What has no mouth but “talks” about you all the time? Your clothes! Yes, your wardrobe reflects your attitude toward yourself, your family and even your employment. And, to a great extent, it is not money that makes it possible to be well dressed; it is knowing how to care for your garments.
Besides your appearance, there is another reason for caring for your attire—clothing is getting more expensive. Since you may buy fewer new clothes, it becomes more important to keep your present wardrobe in good condition.
But how do some people manage to look so fresh and neat while others look so crumpled? What does the properly attired person do to keep his or her clothing as good as new?
The secret to proper clothing care is daily concern—cultivating good habits in handling your clothes. Probably the most important is the regular use of clothes hangers. Clothes thrown in a pile get wrinkled and do not receive needed air. Apparel hung on a hook or a nail often stretches.
So, do not only use a hanger, take a moment more to see that the item hangs straight, and then fasten the top button or snap. If your clothes-closet rod is so crowded that nothing can hang straight, then make adjustments. Perhaps another rod can be installed.
After you place a jacket, coat or other heavy garment on a hanger, it might be beneficial to give it a quick brushing with a clothes brush or a whisk broom, especially around the collar. Also, occasionally brush inside cuffs and pockets. Dirt brushed out cannot become embedded, and so regular brushing will add to the life-span of most apparel.
A notable exception to the hang-it-up habit is sweaters and some other single-knit garments. If hung, they tend to stretch. So, after wearing a sweater, it is best to turn it wrong side out, lay it by an open window and air it for a few minutes. Then turn it right side out and fold it neatly and put it in a drawer.
Of course, proper storage will not solve the calamities that may befall you while wearing a garment. Have you ever been “attacked” by spaghetti sauce? Or have you had chocolate ice cream skip merrily down the front of your new white dress?
Yes, stains can be a real obstacle to keeping your clothing like new. Stain removal is really included in daily clothing care, because the best time to tackle a stain is immediately—if possible, before it dries.
To remove a stain you need to know how to remove the particular kind of stain from the kind of material that is involved. With this article are directions on removing some common stains from most fabrics. Before applying anything else, try cool water; it will not set the stain. (Many nonwashable fabrics are not damaged by small amounts of water.) When treating a stain, it is best to use light strokes.
If you must use a solvent of any kind, use as little as possible. Do not breathe the fumes, and keep the bottle beyond the reach of children. Too, before applying a solvent or a chemical remover to a colored fabric, test the remover by dabbing some on an inside seam to see if it fades the color.
Weekly and Seasonal Care
Clothing needs a regular program of maintenance to remove dirt and wrinkles. How often your clothes need to be washed depends on how frequently each garment is worn. But most families find a weekly laundry time necessary. Read the labels carefully so you will know how to handle each article. You find it best to separate dirty clothes into three groups—those requiring dry cleaning, those requiring washing and ironing, and those requiring only washing (such as “permanent press” garments).
When gathering garments to take to the dry cleaner, inspect them for frays, missing buttons and small tears. Either repair them then or make a note so that you remember to fix them later. Further, says Margret Hanson in The Care We Give Our Clothes: “If there are any stains, write on a piece of paper the cause of each stain. Pin the notes to the stains with safety pins. If you do this, your dry cleaner will know how to remove each stain.”
As for those clothes you wash, whether by machine or by hand, it is first necessary to remove any stains. In addition, it is good to keep in mind that clothes will last longer if you strive to keep their fiber strength. Two tips on that: When hand-washing, treat the garment gently and do not wring or twist it too much. Secondly, rinse everything thoroughly so that you remove all traces of soap or detergent.
Some items that you may think of as needing dry cleaning can actually be washed at home if you are careful. For example, take a wool sweater that needs cleaning and spread it out on a clean piece of paper (not newsprint). Quickly trace the shape of the sweater on the paper. You can then wash the sweater in cold water with special cold-water soap or in soft, lukewarm water and mild suds. After rinsing it two or three times in water of the same temperature, gently squeeze out the moisture. Then roll it in a towel, to absorb more water. Now shape the sweater to your drawn outline and leave it on the paper to dry in a place away from heat and sunlight.
Of course, even if your clothes are clean you do not look well dressed if they are wrinkled. Many garments require ironing after each washing. Other garments, however, need frequent pressing. If you do this yourself instead of sending them to the dry cleaner, you will save considerable expense. Pressing differs from ironing in that the iron is lifted up and “pressed” down on the fabric instead of being slid across it. This is usually done on the underside of a garment but may be done on the “right” side if a pressing cloth is used.
Seasonal care of your clothes is mainly a matter of proper storage so that when you want them again they are in usable condition. The key is: (1) A dry, clean storage place and (2) all garments cleaned before storing. You see, moths prefer dirty wool, and mildew (a tiny plant) likes damp, warm places. Also, it is better not to starch clothes before storing, as starched clothes will mildew faster than those that are not. If it is not possible to dry-clean certain garments that you are storing, the next-best thing is to air them thoroughly and brush them inside and out. By doing this you may brush the moth eggs or larvae away. Store your clothes, whenever possible, in airtight boxes, bags, drawers or chests.
But, someone may reason, ‘Even if I do all of this, clothes tear; they get old and wear out eventually.’ This is true, but do not be hasty about throwing away a damaged garment or an old one.
Repair and Remodeling
Anyone, including bachelors, can learn to make simple clothing repairs. If you stop a small rip from tearing farther, you may save an expensive garment. There are books at many libraries on patching and reweaving fabrics. And, as with any job, you need the right tools—so keep a box or basket of mending equipment. Always include a supply of extra buttons; a safety pin where a button is obviously supposed to be will certainly not be attractive.
But what about a bad rip or an ugly stain that will not come out? Here is where your imagination can be tested. Especially with women’s clothing is it relatively easy, for example, to sew a series of cloth triangles or other designs down the front of a dress. And one of those triangles can go right over that rip or stain!
Similarly, it is often the collar of a garment that first becomes worn or soiled. Why not remove it and either cut a different collar design for the garment or make a new collar from a complementary fabric. You thus eliminate the problem and at the same time give the outfit a new look.
Once you study the possibilities, the variations are endless. Long-sleeved shirts can become short-sleeved shirts. An old dress can be turned into a skirt or a jumper. A dress with a bad stain on the skirt can be cut off and made into a blouse. Never underestimate what new accessories—such as a scarf, belt or decorative pin—can do for a not-so-new garment. Viewing it as a creative challenge, and daring to experiment, you may find that you are happier with the “remodel” than you were with the original!
When reviewing your wardrobe, note which fabrics have kept that good-as-new look the longest. Then, when shopping, buy with an eye to durability.
Moreover, while it is not wise to become overly anxious about what to wear, remember that often, before you open your mouth to speak, your clothes have “spoken.” A neatly attired person will usually find greater respect and consideration from others—all the more reason to care for your clothing.