Wednesday, March 24th, 2010...2:24 pm

Closet care tips to help your wardrobe last a lifetime, courtesy of Hudson & Jane

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As we well know, the best way be a conscientious consumer is to shop less overall and take care of the clothes we already have.

I recently got to write a few articles about how to take better care of your wardrobe on behalf of one of my favorite clients, Hudson & Jane, the lovely high-end men’s and women’s boutique in Kansas City’s Crestwood Shops. With most of the articles’ content coming straight from the store’s owners, Rick & Flo Ann Brehm, I learned a lot myself and wanted to share it with you as well. It refreshed my appreciation for high-quality fabrics, which are always worth the investment.

“Hudson” and “Jane” are the men’s and women’s personas of the store, and the two of them write regular articles about fashion specific to their sexes. (I write on behalf of them both, but shh, don’t tell!) We published an article about men’s closet care from Hudson and one about women’s closet care from Jane, and I’m combining my own experiences plus info from both here. Enjoy!

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Undergarments. On a day-to-day basis, it is said to give each of your bras at least a day in between wears, to allow elastics time to regain their shape. When washing, use cold water to make sure nothing shrinks unexpectedly (that’s what causes underwires to pop out), and protect those delicates with special wash bags or a BraBaby. Of course, always hang to dry.

Cashmere. With a little extra measure, cashmere can outlast and out-warm every other sweater in your closet. Machine wash your cashmere sweaters one at a time on the handwash cycle with cold water and a gentle detergent, like Dreft. Shape and lay on a towel to dry. The more cashmere is washed, the softer it will get and the less it will pill. (Even the highest quality sweaters pill.)

Linen. Same here. Linen is best handwashed, or machined washed on the handwash cycle, and then ironed. If you like your linen stiff, use starch sparingly, as starch makes fabrics stuffy and unbreathable. (Starch in particular breaks down and clogs the shirt’s fibers, causing it to retain body heat when worn.) Avoid dry cleaning, which yellows and weakens linen fibers especially.

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Wool. A good clothes brush will bring out the lanolins in a wool garment (sweaters, coats, suits), which helps it naturally resist stains and grime build-up, thus needing fewer cleanings. Lanolin is a sort of naturally occurring wax that makes sheep’s wool waterproof, which professional cleaning actually removes.

Denims and knits. No dryer for you! To keep any of your more vulnerable fabrics looking newer for longer, wash them inside out and avoid the dryer. Some knits may need to be shaped and laid out to dry, but jeans can be hung.

Outerwear. Think coats, jackets and lightly used suits — for items you can’t wash yourself, dry cleaning at least once a year will extend the garment’s life by removing grime that can wear down fibers. Clean garments also stave off moths in the off-season, as moths are attracted not by the fibers but by body oils and dead skin. Storing clean garments in plastic bags should do the trick.

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Dry cleaning. The chemicals used in dry cleaning actually decrease the lifespan of your garments, so dry clean only in moderation. Of course, it’s necessary for cleaning some pieces — jackets, coats, lined garments and anything that says “Dry Clean Only.” (For labels without the “Only,” garments made of natural fibers can often just be hand-washed, including cashmere, linen, wool and silk.) Consider having your garments cleaned before putting them into storage for the off-season, as moths seek out and eat skin oils and dead skin, not the fabrics themselves.

And as I’m sure you’ve heard, the primary chemical used in traditional dry cleaning is a hardcore pollutant, not to mention that it is dangerous for dry cleaners to even work with. Many alternative cleaners have sprung up over the past few years, so check out options in your area. Read more at Commerce With a Conscience.

Reweaving. For damaged garments, all is not lost! (Hopefully.) Marred wool can be rewoven, often for an affordable price. For other fabric issues, ask a good dry cleaner, who can help lend their expertise on how to get it fixed.

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Alterations. Have you watched What Not to Wear? Many body shapes need alterations to get off-the-rack garments to fit flatteringly at all. Hems, waistbands and more can be fixed for as little as $10. (I’ve seen a man at my tailor who brings in all his ’90s-tailored shirts to get them sewn into a more up-to-date fit — love it.) Just be sure to ask for pricing upfront to avoid any surprises, and get ready to start wearing better-fitting clothes.

Leather care. When cared for correctly, good quality leather gets better with age, developing a deep patina from years of polish. Use a cream polish instead of wax, to keep leather from drying out, just like skin. (It is skin.) Cream polish rubs deep down into the leather, conditioning it for a supple shine and rich color. Keep leather soft and moist. When you buy a new pair of shoes, have them polished before wearing them to avoid stains right off the bat. Hudson & Jane’s pick for cream polish is Meltonian, which is available at most drugstores.

Shoe repair. For small fixes, help is just a car-trip away. New high-heel tips, buckles and zipper fixes are a cinch to most shoe repair shops. From my own shoe guy, I can get high-heel tips replaced for $8 (and have many times), and he once rebuilt the front tip of the sole on my favorite pair of boots for $20-something, ensuring that I wouldn’t wear down the leather on the toe any more than I already had. It gave them at least another few years of wear.

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Stay in shape. “When your fit stays the same, your classic wardrobe really can last you a lifetime.” I wrote this in Hudson’s words, but credit goes to my friend Erica for pointing this out to me once. Taking care of our health and wellbeing benefits us all across the board!

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You can sign up for the Hudson & Jane email list here, and you can become our fan on Facebook here. (For every 50 FB fans we gain, one fan wins a $50 gift certificate to the store!) Hope you get as much out of this info as I did!

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