Spring is officially here. The birds are chirping. The flowers are blooming. And you’re ready to pull out your sunglasses and sundresses and head outside. If you’re like me, you may be feeling like you never want to see a coat or scarf ever again. Seriously, never ever again. But unless you’re migrating south, you’re going to need that winter wardrobe to be in great shape next winter too.
This weekend, as I dropped off two pairs of boots to my neighborhood shoe repair for end-of-season cleaning and heel repair, I realized it’s time for the official wardrobe switch over. But I tend to forget exactly what’s required to do the switch well. Since I take a lot of time and care (and sometimes money) in selecting what goes in my closet, I want those pieces to last for several more seasons. So I figured there’s no better time than now to get organized with a good old-fashioned list to make sure I spend as much time and care in putting away last season’s clothes and accessories as I do in pulling out my old favorites from last spring/summer.
For your benefit and mine, included here are my checklists for saying “thanks and see you later” to your winter wardrobe and saying “hello” to spring. And as an added bonus, you can download a simple PDF version, so you can keep the lists handy for future reference.
*Before I leap in, just a quick note. I have a tiny NYC apartment, so I don’t have lots of space to store anything. In fact, I usually have all seasons of my wardrobe accessible year round. But taking the time to properly mend, clean and fold/hang clothes after a season (especially winter woolens!) is key to helping them last for years to come. So whether you have the luxury of being able to store away off-season clothing or you’re just moving them a little further to the back of your closet, following these steps will help your things last a lot longer.
It’s always at the end of a season that I start to hate everything in my closet. Nothing feels new or exciting! I’m so over it all. And winter is the worst season for this feeling, of course, because I’m as tired of the cold as I am of every sweater in my closet.
But we are resilient! We can turn moments of desperation into moments of great creativity! As I remember New York still being cold in April of last year, I know I’m going to have to put up with my winter weather clothing for longer than I would like. To make this easier and more exciting for us all, here is a little DIY guide on embellishing a sweater from our costumer-in-residence, Lisa. Whether you just need a little extra sparkle or you’re hiding a hole or stain, a few beads and sequins can make an old sweater new again.
Here’s the how-to from Lisa:
Materials and Tools
A vintage, thrifted or well-loved sweater
Small seed beads
Short bugle beads (like these vintage ones!)
(1) First, lay out your sweater flat, and start playing with the design of your beads and sequins. For my pattern, I chose something relatively easy. Starting with my sequins – I chose metallic blue sequins with a center hole – I placed 4 sequins on each side of my cardigan’s neckline, about an inch apart. Then I chose how my bugle beads (the long, skinny beads) will be arranged around the center sequin. I chose to go with 5 silver bugle beads fanning out from the middle of the sequin.
(2) Thread your beading needle and knot the two ends together. With thread folded on the double, start sewing on the backside of the sweater by making a stitch horizontally through the sweater immediately behind where your first sequin will be: start from the back so that your knot is on the inside of the sweater and make a small stitch to the front of the sweater and back in. This gives a good foundation for stitching and means the knot will not pull through.
(3) Now point your needle through the center of the sequin and pull through to the front of the sweater. Add 1 small seed bead to your needle and let it slide down the thread to meet the sequin. Without going through the seed bead, go back through the hole of the sequin to the backside of the sweater.
(4) Next, start attaching the bugle beads. Push your needle back up through the front side of the sweater where you’d like the bead to go. Then slide a bead on the needle and go immediately back through to the inside side of the sweater. Repeat until all the bugle beads in this cluster are secured.
(5) To complete a cluster (or once you’ve run out of thread), tie off your thread by stitching horizontally on the inside of the sweater and (6) double knotting the thread. Cut the thread, leaving ¼” of extra thread above the knot.
Repeat all steps until the neckline (or anywhere else you choose) has been fully embellished, completing one cluster of beads and sequins at a time. The pattern does not have to be perfect, as mine clearly displays, to turn out beautifully. These steps work well for anything you are looking to embellish, from clutches to collars to sleeve cuffs.
Here’s to hoping you and your sweater survive this winter together!
Dry cleaning may be one of the biggest mysteries in life. You drop it off to someone whose business name changes every couple months, your clothing disappears to an unknown location for a few days, and then it comes back with a big price tag. It is perhaps just as much as mystery that once you are an adult, suddenly everything in your closet “needs” to be dry-cleaned.
I never used to question the reasoning behind those itchy care labels inside the garment. Then I found out that the biggest environmental impact of our clothing’s lifecycle is once we’ve taken our clothes home from the store and started caring for them (Water! Chemicals! Energy!). I also learned that it’s actually the law that clothing manufacturers include these, which set off my “bullshit” radar. Does “dry clean only” really mean just that? Or are clothing manufacturers just protecting themselves? Considering the cost, the scary chemicals, and now these new facts, it seems like there is an opportunity for something better here for our clothing, our health, and, yes, the environment.
Care labels didn’t exist until 1971 when they became mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in order to protect consumers and took on their current form in 1984 after said consumers reported that the labels were believed to be “incomplete, inaccurate, and inconsistent.” The rule is that the care label must include at least one (and therefore, usually only one) method of recommended care, as well as warn against any method that might damage the garment. If a customer follows the recommended method and the garment is damaged, then the manufacturer or brand is held responsible. Obviously, if you make clothing, it is in your best interest to put the absolute safest method of care so you don’t have customers requesting replacements for their damaged clothing or reporting you to the FTC. (source)
And because of these rules, a lot of garments that can be washed by hand at home or in cold water on your washer’s gentlest cycle are marked “dry clean only.” In fact, the laundry mavens behind The Laundress suggest “90% of items labeled “Dry Clean Only” are actually washable.” (source)
These labels also come with their own language. I never knew that the above symbol of a circle and cross meant “no dry cleaning”, but perhaps that’s because this symbol never actually appears on a label. Instead of silly symbols, I’d like to advocate that we just get to know our clothes a little more intimately and perhaps even get a little handsy.
If you’ve been dry cleaning everything, consider what your future dry cleaning-less life will include: money savings as you wash more things at home and less at the dry cleaner, longer clothing life since you’ll be sparing your clothes from all of those toxic chemicals, healthier life for you, laundry workers and everyone else on earth as we decrease these chemicals in our homes and environment, and hopefully some energy savings as you opt for more hand washing and air drying to keep your clothes looking new.
This is a win-win situation for all as long as you take some time to choose the right method for the garment.
Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up a long the way:
1. Don’t over-wash clothing. More washing = more wear. If a garment isn’t truly dirty, refresh it instead of washing it. Air out the garment or hang up in the bathroom during your steamy shower and that will likely be all you need to keep it fresh for a few more wears.
2. If a garment truly needs to be cleaned, read the fiber content label to decide whether it can be cleaned for at home.This chart from the experts at the Laundress details the temperature and treatment for some of the trickiest fabrics. They recommend their own specially formulated detergents but doing a little research can likely reveal some cheaper options. For example, Dr. Bronner’s is apparently a great detergent for silks.
3. Learn how to handwash. I wouldn’t start handwashing with your absolute favorite silk shirt, but start with something simple like a sweater. Here’s a great how-to from Martha herself.
4. Skip the dryer. Dryers and their hot air can be particularly abrasive on fabric and fade colors. The safest method of drying is always air-drying. For my wool sweaters that I used to dry clean, I now wash them with a gentle detergent on the “woolens” cycle in cold water and lay flat to dry to help them retain their shape.
5. Get the professional look without the chemicals. If you’ve been dry cleaning everything for the perfect finished look, consider having them washed with the rest of your clothes but professionally starched and ironed for the crispy dress shirt look or using an at-home steamer to get those wrinkles out of delicate garments (or use the steam function on your iron). I’ve heard this steamer is amazing.
Finally, there are some garments that are still too intimidating for me to wash at home, such as the fancy party dress and the fully lined winter wool coat. For these big or particularly delicate items, there are alternative to dry cleaning like liquid CO2 cleaning and wet cleaning available at “green” dry cleaners. Just make sure to ask them what “green” or “organic” means when it comes to the nitty gritty of what they’re going to do to your clothes.
This list of tips is just a start! I hope you’ll share your own tips and tricks for avoiding the dry cleaner in the comments below!
Last week, my mom/seamstress fixed a ripped belt loop that had created a fairly large hole on one end of the loop. I had no idea if it was even repairable, so I was amazed when it not only could be fixed by hand but also looked like nothing had ever happened. This week, our seamstress-in-residence, my sister Lisa, is back sharing how this sort of magic can help you out if you too have done the “skinny jean jig” one too many times. – Rebecca
It happened to me one day as I was getting dressed for work. I was doing my usual skinny jean jig and, whoops, there went a belt loop. Now being a seamstress doesn’t mean I will fix everything right away or even within a month. Cut to six months later and I’m finally digging through my Ziploc full of iron-on patches ready to fix these pants.
For those of you new to the mending scene, iron-on patches are pieces of fabric (usually a twill or jean) with an adhesive backing that can be ironed onto the underside of any rips or tears to stabilize the torn fabric and hide the rip. It also gives you something to sew that ripped belt loop back onto.
Once I find a matching jean colored-patch and plug in the iron, the fun begins:
– An iron-on patch in a similar color (these can be found at drugstores as well as sewing stores)
– An iron
– A long needle (big can be better when it comes to thick fabric like denim) or a sewing machine
– Thread to match the thread of your jeans
– A few straight pins or safety pins
Start with heating up the iron: high heat is fine – a cotton setting if you have it – since the patch is made of cotton. If you are ironing onto a non-cotton fabric, adjust the temperature of the iron to the setting for the main fabric. In general, it’s smart to avoid any steam. A little bit is okay, but the steam can prohibit the adhesive from sticking as well as it could.
Next step is to prep for ironing by placing the patch. I trim my patch down to about a half-inch bigger on all sides of the rip.
01. Then, I pin the patch in place with the adhesive side facing down on the wrong side (i.e. the inside of the jeans) and flip over to the right side (i.e. the exterior) to make sure it’s covering the rip.
Once everything is lined up on the right side, flip back over to the wrong side, making sure to keep everything in place as best as you can (that’s why the pins are super helpful!) and take the iron to the patch. For this situation, it was imperative to catch the ripped jean and the ripped belt loop with the iron even though the belt loop has a thick bottom. That means iron as hard as you can.
02. Finally, let’s reinforce the patch with some stitching. I was anxious and did my first stitches very quickly on my sewing machine with a tight zig-zag stitch above the original belt loop stitch.
03. The stitch is still holding, but I can still see the rip.
04. So I decided to strengthen the stitching by hand with a “slip stitch” (or blind stitch) by running the needle and thread through the belt loop end and into the patch at the back and then repeating this loop until I’ve got a secure stitch connecting the belt loop back to the jeans and patch. Really there is no wrong way to mend as long as it holds! Just be sure to tie off the thread on the inside of your jeans after you’ve finished stitching with a knot as close to the fabric as possible.
05. Sometimes your rip may have left some frayed threads. If that’s the case, now is the time to cut these away for a clean, finished look.
06. You’re done! The belt loop is now securely fastened to the patch.
Tip: If your iron-on patch comes unstuck in the wash, Stitch Witchery is a great iron-on adhesive tape found at your local sewing store that will re-attach the patch to the jeans. It can be cut down to fit around your patch and ironed on using the same method as you did with the patch before.
While the belt loop may look as good as new, it’s best to do your future skinny jean jigs while pulling up the whole waistband, and not relying on belt loops.
More mending questions? Find Lisa on twitter @lisammagee or follow her tumblr, Stitched History, for her inspiring look into costume and fashion history.
Suki Mulberg Altamirano wears many hats (including one very adorable straw one featured below!), but one of her coolest hats is as co-founder of STYLEVISA, which features the perfect home and personal accessories from designers and makers all over the world (I love the “shop by country” feature!). If our closets reveal a lot about us, I figured our suitcases are an even more concentrated story of who we are. I invited Suki to share what’s in her travel bag this summer to learn a little bit more about her style but also to pick up a few packing tips from a seasoned traveler. Below, she highlights her must-haves and gives us a little insight into the stories in her suitcase.
I’m always up for a good road trip, and summer is one of my favorite times of the year to explore new places. Next weekend, I’ll be heading on a quick getaway to Nashville, a city I can’t wait to check out. I’m a big fan of The Black Keys, which initially enticed me to learn more about Nashville’s new wave music scene. Besides heading out for some live music, a few items on my to-do list are exploring Nashville’s diverse neighborhoods and the local arts scene and just enjoying the unique vibe! Here’s a look at what I’m packing, a mixture of easy pieces for laidback summer days and year-round travel staples.
My Trusty Ray-Ban Sunglasses
I’ve had these classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses for years and rarely leave home without them. They really do make every outfit look cooler. From carrying them during daily life in New York City, San Francisco and now Louisville to packing them for trips to Mexico City and the beaches of Bermuda, I’m always impressed by how long they’ve lasted!
Quick Fix Sticks for Speedy Solutions
These are from a clever brand, Solutions That Stick, which invents all kinds of fashion first aid products. This fashion tape is great when you’re on the road. It packs flat and has a ton of uses, especially if you’re in a pinch. I use it to mend hemlines, keep shirts in place, fix buttons, hide rips or stop slipping straps.
Artisan-Made Nakate Songa Necklace
I really like how this necklace mixes a bold, ethnic shape with a soft pastel color palette. It’s a new handmade design that we just introduced on STYLEVISA from a brand called Nakate. They connect Ugandan professionals and artisans with women in rural villages, using local talent to cultivate African growth and development. When I wear their designs, it feels special knowing they originated in a small Ugandan village.
Summer-Perfect Straw Fedora Hat
This is my second season with this hat, and I love it! The natural straw material keeps it lightweight, and it cures a bad hair day instantly. I really like using hats year-round because they serve a double purpose: adding a unique style while protecting you from the elements. This fedora is my summer favorite, because it looks great and also provides sun protection – perfect to use while touring Nashville neighborhoods in the warm summer weather.
Lightweight Drapey Shirt
I tend to stick to neutral colors in summer and have an affinity for drapey, feminine shirts. For Nashville, I’m packing this ivory shirt with delicate details that has an artsy vibe reminiscent of the city. I like its simple, natural style and the lightweight fabric is great for keeping cool.
AYRES Beauty Miniatures
My mother started me on the habit of collecting miniature beauty products and saving them for travels. AYRES’ Pampas Sunrise mini body products will be coming with me next week. Their body butter has an amazing texture and a light citrusy aroma with essential oils like lime, mandarin and lemongrass. It puts me in a summer mood.
A Travel-Ready Handmade Leather Journal
I think it’s handy to have a place to jot down favorite spots and things you want to remember to do when you’re on the road. I use this leather journal to keep notes like these and also a list of recommendations I’ve received from friends. I like the rugged look of this leather journal, which is handmade the old fashioned way by experienced leather artisans in Los Angeles.
Suki Mulberg Altamirano lives in Louisville, KY. She is co-founder of STYLEVISA (along with her husband Eduardo) and Founder of Lexington PR. When she’s not planning her next trip, she can be found exploring the Louisville food scene, visiting local distilleries on the Bourbon Trail and if the season is right, at a horse race or two! Follow her @STYLEVISA or @SukiMulberg (and on Instagram too). Thanks, Suki!