The Care and Keeping of Your Clothes
An exhaustive guide to cleaning, storing, mending and display.
Hi! If you’re new to this community, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here! I’m Jess, a writer, and Creative Director in Atlanta, Georgia. My entire professional background is a blend of heading up big brands and working in magazines, and The Love List is an extension of all the incredible resources I’ve picked up along the way.
More than anything, The Love List is a newsletter intended to be useful. We (me and a mighty team of three) love to share our discoveries! We report on trends, pop culture, shopping, and little life hacks. Then, we weave it with everyday matters of the heart — friendships, family dynamics, and romantic love.
So! Onto the issue. If you’ve been a subscriber of this newsletter for a minute, you’ve probably heard me drone on about my “fewer, better” shopping philosophy. TL/DR: buy nicer things, keep them a long time = simplify getting dressed, reduce your contribution to the fast fashion machine, and by extension, the climate crisis. Common sense would lend itself to the understanding then, that in order for said nice things to last, one has to take care of them properly.
From my early days working in retail to today, working with stylists and on photoshoot sets, I’ve picked up a lot of tricks for fashion upkeep. After all, if you’re gonna drop a chunk on an heirloom-worthy investment piece, it’s gotta be worth it in cost-per-wear. Part of the purchase is thinking through how you’ll care for it — and store it — long-term.
Sweater hangers: in the summer, my sweaters stay folded neatly in drop-front sweater boxes, still semi-accessible, but safely shielded from moths and sunlight. But it’s not a storage method that’s very conducive to fall and winter when I need quick and frequent access to my knits. Fighting them out of a folding stack is a pain in the ass. It turns into a mess quickly. So from October-March, I hang my sweaters. Before you gasp, I use sweater hangers, which have a rounded construction to prevent those dreaded shoulder divets regular hangers leave on knits. The black velvet matches my existing everyday hangers and hanger clips.
Bonus hacks: tuck cedar balls and hangers between knits to deter bugs from feasting on your fibers without your closet smelling like mothballs. If you store your sweaters elsewhere off-season, inexpensive garment bags are also great for vertical storage. And when it’s time to wash, use a soap specially formulated for wool and cashmere.
Member hack: our Slack group (one of the perks of a premium subscription) had a lot to say about sweater storage. Kathryn, who lives in a small Chicago apartment, swears by under-bed storage, while Julia employs this clever hanging hack from her friend (and stylist) Monica Barnett.
A small pinboard: this one might not be as obvious, but I find it super useful to keep my favorite outfit #inspo tacked up right where I get dressed. And when my friend/stylist Allie comes over, it gives us a place to pin up outfit polaroids.
Luxe-scented detergent: this stuff is highly concentrated, so try not to wince too much at the price because a little goes a long way. I use this detergent for anything that needs to go through the gentle/delicate cycle. I also mix a capful in a mister bottle (NOT a spray bottle, we aren’t drenching here) with water and use it to make my clothes smell nice. People stop me to ask what perfume I’m wearing! If you want something less-fragranced but still gentle, try Forever New.
A garment steamer: this one’s obvious, but I can’t tell you how much money I save on dry cleaning just by having one handy. When I lived in a smaller place, I had a cute handheld one. Now that we have more space, I have a full-sized guy.
Wool dryer balls: these are much kinder to your garments in the dryer than waxy fabric softener sheets and are more sustainable.
Bonus hacks: use the same diluted detergent/water solution in your garment steamer or steam iron. I also like to use The Laundress’ Signature Detergent for this. And if you want to take it a step further (as one does) then toss a scented sachet in your delicates drawer. Or if you’re in a hurry, you can always keep some luxe-smelling wrinkle releaser on hand.
Wine Away: this stuff is miraculous for removing stains from any non-synthetic material, and you don’t need a wash cycle to finish the job for smaller spots. The only thing I wouldn’t use it for is deodorant marks, but these special sponges work like magic for that.
Bonus hack: stash some Shout Wipes in your bag for on-the-go spillage.
Member hack: Multiple members messaged me about the book Laundry Love by Patric Richardson, which is full of advice on how to launder just about anything at home. “He hand-washed a Chanel jacket on IG.” One member shared. Ordering!
A valet bar: this might be the single greatest improvement I’ve made to my closet. I’m an out-of-sight, out-of-mind gal. So I use this valet bar as a visual cue. I’ll pull the next day’s outfit, remind myself to steam certain garments, or mentally flag something I need to try on. I also use it for light packing and closet thin-outs.
Bonus hack: I leave one of these extremely chic scent bars dangling from my valet rod to keep whatever’s on it smelling great.
A fabric shaver: there are many of these out there, but I like this one the most for its flat surface and USB-rechargeable battery. A fabric shaver is clutch for pilling sweaters, leggings, or whatnot. A little session de-pilling and un-fuzzing makes tiny miracles. It’s saved more than one tired-looking top from the donation pile. If you’re not comfortable with something battery-operated coming near your expensive knits, opt instead for a cashmere comb.
Bonus hacks: I like to take a pass at all my sweaters with a shaver before I store them come summer. Then, I wrap ‘em in acid-free tissue to guard against moisture, dye bleeds, etc.
Boot shapers: yep, they do exactly as they say — help hold the shape of your boots. But I also like ‘em for display purposes, because it keeps boot shafts from flopping over. (If there’s a pair fitting a little tight, put a wine or vodka bottle in the shaft and hit it with some stretch spray.) Something else that needs shape preservation: your padded bras! I like this sectioned-off soft-sided drawer divider, which I nestle in a drawer for all my delicates.
Bonus hacks: to keep the backs of boots and loafers un-mashed, borrow from the boys and use a shoehorn to slide in. For pulling off stuck-on boots, leave a boot pull by the front door or in your mudroom. And if all that sliding in and out’s left the sole of your shoe loose or altogether detached (this happens to me in high heel sandals a lot), mend it with a little shoe cement — an old retail trick!
Leather conditioner: oh man, this one is key. I never knew these existed until I worked retail in college, but I’ve never been without one since. This little sponge will make your nice leather bags and shoes look new again — even though it says it’s for car leather. If the scuff is more severe, I like good ol’ fashioned scuff cover. If your leather is suede or nubuck, you need a special brush to work stains out.
Bonus hacks: storing your bags is important, too. Holding their shape can be a little trickier, but I rely on acid-free tissue here, too. Just stuff ‘em! For bags with long straps, I like these specially-designed hangers that make smart use of small spaces. I also like to have GPS-enabled Airtags sewn into the lining of my most valuable bags, in case someone gets sticky fingers. Your shoe guy can do this.
Jewelry stackers: these are a Godsend if you have any kind of accessories collection. I have mine inset into my top drawer because my closet has built-ins, but you can configure these into just about any arrangement that works for you, depending on what you need to store. Because they stack, they take up less room, and the velvet lining keeps things from tarnishing as quickly. They even have stackers sized for your sunglasses collection.
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