By Jovan Gauthier | Nouveau Vintage
Fine fabrics and tailored clothing need a little more thought than your average streetwear to preserve their natural beauty and drape. But that doesn’t mean caring for your custom clothing is all that difficult.
We’ve prepared this guide to help you get the most out of your clothing investment. We hope you’ll agree that caring for your clothing is not only good for your garments’ lifespan, but helps your confidence while wearing it.
After wearing, give your tailored clothing a once-over with a garment brush. This will help remove lint, pet hair, drops of dried slush and mud, or other debris that may accumulate on your suit during the day. We stock Kent garment brushes and it is worth picking up one if you haven’t already, they will last you a lifetime. Lint rollers are inexpensive, however they will leave sticky residue over time if continuously used. If you can’t remove stains with a garment brush, blot lightly with a small damp towel until it is gone. Let it breathe for at least a day on a proper hanger with flared shoulders. The Hanger Project and Butler Luxury are among the best in the business, as they offer sized hangers that will reach to the end of the shoulder. Avoid suit hangers which only have narrow, non-flared shoulders as these will cause the jacket shoulders to deform over time. Suits in cotton, linen, wool, cashmere and mohair blends, or other natural fibers will benefit from being hung up and left to rest for a bit. They will generally rid themselves of body odors after a day.
Your suit might need some touching up to retain the trouser creases and eliminate a few wrinkles that will happen from wear. An iron, ironing board and press cloth are all you need. Press cloth placed between the iron and fabric helps prevent shine from direct contact with the iron. Local craft stores will stock name brand press cloth that allows you to see the garment while you press it. However, an inexpensive white handkerchief or bandana will also work well. Make sure to use the appropriate amount of steam and heat on your iron. For example, wool will usually need low to medium steam and heat. On the other hand, linen may require the highest settings on both. Many irons will have this marked, but some you will need to consult the manual for.
One trick that can make pressing the creases back into trousers easy is using a solid wood trouser hanger which clamps and hangs them up by the bottoms. Drape just the leg you need pressed, outside facing up, and let the hanger weigh it down so it’s flat. Press as needed and then unclamp the cuffs to get them at the end. A tailor’s clapper can be used to retain creases on softer fabrics like wool flannel, holding down at the crease for a moment immediately after pressing. If you need to touch up the crotch, which can also be a site for daily wrinkles, just mount one of the legs onto the pointed end of the ironing board so that the inside crotch faces up and focus on that area. Repeat on the other leg. Another common site for wrinkles will be on the inner elbows and back of jackets, since you might be sitting down a lot. The back can be handled easily by mounting it on the ironing board and pressing carefully. The inner elbows can be addressed by using a wadded up towel or a sleeve board.
Do not use a Jiffy Steamer or hang up tailored clothing in a steamy bathroom, as it can blow the seams and misshape the construction over time. It is much better to take your time and press out your clothing properly.
Around once a year is a good time to dry clean your tailored clothing, but you may just need our complimentary TC Valet service to freshen things up a bit. Ask your Personal Clothier for more details.
When your suit does finally need a thorough cleaning, or there are stains and odor that nothing else will get rid of, you’ll need to invest in a quality cleaner. Rave Fabricare, for example, does a superb job and has their services available by mail. The average cleaner is going to use harsh chemicals, leave shine spots all over by pressing poorly, and generally leave things worse for wear. Find a cleaner that will use gentle and eco-friendly dry cleaning solvents such as Green Earth (not perchloroethylene), take their time pressing and shaping your suit back to its original form by iron, and generally provide the kind of service your quality garments deserve. Rave Fabricare’s website offers detailed help on finding a quality cleaner.
Caring for overcoats, topcoats, and pea coats follows much of the same method as suits. Choose a garment brush with softer bristles for your fine cashmere or cashmere blends. If you only have one garment brush with stiff bristles, brush lightly and carefully. Hang up your coats on a proper flared shoulder hanger just like you would a sports coat.
As with suits, use a press cloth between the iron and fabric when it inevitably needs pressing. Wrinkles might develop on the coat skirt if you commute by private vehicle or sit down on the lightrail to work, so pay attention to that area in particular.
You may need to dry clean outerwear even less than your tailored clothing, since it will generally only be worn outdoors. But again, choose your cleaners carefully.
For spot cleaning, remove any excess debris with a flat edge and blot lightly using a small towel or cloth with a bit detergent formulated for retaining dark colors. The Laundress Denim Wash and Woolite Darks are two good examples. At the end of the day, hang them up by the waistband on a trouser hanger with two clips rather than folding them into a dresser drawer. The latter can cause faded fold lines over time.
Do not wash as often as a typical pair of jeans. Let them breathe between wears as you would with tailored clothing. When you do need to wash, use the washing machine’s gentle cycle, cold water, and a darks detergent like the ones previously mentioned, washing with other denim of a similar colour for best results. Hang them up to air dry with the aforementioned trouser hanger. Do not tumble dry.
Alternatively, Josey Orr, of Dyer and Jenkins, shared this way to hand wash raw denim one at a time on Art of Manliness:
- Fill up a bathtub with lukewarm water
- Add a teaspoon of detergent
- Let jeans soak for 45 minutes
- Give them a bit of a scrub to remove any dirt and grime
- Rinse off with cold water
- Hang them outside to dry (if it’s raining outside, line dry them inside — just don’t use the dryer)
Most of what you’ll be looking to do is keep the ring of light brown pigment off your shirt’s collar and cuffs. This is merely skin pigmentation that rubs off during the day and does not necessarily mean your neck is dirty. Pre-treat your inner collar and cuffs by wetting them with water and using a laundry bar soap, such as Octagon or Fels Naptha, to create a lather. The Laundress makes a stain pre-treatment solution too. You can also use a spray bottle of white vinegar on the collar and cuffs a few minutes prior to washing. Pre-treat any stains the same way. OxiClean, The Laundress All-Purpose Bleach Alternative, or other laundry boosting agents can be added. Adding half a cup of white vinegar into a load of shirts (using the bleach or fabric softener reservoirs when available) is another way to help whiten and brighten. Choose a good quality liquid detergent and use cold water. Depending on the washing machine, you can pause the cycle and soak them overnight in water and detergent to assist in removing stains before resuming it the next day.
Avoid using chlorine bleach on white shirts. It is especially harsh on fine cotton shirtings and will not do the job as well as other whitening solutions available today.
After washing, immediately remove your shirts from the washing machine and hang them up on shirt hangers. Do not tumble dry.
If you prefer to let the professionals take care of your shirts, make sure they do all their cleaning and pressing on site, don’t use harsh chemicals or bleach, don’t scrub your collars and cuffs to clean them, and press your shirts fully by hand. $2 per shirt may seem like a good value, but it can significantly shorten their lifespan. See this guide for what you should look for in a shirt laundry.
Press them when they’re still slightly damp or dampen with a spray bottle of water prior to pressing. Make sure to stretch out the fabric wherever you can to make it easier to get a crisp finish. Use a sleeve board to press out the sleeves without having to crease them. Also, press collars and cuffs from the edges inward for best results, particularly if they’re soft or not fused.
Do not use department store spray starch (like Faultless) when pressing your shirts. These can shorten the lifespan of your shirtings. If you must have your shirts stiffened, use a natural starch from The Laundress or something similar. Also keep in mind that starch can attract insects and make garments turn yellow in storage.
When you have finished pressing, immediately put on a shirt hanger, buttoning the top and third button down. You can also fold your shirts if closet space is at a premium. However, the shirt should be allowed to hang up until heat and moisture fully dissipate. You may also want to fold the shirt gently and loosely — in half lengthwise if space allows. Otherwise, by hastily folding and squishing into a flat square, you may just set deep wrinkles into the shirt before it’s worn.
Shoes and Boots
For calfskin, clean off any dirt and debris with a horsehair brush. As needed, restore the sole edges with edge dressing using the bottle applicator (if it has one) or an old toothbrush. Those simple, complimentary hotel toothbrushes can also work well for this. Apply a cream polish, matching the colour of your leather, using a polish applicator. Allow to dry for a few minutes. Then, using a shine brush, buff the shoes until they have a slight sheen. To protect the toes and add further shine, add a layer of wax polish to them. Wax polish can also be added to the heels if desired. With a spray bottle, spritz a few drops of water on the toe (not too much), using a shine brush to further develop the luster into a “spit shine”. Finally, buff the entire shoe with a flannel cloth. You can skip the spit shine and go straight into buffing with the cloth if you prefer.
Suede does not require as much upkeep. Scuffs may only need massaging with your hand to lift the nap back into place. Some may need the help of a suede eraser or suede brush. Water can be blotted away with a dry cloth and then brushed when dry. A suede protector spray can be used to help repel stains and liquids but may require two even coats, allowing the first to dry before reapplying, to work effectively.
For long term storage and travel, keep your shoes and boots in soft flannel shoe bags. Shoe trees should always be used to retain their shape when not being worn.
When it comes to shoe polish and care brands, Kiwi is fine for most people and readily available in most stores. However, brands like Saphir are even better and worth the investment if you wear dress shoes often.
When the weather turns, be sure to use overshoes. Tingley and Swims are both reliable overshoe brands. These will protect your leather from rain, snow, salt, and slush. They are especially important for leather soles, which can absorb moisture from precipitation and break down over time. If your shoes have rubber soles, it’s still important to protect the uppers. A couple coats of waterproofing spray can help. Meltonian Water & Stain Protector and Tarrago Hightech Nano Protector Spray are proven workhorses. Avoid mink oil, however, as it can completely change the finish on your shoes.
Every so often, saddle soap can be used to thoroughly clean and remove layers of built up polish on calfskin when brushing alone is not enough. Using a small wet (but not soaking) towel or polish applicator, work the saddle soap from the tin into a lather, then apply to the shoes in a circular motion to remove dirt and stains. Wipe off any excess with a dry towel and let air dry for a day, then follow your normal polishing routine. You can also apply Saphir Renovateur to condition and clean calfskin between polishes and maintain the suppleness of the leather. Apply evenly with a dry rag in a circular motion, then allow to set overnight before using a shine brush and cloth to buff it back to looking new.
Many stains on suede can generally be removed with the eraser. For mud and other similar debris, a suede brush will help loosen it. Otherwise, apply a suede cleaning spray and wipe with a dry towel. Then, when fully dry, brush gently to restore the nap.
Ties and Delicate Fabrics
Silk ties will generally return to their shape by rolling them up around three fingers, small end first, for a day. They can then be hung up on a tie rack afterwards. The same can be done for other ties of natural fibers, such as wool. Knitted ties should always stay rolled up in storage and never hung, since this can stretch them out over time.
Velvet and velour will need a special velvet pressing board, with the plush side down on it, plus a press cloth between the fabric and iron. Never press velvet or velour directly as this will flatten the fibers and imprint the shape of the iron onto it. Use gentle heat and steam.
One should generally avoid pressing ties unless absolutely necessary. However, if it does become necessary due to excessive wrinkles, it can be done with the aid of a press cloth and folded plush towel. The iron should be on the gentlest settings for heat and steam. Place the tie down on the towel, the press cloth on top of the tie, and run it lightly along the length. Do not put any weight down on the tie, as maintaining the rolled edges rather than flattening them is key to maintaining their attractive, handmade look.
When it comes to satin silk, velvet, or other delicate fabrics, it’s best to leave these to the professionals for cleaning. See the Suits and Tailored Clothing section for help in looking for a quality cleaner.
Our Service: TC Valet
If you don’t need a full dry cleaning, but want to keep your Tailor Cooperative tailored clothing looking its best, our TC Valet service is available.
Drop by the shop and we’ll freshen up your garments using The Laundress products and give them a clean press. Though not as extensive as a dry cleaning, it will help your clothing look as crisp as when it first came to you. Best of all, it’s a complimentary service for clients. Just drop it off and we’ll take it from here. If interested, talk to your Personal Clothier for more details.
As a teenager, Jovan Gauthier gained an interest in dressing well upon re-watching James Bond movies, researching what makes him so stylish, and joining various menswear forums to continue getting feedback. He has written about tailored clothing for over a decade through his blog, Nouveau Vintage, after being inspired by others to share his passion.