When working with personal styling clients, one of the most frequently asked questions that Dia Style Adviser Reah Norman receives once she’s helped her clients build the perfect wardrobe is how to take care of their clothing to extend each item’s life after spending so much time and money curating it. We turned to Reah to get her tips on how to keep clothing in tip-top shape, wear after wear.
Have you destroyed clothing you love just from wearing it too much? Heed Reah’s tips:
Check the Tag
The most foolproof way to properly care for your clothing is to follow the instructions listed on the inside garment tag. Different fabrications have specific care needs, and your clothes can easily be ruined if not cared for properly. If you think that those little symbols on the tag might as well be hieroglyphics, here’s a handy cheat sheet so you can understand what each symbol is instructing.
Bras, shapewear, lingerie, tights, and other delicates should always be hand-washed. Use your clean sink, bath tub, or a plastic tub, and let the items soak in cold water with a bit of laundry soap. After soaking, do several rinses until the water runs clean without soap. Gently squeeze excess water out of the garment, then hang or lay flat to dry. If you have to wash these items in the machine, use a delicates garment bag to protect them.
- Reah’s Pro Tip: Avoid wringing out the clothing so as to avoid stretching the garment out and changing its shape. Gently squeeze out the water and then roll the garment in a dry towel to remove excess water.
Dry cleaning is not only reserved for special occasion garments. Of course, it is best to always follow garment instructions, and if the tag says, “Dry Clean Only,” it’s best to follow those rules. But dry cleaning can also be a great option for fabrications that wrinkle easily, are hard to steam or iron, and for garments that have embellishments that may come loose or change shape in the wash. Look for an eco-friendly dry cleaner that doesn’t use harsh chemicals that are bad for you and the environment.
When in Doubt, Wash on Cold
Nothing shortens the life of a garment the way heat does. Hot water will not only cause a garment to shrink, but it will also break down fibers and cause colors to fade. Lengthen the life of your clothing significantly just by washing them in cold water using the delicate cycle and keeping like colors and fabrications together.
- Reah’s Pro Tip: Wash in small- to medium-sized loads. Never overfill a washing machine as it causes garments to stretch and creates friction which doesn’t allow clothing to be washed or rinsed as thoroughly.
Skip the Dryer
Air-dry your clothes by hanging them or laying them flat to ensure that they stay looking like new. Let them dry almost all the way, then fluff in the dryer on no or low heat for no more than 10 minutes.
Ditch the Chemicals
There are lots of natural, non-toxic household items that can be used instead of bleach and other harsh chemicals that are harmful to our clothing, ourselves, and our environment. Skip the bleach and opt for white vinegar and baking soda instead to help whiten your whites. Epsom salt and essential oils, like lemon which is a natural degreaser, can be great for improving the fragrance in lieu of chemical alternatives.
Invest in a variety of top and bottom hangers that are sized specifically for plus size clothing so that items can hang properly. I always look for extra large hangers that are at least 19 inches and prefer clear acrylic hangers with rubber grips, as well as felt non-slip hugger hangers. Heavier weight fabrications and knits like sweaters should hang folded in half over a hanger, rather than from the shoulder and neckline so they don’t stretch out and change shape.
Organize With Proper Storage
Staying organized is a big part of taking care of your clothing. Here are three easy steps to achieve clothing organization success:
- Fold clothing consistently so they stack neatly inside a drawer or on a shelf. All jeans should be folded the same way, all tops should be folded the same way.
- Store like items together and organize by color so everything is easy to find.
- Place seasonal and special occasion items in clear garment bags and bins. This will keep everything free of dust, provide protection, and the transparency of the storage items help you locate the items when you need them. I recommend using tubs for items like sweaters, swimwear, or bulkier seasonal garments that don’t hang well and need to be stored away for a portion of the year.
As a stylist, my steamer is my best friend. In most cases, I find a steamer much easier and more convenient to use than an iron and ironing board. Look for a handheld steamer that heats up almost instantly for quick wrinkle removing.
Mending small holes, snags, and tears with a quick needle and thread stitch can save a garment. Sew up the hole before it gets too big to manage for the best results. If you’re not comfortable doing the mending yourself, most dry cleaners offer sewing services at reasonable costs.
Wear It Again
In most cases, clothing can be worn a few times before washing it, as long as it doesn’t end up balled up on your bedroom floor. To avoid having to wash items too frequently, use a fabric refresher spray (you can actually make your own—check out this recipe that I love), steam it, then hang it nicely so it’s ready to be worn again.
- Reah’s Pro Tip: To refresh your jeans, spray them with a fabric refresher or throw in a dryer sheet and tumble them in the dryer with no or low heat for no more than 5 minutes.
Keep a Mini Styling Kit
One secret I always share with my clients is how to create a mini styling kit that you can always have on hand while getting dressed. Grab a box or basket and fill it with these items, then store in your closet or dressing area:
- Lint roller
- Fashion tape
- Basic sewing kit
- Safety pins
- Handheld steamer
Ready to get your wardrobe in tip-top shape? Make sure you check out Reah’s recommendations on the pieces that make up the perfect wardrobe so that you can find the items with the most versatility that make getting ready in the morning a breeze.
is the Dia&Co Style Adviser. She lives in Los Angeles, California.