A stitch in time: how to care for clothes on the go

Two weeks ago Australia’s fashion set descended on Sydney for fashion week and, despite the impracticalities of travel and busy schedules, there was not a creased skirt, stained shirt or dropped hem in sight.

From the outside it might seem as though this is because editors, stylists and designers only wear the latest collections (read: new clothes). But while some gifting and loaning of samples does occur, the reality of working in the industry is not quite so glamorous – or generous.

Most industry professionals have simply learnt tricks to ensure that they always look polished. Here is the inside word on their favourite techniques and tools.

Sew it up

If you were hoping for a magic wand, this may be a disappointing insider tip: Amy Campbell, features writer for Vogue and GQ Australia, swears by keeping a needle and thread handy.

“Every time I visit a hotel that has a baby sewing kit as part of its amenities offering, I pocket it,” she says. This way, if she ever needs to “sew on a button or quickly stitch a hem” she has different coloured threads and needles to choose from.

A sewing kit
Keeping a sewing kit on you means you can fix buttons and loose hems wherever you are, says fashion writer Amy Campbell. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Harriet Sutherland, the buyer and boutique manager at Brisbane boutique Camargue, also keeps a sewing kit on hand, particularly for the snag repair needle. She says this type of needle has a “pointy end and a rough end” that works perfectly on snagged knitwear to pull the snag back through to the fabric and hide the pulled yarn.

Safety first

Ask any stylist what the one constant in their kit is and the answer will almost always be safety pins. Miguel Urbina Tan, the market editor for Harper’s Bazaar Australia, recommends buying “seamstress-grade safety pins in different sizes” rather than the ones you get at the grocery store.

The pins come in handy for a range of instant fashion fixes. Campbell finds them most useful when trying to “replicate the function of a missing button in a rush”.

Sutherland also makes sure she always has “a safety pin or two” in her handbag as a back-up, just in case an invisible hem falls down. Another hot tip for a quick fallen-hem fix is tape that can be quickly ironed into place.

Stains begone

Perhaps the only thing more annoying than finding a stain on something you want to wear while you’re getting dressed is not realising that the item you’re wearing has a stain on it until after you’ve left the house.

Urbina Tan swears by the Magic stain remover pen, which is small enough to fit in your pocket or handbag.

Sutherland says when she pulled out a dress she hadn’t worn in eight years and found stains: “I used a Magic stain remover pen and the stains came off immediately.” She also keeps a sponge on hand to “remove surface-level marks or stains” from garments quickly.

Hang tight

As with most clothing care tips, prevention is better than a cure. If you want to pull shoes and clothes out of your wardrobe looking pressed and fresh, it’s worth investing in the right storage equipment.

T-shirts on wooden hangers
Wooden hangers are better than wire ones – and cedar even better, to deter moths. Photograph: AnikaSalsera/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wooden coat hangers are gentler on clothes than wire ones, and opting for cedar has the added benefit of deterring moths. Campbell only hangs her trousers on hangers with padded bars, to ensure they don’t crease.

Similarly, shoes should be stored on shoe trees. Sutherland says this helps “maintain the shoe’s shape, draws out the moisture and combats odours”.

Wash with care

Putting clothes through the wash can be one of the fastest ways to age them. Marnie Gooding, the owner and founder of the fashion company Elk, recommends washing delicates and fine-gauge knits inside washing bags to protect them. Similarly, she uses a Guppyfriend bag when washing synthetics or activewear. And she suggests investing in a “good-quality clothes horse to lay knits flat when drying”, as this will help them keep their shape.

Other useful tools

  • Gooding recommends using a brass-tooth pilling comb to “remove both fine and larger pills from jersey to chunkier knits”.

  • Campbell suggests investing in a good waterproofing spray to extend the life of shoes and jackets.

  • Urbina Tan swears by Topstick double-sided tape (also known as wig tape) in case of true fashion emergencies – when a safety pin just won’t cut it.


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