While refreshing myself on Season 4 of “Mad Men” the other day, I paid particular attention to how everyone used to wear suits. Not just the ad men on Madison Avenue, but schoolteachers, secretaries and even security guards.
Today, most people I know don’t wear a suit (I’m talking matching pants, jacket, pocket square, the whole sha-bang) unless it’s for a job interview or a wedding. Heck, if one of the reporters around here shows up to the newsroom in a suit, everyone gathers round to find out what’s up. Sure, some industries maintain the exception, but for most Hoosiers working 9-to-5, the uniform is overwhelmingly khakis on the bottom, polo shirt on top.
I’m guessing no one misses the times when one’s first daily serving of starch came from a shirt collar, but our more casual weekly attire means our suits get less attention. Thus, the knowledge of how to properly maintain them gets lost, along with how to starch your shirt, for that matter.
So I asked Steve Arnold, owner of the local dry cleaning chain Classic Cleaners, to explain what most people don’t know about proper suit care. After Arnold lifted stains from two of my evening gowns that another cleaner had failed with, I’d trust him with anything in my closet (which is practically the same as saying I’d trust Arnold with my life). It all seems intuitive, yet before I talked to Arnold, all my suits were hanging in garment bags.
Yours, too? Read on.
• Most suit shirts are made from cotton, a fiber that won’t hold up to dry cleaning as well as wool. When you take in your whole suit, have the pants and jacket dry cleaned, but ask that your shirt(s) be laundered.
• If you don’t wear your suit often, try stuffing the jacket sleeves with tissue to keep them from wrinkling.
• When you drop your suit off at the cleaners, or when you’re preparing it for wear at home, make sure the lapels are pressed to a soft rolled edge instead of a sharp crease. This prevents gaping as you move around.
• Always unbutton your jacket before you sit down, as keeping the jacket closed while sitting adds stress to the buttons. This could cause the buttons to come loose or the fabric around them to wear out.
• Don’t hang your suit next to a sweater, or anything that will deposit lint
• If you’re wearing the same suit a couple of days in a row, hang it outside the closet between wears so it can dry out. This prevents body odor from clinging to the fibers and allows creases to relax.
• Don’t store your suit in the dry cleaning bag or any other type of garment bag. Many people believe such measures will prevent moth holes; however, if a moth somehow gets trapped in the bag, its not being able to escape will result in more holes.
• Make sure to get the pants and jacket cleaned at the same time. Dry cleaning tends to slowly fade fabric color, and cleaning the pieces simultaneously ensures they’ll fade at the same rate.
• If you spill something on your suit (who hasn’t dribbled a little soup on a lapel at least once?) don’t attempt to scrub it out. Dab the excess with a napkin and take it to the cleaners. If you point out the stain and tell them what it is, they’re more likely to get it out.
• Have your suit cleaned only if there is something on it, or up to a few times a year. The dry cleaning process degrades the fibers over time, and cleaning only as needed increases the life span of the suit.
The whole “contact Gabrielle if you have a fashion story idea” part is missing from this column because it is my last one before moving to Michigan. I have thoroughly enjoyed adding a facet to IBJ that had never existed before and helping to remind our readers that style deserves a seat at the business table. Thank you so much for reading.•