Find someone who can press the suit properly so that you retain that rich, full shape, especially around the lapels. Also, if you must dry-clean, make sure that you do the jacket and trousers at the same time so that they remain the same colour. Suits need to rest, so never wear your suit for more than two days in a row.
“Also, be sure to invest in hangers that offer support around the shoulders. Thin wire hangers destroy the delicate structure of the shoulder. And remember: small holes from moths and cigarettes burns can be repaired with invisible mending.”
The expert: Mr Mario Valery, tie maker, Drake’s
“We make our ties by hand and they’re made to last, but like anything that involves a degree of handwork, they do require a little bit of care to keep them looking their best. Some light steam is best for creases, although we don’t recommend directly applying an iron, as it can result in the tie being pressed too flat; just the steam will do. In fact, you can hang your tie up in the bathroom while taking a shower and the steam will help to relax the fibres, easing out the creases that result from tying, untying and daily wear. Hanging is the best way to store them, as it allows the tie to breathe and air out while keeping its shape.”
The expert: Mr Tim Clark, technical manager, John Smedley
“Give your garments a rest between wears; don’t wear them every day. After you’ve finished wearing them, the natural spring in the fibre should ensure that it snaps back into shape after you hang it up at night. Washing them once every three wears is enough. Our sweaters can be machine-washed on a low temperature – 30-40ºC – using a non-biological detergent. I like to hand-wash mine in some lukewarm water with a tiny bit of detergent: no more than a small thimble-full of fully dissolved, non-biological detergent. After I’ve gently squeezed the garment through the liquid, then thoroughly washed out the detergent with cold water, I just put it on a spin cycle in the washing machine and hang it near, but not directly on, a radiator to dry.
“A little clothes brush should be all you need to get rid of any surface dust or stains. For small stains, a little cold water there and then should work, and for anything stubborn, a little surgical spirit with cold water (around a 3:1 ratio) will make a friendly solvent that you can dab on with a bit of cloth or kitchen towel.”
The expert: Mr Oliver Pollock, managing director, Luxury Watch Repairs
“It is vital to get your watch serviced every four to five years by a professional who has been properly trained and accredited, and who uses accredited tools and original parts from the brand. It’s comparable to getting your car serviced. It’s fine to send it back to the manufacturer, but because of the sheer volume of watches they receive it can take a long time. We’re accredited by Rolex, Breitling, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Tag Heuer and Omega and can offer a much faster turnaround of two to three weeks and provide a two-year guarantee for any work we undertake. The movement in your watch is meticulous, and the parts need to be lubricated to keep it in peak condition and prevent any damage. If the oils dry out and one of the parts becomes damaged, this can have a knock-on effect on other components in the watch, which will make it more expensive to repair in the long run. The gaskets, seals and openings also need to be checked to ensure that the watch remains waterproof, especially around the face, back, dial and crown. If you have a several watches it’s worth investing in a watch-winder case, which replicates the movement of the wrist, which will help keep the watch on time and the movement in order.”
The expert: Ms Lis Aston, shirt maker, Drake’s
“Machine-washing is fine, but use a gentle detergent and low temperature of 30ºC degrees and ensure that all of the shirt’s buttons are undone, including collars and cuffs. If not, button holes can become stretched and buttons come loose. When ironing, be sure to start from the collar point and work inwards. Our collars have a floating interlining – a sign of utmost quality that gives the collar shape and our signature ‘roll’ – which needs to be ironed in the right direction to avoid creasing.”
The expert: Ms Thaís Cipolletta, co-founder, The Re-story
“A rubber brush specifically made for suede will not only help remove the dust and build-up that suede typically attracts, but also revive the nap. For wet cleaning, use a specific product for suede with a sponge. It’s important to dampen the whole piece of leather to avoid water staining on the areas you’re working on. Afterwards, a suede brush can bring back the nap once it’s dry.”
“Pop some kitchen roll or newspaper inside a shoe or bag to help absorb moisture and retain shape while you allow it to air dry in a well-ventilated area. But be aware of potential colour bleeding from the newsprint. And if you ever feel tempted to speed up the drying process by leaving your drenched accessory next to a radiator, think again: it will lead to cracked uppers in the leather. Patience is key.”
Store them well
“Shoes should always be packed away fully serviced: cleaned and repaired. Make sure the leather is not too moist and pack away in individual shoe bags. For very delicate items, pack with acid-free paper. And after the hot summer months, we suggest adding a shoe deodoriser to get rid of any iffy smells that tend to linger in a closed shoebox.
“Pop some shoe trees inside that will keep the shape and slow down the creasing that can appear from regular wear. For the best results, do this as soon as you take the shoes off when the leather is still warm. Also avoid storing your items in potentially damp areas.”
“Let’s not forget that leather is a skin and needs conditioning. Use an appropriate leather cream for your leather goods every few months. Apply a small amount using a soft white cloth and make sure you buff gently after a few minutes with a clean cloth. Remember to use appropriate and specific creams for different skins, such as exotics. When in doubt, send it to the experts. But make sure to never to condition suede and nubuck yourself.”
In need of a good home
Illustrations by Mr Thomas Pullin