How To Look After Your Shirts
Photograph by Ms Christine Faraji, Styling by Ms Joanna Polatynska
Top tips on washing, ironing and stain removal from London’s Jermyn Street’s first lady Ms Emma Willis.
Although she is already an MBE for establishing the Style For Soldiers charity, we’d like to humbly offer Ms Emma Willis another altogether unofficial honour, The First Lady of Jermyn Street (FLOJS), in recognition for bringing a lighter, more modern touch to that most male-dominated and conservative of British institutions: the Jermyn Street shirtmaker. Hand-cut and hand-finished at the brand’s Gloucester workshop using single-needle stitching, mother of pearl buttons and fine Swiss cottons in a subtle and sophisticated range of colours and patterns, Ms Willis’s shirts are some of the most quietly tasteful and luxurious in the world. In short, when it comes to shirts, she really knows her stuff.
So, once you’ve made a well-considered shirt purchase, how to look after it? While the movie stars and members of royalty that Ms Willis dresses will no doubt have members of staff to launder their shirts for them, you will probably have to do it yourself (although Ms Willis’s lucky son still has his mum do it for him). Handily, Ms Willis agreed to divulge her tips for supremely effective shirt maintenance to MR PORTER. Scroll down, and consider yourself thoroughly versed in this fine art.
Approach shirt-washing with a delicate touch to ensure longevity. “Machine washing is definitely better than dry-cleaning because the chemicals are bad for the cotton,” says Ms Willis. “I also try to use an eco-friendly fabric cleaner, such as Ecover. It has less chemicals and so is kinder to the fabric, and also your skin.” Washing at a low temperature protects the fine fabric that the very best shirts are made from, and also helps it to retain colour for longer. Ms Willis recommends washing “at 40 degrees or even 30 degrees”.
After washing, Ms Willis advises against using a tumble dryer, and instead recommends leaving the shirts to dry naturally. “Having your shirts bang around inside a hot container increases the likelihood of shrinkage – although our shirts are made from pre-shrunk cotton to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
Ironing puts your shirts under a lot of stress and so should be approached carefully. “Take your shirts out to dry and press them while they’re still damp. This makes them easier to iron than when they’re bone dry, and ensures a smooth finish.” Ms Willis also recommends ironing collars and cuffs away from the edge to avoid unsightly ridges, and pulling the front placket tight to get a nice clean finish.
For difficult-to-remove stains, Ms Willis abandons the “no chemicals” principle: “I add just a dash of bleach into the wash when my son gets red wine on his shirts. It’s horrible, but a bit of bleach does the trick. Also, if you’re somewhere warm, leaving white shirts on the line in the sun bleaches them naturally.”