Lasting Impressions

Tony Collins retired the suits he wore to his corporate job after starting AC Handyman Services in Brooklyn, New York, more than a year ago. When he pulled out his Giorgio Armani suit for a special occasion, he was dismayed to find a moth hole on the pant leg. “That’s what happens when you don’t wear your clothes,” he remarks. But clothing expert Steven P. Boorstein says the biggest offense against clothing is not dry cleaning them before putting them into storage.

“If you wear a garment for five minutes and put it away for the season, it’s moth bait,” he says. “They go after body oils, colognes, and food stuff you might not even notice. You must clean your clothes before you store them away.”

Suits can be an expensive investment. What you don’t know about buying and taking care of them can cost you money. Boorstein, author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing: Everything You Need to Know from Blue Jeans to Ball Gowns! (Boutique Books, $19.95), offers other helpful hints and that will prolong the life of your suits:

  • Rotate your wardrobe. Because most people only wear 20% of their wardrobe, shoppers should focus on buying clothing they really like, which will increase the rotation of what they wear and extend the life of their clothing.
  • Mind your fabrics. “It’s important to choose the appropriate clothing for the appropriate use,” stresses Boorstein. Although gabardine is a popular fabric, it is one that shines prematurely. “Sliding in and out of a car, rubbing the top of the legs under the desk, and [placing] elbows on the desk cause it to shine—and that’s just consumer use.” Keeping gabardine shine-free also poses a challenge for most dry cleaners. Choose 100% wools, particularly those of a lower thread count (80s). They wear well and are multiseasonal.
  • Buy a second pair of pants. Trousers, which tend to thin in the crotch and in the seat, are dry-cleaned more often than suit jackets. “At the time of purchase, buying a second pair is an inexpensive addition,” Boorstein says. You’ll avoid having to replace your entire suit.
  • Get your pants half lined. Most quality suits come half lined, but you can also have a lining installed. It protects the fabric and reduces friction that can cause material to thin out. Avoid fully lined pants, suggests Boorstein. After cleaning or altering, the lining can fall below the hem and cause pants to buckle.
  • Let them breathe. It’s important to hang up your clothes after you take them off. “Let your suit breathe for a few hours and use a soft bristle brush to remove any atmospheric particles,” he suggests. These simple measures reduce the need to constantly dry-clean your clothes, which also contributes to their deterioration. “Your clothes are an investment,” he adds. “If you take the time to take care of them, they will serve you well.”