Wardrobe Preservation (Part 1)

Hang up your clothes! I can still hear my mother’s unrelenting words from days gone by, when she futilely attempted to get me to take care of my clothes. As usual, she was right, which I’ve grown to learn over the years.

You may have the best wardrobe in town, but if you don’t take care of it properly, you won’t have it for long; not to mention it won’t look its best on you. Clothing needs to be maintained correctly in order to extend its life expectancy and condition. A wardrobe that doesn’t look fresh will undermine your greatest attempts at looking good. Let’s take a look at some of the basic rules of clothing care, so you’ll be able to keep your wardrobe looking as good tomorrow as it looks today.

This one’s for you, mom… Hang up your clothes, at least the pieces whose shape needs to be preserved; suit jackets, sport coats, blazers, jackets and coats, and any clothing you want to keep wrinkle free. It’s so easy to just toss a jacket onto a chair and let it stay there until you wear it again, but during that time, while it helplessly lies in a heap, it’s losing its shape and structure because it’s not being properly supported by a sturdy coat hanger. That’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind no matter what price tag is attached to your clothes.

When threads have worn thin, or clothing is damaged, retire it. Wearing clothes that are stained or torn only detracts from your image. Be sure to inspect clothes frequently for problems, and remove any unsalvageable items.

Address stains and soil quickly, before they embed themselves permanently. This leads me to laundry soap. We typically use more detergent than is necessary to adequately wash clothing, especially when laundering dress shirts and slacks, which tend not to get as soiled as clothing we wear for leisure: t-shirts, jeans, etc. I know the manufactures specify using a certain amount, but keep in mind, their interest is selling as much of their product as possible. Being conservative with the detergent will actually extend your wardrobe’s life. So, try reducing the amount a bit, and see what results you get.

You pretty much get what you pay for when it comes to laundry detergent. The less expensive brands can be harsh on clothing, causing the material to fade and breakdown quicker than when using a premium detergent. Buy the best product you can, but still consider using less. Remember to choose the proper temperature setting when washing clothes, which can often be found on detergent bottles and clothing tags. While hot and warm water are good at dissolving dirt, today’s laundry detergents are effective in cold water, which reduces fading.

I know how tempting it is to throw all your dirty clothes in the washer together at the same time, but doing so will cause them to take on each other’s colors. Separate your laundry by color – whites with whites, lights with lights and darks with darks. This way your jeans won’t make your white t-shirts blue. It takes a little more effort, but is definitely worth keeping your clothes their original color.

Fabric softeners make clothes smell good, feel soft and reduce static. Name brands seem to get better ratings than store-name brands in general, but it’s safe to try various brands, since there is not much difference between them. However, there are some drawbacks to using fabric softeners. Besides the additional chemicals the product puts on clothing that comes into contact with our skin; whether it’s liquid softener or dryer sheets, these products build up in the washing machine and dryer. Oily buildup in washers often result in greasy stains on clothes, and dryer sheets tend to coat the lint trap in dryers, reducing air flow; making it necessary to run the dryer longer in order to completely dry the clothes. Consequently, clothes are exposed to additional heat, which is also detrimental to the clothing’s integrity. Baking soda is a nice alternative to fabric softener. Adding ½ cup to the washer during the rinse cycle will make clothes soft, eliminate odors and won’t build up in the machines. Baking soda is a lot cheaper, too. Weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself.

Not all clothing can be washed at home. Suits, sport jackets and coats must be dry cleaned. Many prefer to have dress shirts and sweaters dry cleaned, as well. If ever in doubt, check the tag inside the clothing, which will give laundering recommendations. Should there not be a tag, play it safe and dry clean. Dry cleaning definitely has its advantages because it eliminates time and energy doing laundry; plus clothes come back ironed and pressed and looking their best. However, there’s a substantial price tag attached to dry cleaning, so if need be, save dry cleaning for suits and other clothing that can’t be washed at home.

There is controversy to dry cleaning because of the toxic chemicals typically used. There are now dry cleaners that use safe, non-toxic chemicals and technologies to clean, so if this is a concern, investigate your area for a “green” dry cleaner.

Watch for Part 2, coming May 21

Aaron Marino is the founder, owner, and senior style consultant at Atlanta’s alpha m. Image Consulting. He also runs alpha m. Dot Net, which features accessories for men, and I Am Alpha M. , which is a lifestyle and personal development zone for men. He authored the book, “The Guy’s Guide to Image, Style, and Impeccable Grooming” and appeared on VH1′s Glam God and also Man Made Style. He frequently makes public appearances, giving his expert opinions an advice, and his highly sought after videos appear on YouTube.

Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net