The following tips are from Garde Robe and are used with permission.
Do you have the walk-in closet you always dreamed of? Have you assembled an impeccable collection of vintage, haute couture, evening wear, footwear and accessories? Here are some tips for protecting your wardrobe and keeping items in pristine condition:
Never store your wardrobe in:
- Basements or attics where the temperature and humidity levels are inconsistent
- Closed closets in your second or infrequently visited home
- Closets that have an outside wall (these closets tend to have higher relative humidity)
- Near a window with sunlight
- Plastic or vinyl bags
Your wardrobe’s worst enemies
Changes in temperature, sunlight, moisture and material-damaging insects such as clothes moths can affect your clothing.
Heat - Particularly a problem for garments made from animal skins and furs. These fabrics require the natural oil to remain supple and prevent degradation and loss of integrity of the skin. Dry skins will eventually break down and becoming weakened and split.
Sunlight - Dye fading. The first color to fail will be any dye with purple including many blue garments. Sun fading can happen in as short a time as a few hours. Be careful when hanging a jacket in the back of a car to prevent over exposure.
Moisture - mold and mildew. Closets are generally dark places with little air movement. Add moisture and this is the perfect environment for the growth of mildew. Be sure to air out items that may have been subjected to high relative humidity before returning back to your closet. It is a good practice to open closet doors when leaving the home for a trip to allow air circulation in the closet.
Insects – always clean garments prior to storing them for an extended period of time.
For the long-term preservation of textiles and fabrics there are several ideal storage conditions:
- Steady temperature. Frequent changes in temperature affect the integrity of fabrics.
- Low relative humidity to prevent moisture and mold
- Low light to prevent light fading
- Filtered air to remove impurities that would be trapped in fabric
- Moving air to prevent culture growth
- Breathable garment bag and box storage
- Wrap items individually in acid free tissue and/or muslin
- To avoid distortion and stretching, never store vintage, embellished gowns, knits or delicate items on hangers; always store these items flat, wrapped individually in acid-free tissue, and place them in a breathable, archival box. Wire hangers in particular are less than ideal as they can distort the shoulders of heavier garments and can over time, rust and stain the fabric of a garment.
- Always remove the plastic garment bags from the dry cleaner immediately. These bags do not allow the garment to breathe properly, which leads to fume fading and the lack of air movement will permit moisture to collect, potentially causing mold to form.
- Never put worn items back in the closet next to clean garments. Even if a worn garment is “clean,” your body oils and perfume act as a magnet for material-damaging insects such as moths. Putting the worn garment back in the closet is an invitation, and these unwelcomed guests will create havoc and irreparable damage. Don’t kid yourself that a few pieces of cedar and a lavender sachet will keep your closet free from insects indefinitely.
- Be aware that leather items (handbags, shoes and garments) absorb a lot of water and can take longer to dry completely. After cleaning, keep leather pieces outside the closet for a few days before placing them in the closet. Items placed in the closet too soon could cause mildew and contaminate the closet.
- Don’t allow leather and denim items to come in contact with other items. Use breathable garment bags for hanging items, dust covers for handbags and individual boxes for footwear. Placing these items in the closet unprotected will lead to dye transferring.
- Don’t overcrowd your closets. Proper air circulation is critical for preserving fabrics.
- If you choose to store infrequently worn or off-season garments in a guestroom closet to avoid overcrowding your closet, be sure to open the closet doors and leave a fan on in the room from time to time and when you go on vacation.
Handling Delicate Fabrics
Suede - Suede garments with deep rich dyes can easily lose color intensity if over-cleaned. Once the color has been lost, only a slight amount of dye can be added back. Suede dyes are oil based and if over-applied will rub off with use. It is best to maintain suede often rather than wait until heavily soiled requiring deep cleaning. When deep cleaning is necessary, it is better to perform multiple light cleanings to minimize color loss.
Patent Leather - Stains on patent leather are often irreversible and the material is prone to scratching. The bright overcoat to patent is porous to many stains and dyes allowing the stain to migrate deep into the material preventing removal. Patent is also easily scratched during use or during improper cleaning. Be very careful to store all patent items in a cloth cover to prevent dye migration from an adjacent garment.
Silk - Silk is manufactured in numerous fabric styles. Silk satin (shiny silk) is suspect to snagging, chaffing, and staining. Caution must be taken when wearing jewelry, carrying handbags, etc. to prevent snagging. Care also must be taken during cleaning by placing all satin in net bags to prevent scratching and snagging by buttons, buckles, etc. in the cleaning cycle. Chaffing is the process of rubbing the color from the top of the fabric and breaking the surface fibers. The result is a chalky look when the fabric is viewed from a steep angle. Be careful to never attempt spot cleaning of satin with a damp rag. Blotting with a soft fabric is always preferred.
Chenille - Chenille fabric commonly utilized in sweaters and shawls is prone to unraveling during use or cleaning. The weave of chenille will work loose when over stressed and loose ends will appear eventually propagating into holes. Watch for snagging with jewelry, etc. and be careful to handle delicately to prevent the weave from unraveling. Silk items must be cleaned on a light duty cycle and the garment is to be secured in a net.
Cashmere - Soft cashmere is a low twist yarn of fine wool. The low twist results in the knit being subject to pilling (the creation of little knit balls on the surface of the material). To prevent pilling during wear it is critical that the garment fit properly (too tight a fit will cause excess rubbing), any over garment must have a slick lining and watch again for snagging from jewelry and handbags. Cleaning cashmere is to be done on a short cycle in a net. All cashmere is subject to distortion during cleaning and wear. Measure cashmere garments prior to cleaning and block instead of press back to shape and size. Blocking is necessary to return the knit to its original dimension and align the knit weave.