How to Keep Looking Like a Million Dollars

There is a whiff of spring in the air and with the, “Cambio di Stagione” we are all starting to think about our summer look. At this time of year Italian mothers are preparing the traditional, “Ribaltare”, when the winter clothes are cleaned and put away, and the summer wardrobe is brought out of storage. Too much bother, you think? In this case the old adage, “Mother always knows best”, should be taken seriously. Caring in the correct way your wardrobe will keep looking better and lasting much longer. From suits to shirts to shoes here are some useful tips and techniques for both general and seasonal maintenance.

One of the most important things is the cleaning of the wardrobe itself. This entails emptying it, thoroughly dusting inside and replacing your moth repellents. This done you can look through to see what needs cleaning, washing, repairing before your winter attire is put away for the summer.

Before packing away your suits and jackets, brush thoroughly everything to make sure dirt doesn’t have a chance to settle into the fabric. This will also give a chance to see if any linings have come adrift, buttons have been lost and whether it requires professional cleaning. If you notice any moth damage you should act quickly, they can be devastating!

A brush with natural bristles is the best to go for. Not too hard, especially for cashmere. To maintain the shape and structure of your suits and jackets they should be stored on wooden hangers. Get the ones with a wide-spread contoured shape to support the shoulder area, and in the right size, to not stretch your jackets out. Tailored garments and shoes are ideally kept in cotton bags, because of their breathable nature; they should not be stored in closed plastic.

Knitwear needs different care and stored in sealed plastic bags throughout the summer season. Check what looks like it needs a wash or a clean, washing jumpers is usually better done by hand unless your machine has a special cashmere program. Wash them, rinse them in warm water as quickly and gently as possible, never leave in soak. Squeeze all the water out of them but do not twist them and always dry them out flat on a towel. Always make sure to put a couple of moth repellent balls in the bags when putting your winter jumpers away. There is nothing worse than to discover your favourite pieces are full of holes.

Contrary to popular belief, you only need to take your clothes to the cleaners, when they are stained or really in need of refreshing. A crumpled suit or jacket does not necessarily need cleaning – usually a professional press is quite adequate. Sometimes your tailor will do this for you and of course, hanging up your trousers (full length) and jacket on a good hanger immediately after wearing reduces the need to press.  Be aware that dry cleaning exposes garments to harsh chemicals, which shorten the fabrics life. Always remember to get your suit jacket and trousers cleaned together, to prevent uneven fading.

Alternatively, you can invest in a steamer, which assures you the possibility to iron your garments properly, anytime you want. If you don’t have one, don’t be afraid, use a regular iron, but don’t forget to put a press cloth as a barrier to protect the fabric to avoid shine especially with blue and black fabrics. The third option is the most useful when you are travelling. Hang up your suit in the bathroom while you are taking a shower or, if you are not, just turn up the hot water and close the door. In a few minutes, thanks to the hot steam your suit will bounce back into its original shape. Pop it somewhere to let it dry, then you are ready to go.

Dress shirts are best washed in a domestic washing machine, going to the dry cleaners is rarely necessary, but please always check the washing instructions. 30 degrees is the name of the name of the game, avoiding tumble drying at all costs, as this can dramatically shrink the shirts. Try to wash them soon after wearing and prewash the insides of collars and cuffs with Vanish soap.

Dry your shirts on hangers. Pull them into shape before putting them out to dry, and this way you will have less wrinkles, which will help ironing. You can use steam to iron your shirts; however it is best when they are still humid. You can always spray them with some water before, and leave them to rest for a couple of minutes. Then you can use the iron dry, which will lead to the most satisfying results. The correct ironing order is to start with the collar and cuffs, then to succeed with the sleeves and finish it off with the body.

Just like with tailored garments and knitwear, brushing shoes after each wear is the first and foremost duty of proper care. Much like hydration for your skin, it is similarly important to treat them with a good quality wax polish. Done regularly, it enlivens the leather and with some extra care, you can achieve a nice, high shine finish. Find the polish closest to the colour of the leather and make sure to apply the wax on dry shoes. Suede and nubuck uppers can be treated with a ’Suede Protector’ spray. It will make the shoes repellent to moisture to a good degree, helpful to avoid stubborn stains, which may require professional treatment to disappear.  

Store your shoes with wooden shoe trees in them to maintain their shape and  absorb moisture as they dry out. Sodden leather soles needs to be dried out slowly and naturally, away from direct heat (e.g radiators). This can take some time. Stuff with newspaper to absorb most of the moisture, then when they are nearly dry put the shoe trees in to restore the original shape. As with your suits and jackets it is not good to wear the same shoes two days running. They need time to dry and breathe.

As seen in Diplomacy and Trade magazine.