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Bairbre Power on closet maintenance & getting the most out of your clothes


Caroline Quinn MacCann from the splendid specialist vintage store Dirty Fabulous, on Dublin’s Wicklow Street. Photo: Emily Quinn

Caroline Quinn MacCann from the splendid specialist vintage store Dirty Fabulous, on Dublin’s Wicklow Street. Photo: Emily Quinn

Caroline Quinn MacCann from the splendid specialist vintage store Dirty Fabulous, on Dublin’s Wicklow Street. Photo: Emily Quinn

It's true that wire hangers are only for breaking into cars - our clothes deserve more respect. They should be stored on wooden or padded hangers, and trousers and skirts are best suspended from clippy ones.

This week, I'm proselytising like a born-again closet convert after in-depth research with specialists about how we should store and maintain our clothes to get maximum, contented use. Did you know that dry cleaners caution against storing your clothes inside their plastic because it can lead to condensation and damage?

When was the last time you polished your shoes properly and fed the leather? I remember lovingly applying saddle soap to my favourite cowboy boots as a student but with work and motherhood, diligent wardrobe maintenance went out the window.

That's all changed now with my New Year's resolution for closet love. I've de-cluttered, hoovered it out, and bought lots of acid-free tissue paper for wrapping around my clothes - crucial when packing if you want to arrive wrinkle-free. I've invested in cedar blocks to hang with my clothes in the fight against moths. My garments can now breathe as they are spaced out so that I can actually see them, and I've pledged to dry-clean my coats before putting them away until next autumn.

Remember how your granny always kept a clothes brush near the front door for last-minute grooming? I've now assembled a nice family of brushes including a horse hair one, two shoes brushes, a suede brush (my favourite), an old toothbrush for delicate stains and a paint brush for dusting beaded clutches. I've a lint roller and a battery-operated pilling machine for knitwear that balls up, but I prefer to use the pumice stone that a friend gave me - there will be no more using disposable razors to shave my cashmere cardis.

I'm thrilled at the imminent arrival of a new steamer and, if I have to use an iron, I'll do it on the inside, to prevent marks, especially on lapels and shoulders. I've become best pals with the cobbler in Tara Leathers on Talbot Street and Tara Street. I now box my shoes; no more piles at the bottom of the wardrobe. I won't wear the same shoes on every consecutive day (experts recommend you don't wear them more than twice a week) and new shoes will get protective soles before I take a single step. I'm finding it very therapeutic applying shoe polish like my dad, Billie, did (army training, I suspect) moving it around in tiny circles like a French polisher before swooping with a polishing cloth. I never knew there was a special 'Parade Gloss' prestige polish by Kiwi for super-shiny boots. Can't wait to use that!

I knew that trick about washing jeans inside out to maintain their colour and I've resolved that there will be no drying items on the radiator. I've pledged to go back to drying wet jumpers by rolling them up in a towel, and I've bought Woolite for hand-washing. I want to get my pearls re-knotted and I've bought a €5 packet of earring backs so I don't lose any more earrings. Now if only I can stop losing left hand gloves - which is all the more weird because I'm right handed!

Favourite finds

The €2 packet of pre-threaded needles from Tiger Stores, like the ones you get in 5-star hotels. Perfect if you have an unexpected hem collapse/loose button.

Marks & Spencer sell stain wipes, €1.20, in the supermarket that I've found really effective. They also sell silk stain wipes in their menswear department for €7.

Practical Princess Perfect Wardrobe by Elika Gibbs, published by Ryland Peters & Small at €15.99, is handy book with lots of wise advice on everything from the de-clutter edit to putting clothes in storage. Clever lady, I highly recommend it!

Shiny happy people

Caroline Quinn MacCann from the splendid specialist vintage store Dirty Fabulous, on Dublin's Wicklow Street, regularly spends Sunday afternoon polishing her collection of patent shoes and bags using a soft cloth. She also uses a little Vaseline to keep patent leather supple.

If make-up lands on vintage clothes, Caroline spot cleans them but if it is a persperation stain, "you absolutely must get it dry-cleaned because it is biological stains that will damage a dress long term," she warns.

If you are putting something away for a long time that is heavily beaded, store it flat. If it is a heavily-beaded dress and you are only going to wear once or twice a year, store it flat in acid-free tissue paper. That will keep the dress in better condition because there is no extra weight hanging off the fabric.

Caroline stores her handbags in a drawer in dust bags, while I store mine flat. If you don't have that space, store them in dust bags or pillow cases. Stuff soft bags with tissue or scarves and socks - things that you don't need regularly - just to keep the shape. Don't store heavy things on top of each other, it will dent the leather - especially patent leather which can get dented very easily. Store these bags upright stuffed so the shape is correct, and in dust bags.

If the interiors of bags get stained, you can get them dry-cleaned. "If it is make-up, I would try a babywipe first or you can get a dry-cleaning fluid for silk ties and just rub it on with a cotton bud," says Caroline. 

For paste jewellery, Caroline warns to be careful. "I wouldn't overrub them. Use a soft, dry cloth. Some people clean with vinegar, Coca Cola and even WD-40 for verdigris," she says.

21 Wicklow Street, Dublin 2, (01) 611 1842, dirtyfabulous.com

Watch and learn

For more clothing care and maintenance tips, be sure to watch Bairbre's advice slot with Anna Daly on TV3's Ireland Am next Monday at 8.45am

Twitter: @bairbrepower

Irish Independent