Now that Spring has officially arrived, it is time for the seasonal wardrobe transition! I always enjoy the changing of the seasons, and all of the things that go along with that… packing away my cold weather garments and then pulling out my warm weather ones always makes for a rather fun afternoon task- it’s kind of like opening presents! Switching your wardrobe around for a new season does take a bit of time, but it is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of garment care and maintenance as well. Here is how I go about switching around my closet, as well as some of the tasks that I like to do each season to keep my clothes and shoes in good condition.
Depending on where you live, transitioning your wardrobe might not be very drastic, and if you don’t live in a climate with four distinct seasons, it might not even be necessary. (Or if you live in the Southern hemisphere, you’ll be pulling out your fall and winter clothes) Here in Alberta we definitely do have four seasons but, while it is now officially spring, we certainly will have some cold days left, so I am not doing a complete wardrobe switch.
There are some etiquette “rules” that I like to follow for my closet, just because they make sense for me and the climate where I live. According to Miss Manners, here are some seasonal wardrobe rules:
–Straw should not be worn before Easter nor after Labour Day.
-Velvet should be worn between October 1 and March 1.
-Furs should not be worn between the months of March to September
-White should not be worn after Labour Day, nor before Memorial Day. (This one is rather archaic, and a better rule to abide by, rather than colour, is judging the weight of the fabric you are wearing. Gauzy white linen is not appropriate for fall and winter, depending on the climate of where you live, of course, but a white wool coat or stockings is a completely different matter!)
I moved my strictly winter garments, such as my fur collars, winter coats, berets and lined boots into storage and then rotated my lighter spring and summer items into my closet. While I might not wear some of them right away, because we do still have cool days ahead, I brought them out so I have something to look forward too! I most likely won’t wear my straw hats until Easter, but it’s still nice to take them out and hang them up too. I also don’t have that much space, so I have to trade the items in and out, to fit them all back into my closet. I keep my in-season clothes hanging in my bedroom closet, and put the out-of-season clothes in a suitcase.
I did leave some of the more “seasonally ambiguous” items in my closet, such as my brown Oxford pumps. Rather than moving them out with the winter wear, I decided to keep them in since I might be able to wear them while the days are still cool.
Before I put each item into storage, I made sure to look it over and see if it needed any cleaning or other repair. There’s nothing worse than pulling your shoes or clothes out in six months for the next season, and then having to wait to wear it until you can repair it, or even worse than that, it has become irreparably damaged from sitting. So, here are five of my garment care tips to do before packing your winter clothes away for the season.
Depending on the soil level, I don’t wash my clothes after every single wear. Some garments can be worn a few times before they need laundering, and if your clothes are delicates then they will actually benefit from less washing. Before you pack the clothes away, though, make sure to clean them so they don’t sit with dirt or odours for months. Dirty clothes in storage can attract moths or other pests, and any light stains on the fabric might set over the months and become a much bigger issue for you later on.
If you have “dry clean” items, you may be able to spot clean them yourself. I don’t like dry cleaning my clothes, because it’s not actually really cleaning and the chemicals are so pollutant and unhealthy. Thus, I prefer to do most of my own washing, though sometimes dry cleaning is a necessary evil. You can often spot clean your wool or hand wash delicate items. If you do decide to wash a woolen item, and it ends up wrinkled or out of shape, you can take it to the dry cleaners for a “press only”. I have done this before with pleated skirts and they come back looking so much better than I could ever get them to look with my iron at home. Once you’ve cleaned your items, make sure they are completely dry before storing. If you are storing your out of season clothes in bins or boxes, you can also add in cedar sachets to keep pests out.
Brushing & Shaving Your Woollens
Brushing wool is a new habit for me, and I learned this from the book How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. She talked about brushing wool clothes rather than washing them in order to clean them, and I had never heard of that! So, I have ordered myself a clothes brush with natural bristles (that is what she recommends in order to not damage the fabric over time) and once it arrives, I plan on brushing all of my winter coats before putting them away.
In the mean time, I will go over my coats with a velvet lint brush, as well as a pill remover/shaver. It’s amazing what a difference a brushing and shaving can do! A clothes brush works so much better than those sticky lint rollers, to take out the dust and dirt that collects. This is a good practice to get into a regular habit of doing, to keep your clothes in good condition, but it is especially important to do before you store your clothes.
Cleaning & Polishing Your Leather Shoes
This is such a simple thing to do to keep your leather in good repair, but it’s the one task that I always neglect. I am trying to get better at doing this more frequently, but I always seem to procrastinate and put it off for far longer than I should. (This is probably because shoe polish smells like death…and probably brings you closer to death as well…?) Every time I do get around to polishing my shoes, though, I am amazed at the transformation and vow to do it more often! I haven’t tried any of the more natural leather conditioners yet, but I’ve ordered one to try on my purse. I think it’s a natural wax that doesn’t smell as bad as regular shoe polish, so maybe I’ll use it more often!
Cleaning and polishing or conditioning your leather is a good thing to do regularly, but is also very important to do before your put your winter shoes away. Salt stains from ice-melt burn leather and if left untreated can ruin a good pair of shoes (I’ve had that happen before!) and other stains will only get worse over time.
First clean your shoes with a leather cleaner and a soft rag. (I clean mine with a suede cleaner solution since that is what I have on hand, and it works well.) Once your shoes are dry, you can polish them with either a cream or wax polish in a matching colour. I’ve heard different cobblers recommend both options, so I’m not sure which is better!
I’ve also just started using a shoe brush that we got from my Grampa, and I have no idea why I was using just a rag before- the brush gives such a nice polish! I like to finish the shoes off with a little sponge for a nice shine, and then they are done.
For any shoes that need more serious repairs, you can take them to a cobbler for fixing. I am so hard on my shoes, and have really done a number on some of my favourite pairs (such as ripping the finish off the toe of the aforementioned Oxford heels!) but it’s amazing how cobblers are able to restore them back to – almost- as good as new!
Storing Your Shoes
Once all of my shoes are polished and clean, I put them into shoe boxes with tissue paper in between to keep them from leaning on each other, and then put them back in my closet. I stack all of my shoeboxes on the top shelf in that inconvenient corner of the closet that you can’t quite reach, since it isn’t useful for storing things you actually need to access on a regular basis!
I don’t have quite enough boxes for all of my boots and shoes, since I only keep the shoeboxes with aesthetics. There were a couple of pairs of boots and shoes that I didn’t have boxes for, so I made some fabric bags to store them in, to keep the dust and dirt off, and they work just as nicely as boxes do.
Using Garment Bags
Coats can get so dusty while hanging in the closet over the summer, so I put a garment bag over the top of them- especially after having gone to the trouble to brush them clean! It is important to use cloth garment bags, not the plastic bags that come over dry-cleaning, because plastic can trap in moisture and cause your fabric to get musty. Instead of purchasing garment bags, I made some for myself out of vintage pillowcases. I’ve been using pillowcases as garment bags for a few years now, but had never gotten around to actually sewing them into the proper shape, so I decided it was finally time to do that.
To make your own, all you have to do is take a pillowcase and sew it into the shape you need. Pillowcases are easily found at thrift stores, or maybe you even have a few extra in your linen cupboard (or you can, of course, sew a rectangle of fabric to the width you need). Trace the hanger you will be using onto the wrong side of your pillowcase, and make sure to double check your tracing with a ruler, so you don’t end up with a lopsided angle. Curve the seam where it meets at the sides.
Sew along the line, then open a little hole in the seam at the top, for the hanger to go through. I hand stitched the top edge around that hole to keep it from unraveling, and then trimmed off the excess fabric with pinking shears. Flip it inside out and pop it over your coats, and that will keep them nice and clean until next fall!
Once I finished these garment care tasks, my seasonal wardrobe transition was done. Doing these tasks adds some time and is not as much fun, but it is worth it! Keeping your clothes and shoes in good repair will reduce your wardrobe costs over time, since you won’t have to replace your items due to damage. And, not only will it save you money in the long run, but your clothes will look better too; wearing a pair of freshly polished shoes is always going to elevate your outfit!
Do you switch out your wardrobe seasonally? What sorts of garment care or maintenance do you do for your clothes each season?