Top Tips

Wardrobe Organisation

Convert Clothing Chaos into Calm: follow The Lady’s Maid’s guide to Wardrobe Organisation.

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Organising your Wardrobe

Organisation is key to keeping a tidy and accessible wardrobe and prevent chaos from creeping into your clothing collection. There are many different constituent parts you have to bring together to create an outfit, so the process of dressing and creating outfits will be made a lot quicker and easier if your wardrobe is kept in a tidy orderly way at all times. Once you have a system for organising and storing your clothes you will begin to value the things you do have and want to get the full potential out of each garment, rather than resorting to buying something new when you’re looking for a new outfit to wear.

Here are some of The Lady’s Maids tips for keeping the perfect wardrobe:

  • Sort through your wardrobe as outlined in the previous post Detox your Wardrobe. Before rearranging the clothes give the wardrobe space a thorough clean – vacuum inside and clean the sides and base with a damp cloth. Leave to dry thoroughly before placing clothes back inside.
  • Re-line drawers with lining paper or drawer liners – preferably lavender or cedarwood scented to ward of moths.
  • The best way to organise your clothing is to divide it into sections such as: business/formal wear, casual wear, evening wear, outdoor wear. Within these sections organise garments by garment type (e.g. skirts/tops/trousers) and then by colour within these types, from darks to lights. Group together patterned and multi-coloured pieces.
  • Don’t pack things in the wardrobe too tightly – clothes need space to air and hang freely to allow creases to fall out.
  • Evening dresses with very delicate fabrics and clothes that are only worn occasionally should be protected from dust with garment bags. Use breathable calico bags. Short plastic shoulder covers can be used to protect the tops of dresses if you have lots of them and want to be able to view them all in your wardrobe.
  • Very heavily beaded dresses should be laid in drawers rather than hung as hanging them will cause the fabric to sag and stretch.
  • If you want your wardrobe to look professionally arranged and organised use matching hangers for all clothing within the wardrobe. This will keep the clothes hanging at an even level and make them look more streamlined on the rail. Slim wooden or non-slip rubber hangers are the most space-efficient.
  • Sort knitwear into groups such as: V-necks, High-Necks, T-shirts, Cardigans, and then into colour order: dark-light. Thick woollen knitwear is best kept folded in drawers or stacked on shelves to prevent the delicate fibres from stretching on hangers. Thinner knitwear can be hung but be sure to use appropriate hangers to support the vulnerable shoulder area, such as these ones from John Lewis.

Buy John Lewis Non-Slip Knitwear Hanger, Set of 3, White Online at johnlewis.com

  • If placing shoes at the bottom of the wardrobe below the clothing, order them in a way that corresponds with the clothing above. This will look better visually and will also enable you to match up the shoes with appropriate outfits.

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Storage solutions

There are many clothing storage solutions available that will help supplement your main wardrobe and help impart a little calm amidst the chaos:

  • Portable hanging rails are practical and economical if you need extra hanging space in a spare room, and also very useful for planning travel wardrobes. The downside of these are that your clothing will be exposed to dust, so make sure you only use clothing rails for everyday clothing that is worn and washed regularly.

Single Pole Garment Rail

  • Shoe hanging bags can be fixed over a hanging rail to allow you to store multiple pairs of shoes and are particularly good for flat and casual shoes.

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  • A multi-hook rail fixed over the back of doors for hanging coats and bags.
  • Baskets or stackable trays could be placed on shelves within the wardrobe to keep together bulkier accessories that are awkward to store elsewhere.

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  • Draw dividers – good for organising underwear or accessories such as belts within drawers.

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Top Tips, Wardrobe Management

Detox your Wardrobe

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

– Leonardo da Vinci.


Clutter is something The Lady’s Maid tries to avoid, especially within the wardrobe. Some of the wardrobes that the Lady’s Maid has worked with are so large she gets lost in them and would quite like to stumble upon a Narnia-like world to escape them. Ladies that employ a Lady’s Maid are evidently in need of someone full-time to impart some order on to the chaos that can become a woman’s wardrobe. But whatever the size of your clothing collection it is still important to adopt a little organisation and appropriate decision-making to get the best out of it. A YouGov survey revealed that there are around 2.4 billion pieces of clothing lying unworn per year in the UK, cluttering up wardrobes across the land; this equates to approx 46% of the national wardrobe.* Whilst some people may be hanging on to things for posterity, or “just in case” they need it, there is undoubtedly an accumulation and hoarding of unwanted or unnecessary clothing going on.

The often heard sartorial refrain: “I have nothing to wear” is often due to clothing clutter – it is hard to create an outfit if you can’t easily locate one. The Lady’s Maid advises performing a wardrobe detox at least twice a year to prevent overcrowding the closet. So, before you begin organising your winter wardrobe, try and have a clearout to eliminate old clothing that is no longer worn. This process is so important, especially if you regularly buy new clothing, as it will free up space for the remaining clothes and new ones, enabling you to organise them better and find specific items easily. It will also help you to identify what gaps you may have in your wardrobe – garments that you may need to purchase to get the full potential out of what you currently have. Having a thorough wardrobe audit is also very liberating – it will make you feel much more organised and in control of your clothes and your style. The ends of seasons are the best times to have a clearout, so you can do it at the same time as rotating your wardrobe and putting out-of-season-clothes into storage (see post on seasonal storage for tips on storing clothes).

When you go through your wardrobe, be realistic about the clothes that you wear day to day; hanging on to garments that you no longer wear takes up space unnecessarily, so try to adopt a ruthless sorting process. The detox process will be easier for you if you have a portable garment rail to place clothing on while you are sorting through your garments. Divide into the following groups:

  1. Keep, wear regularly
  2. Keep, but need to supplement with new purchases in order to wear
  3. Washing/ironing/mending
  4. eBay
  5. Charity
  6. Storage (out of season)
  7. Discard/recycle

If there are any garments that are dirty or damaged or need altering deal with them before returning to the wardrobe or selling/donating to charity. If they need repairing/altering you aren’t going to wear them until they’re fixed – nothing should be in the wardrobe that isn’t ready to wear.

If garments no longer fit or you haven’t worn them in a while, try selling on eBay first or donate to a charity shop. Popular designer and high-street labels and occasion outfits/dresses tend to sell better on eBay than casual clothes, so consider sending casual clothes straight to the charity shop if they are in good condition, or to a clothing recycling bank. High end designer labels will also sell well on designer second hand clothing websites such as www.hardlyeverwornit.com

Keeping organised

To keep your clothing collection at a manageable level, try to resist purchasing any unnecessary items and focus instead on filling the gaps in your wardrobe that were revealed after the clear-out – Group 2 is likely to be full of separates which only work if they have something to work with. Make a list of things you think your existing wardrobe would benefit from and focus on acquiring these items the next time you go clothes shopping. Your goal is for a complete, versatile and manageable wardrobe to fit in with your space and lifestyle. Resist the temptation to purchase new one-off garments unless you think they will complement what you already own.

Another way of keeping control of your new tidy wardrobe is to always get rid of something old every time you buy something new. Unless you have unlimited space this is the only way that you will keep the size of your wardrobe at a constant level and prevent overcrowding. By selling old items on eBay this will also make you feel more justified in making a new purchase as you have given yourself a discount tag!

Once the detox is complete your remaining wardrobe needs to be efficiently organised so that you can easily locate specific garments. Avoiding clutter creeping back in will be much easier if you have appropriate wardrobe space and storage solutions, so in the next post The Lady’s Maid will look at wardrobe organisation.

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* YouGov report commissioned by Marks & Spencer in April 2012.

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Clothing Care, Top Tips

Caring for Cashmere

The Lady’s Maid embraces the colder weather that winter brings as it is an opportunity to luxuriate in cosy cashmere sweaters. But the delicate nature of cashmere wool requires extra special care and attention to keep it in tip top condition that will see you through the winter this season and many seasons to come.

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Cashmere is a very fine natural hair fibre obtained from goats; garments made of cashmere are much softer than lambswool and tend to be much more expensive. Its smoothness also makes it more wearable than lambswool which can feel slightly scratchy against the skin. The Lady’s Maid has offered guidance below on how best to wash, dry and store cashmere to prevent damaging the delicate fibres.

Washing

  • When washing cashmere turn the garment inside out and gently hand-wash in cool/lukewarm water and a gentle liquid detergent suitable for hand-washing such as Woolite or a specialist cashmere shampoo.
  • Make sure that the detergent is dissolved thoroughly in the water before adding the clothing (add hot water first to dissolve the detergent and then top up with cold water to achieve a cool temperature).
  • Use a squeezing movement, rather than rubbing which can cause felting and damage the fibres.
  • Rinse in cool water to remove all traces of the detergent.
  • Loss of dye can occur in coloured garments when hand-washing especially if the garment is new. It is therefore advisable to wash new garments on their own to minimise the risk of colour run to other garments.

Drying

  • Never tumble dry cashmere or any wool garment as this will shrink the garment.
  • Do not ring dry as this will cause structural damage to the fibres.
  • Gently squeeze after rinsing and then roll in a clean towel to remove excess moisture and leave to dry flat on a soft dry towel.
  • Reshape whilst damp to maintain the shape of the garment.
  • Do not hang on a hanger to dry as this will stretch the fibres.
  • Iron on the reverse with a medium hot iron using a damp pressing cloth to prevent shiny marks from forming.

Storing

  • Cashmere knitwear is best kept folded in your wardrobe or drawers to prevent the delicate fibres from stretching on clothes hangers. Some finer knitwear can be hung on hangers to prevent creasing but, make sure you use suitable hangers that protect the shoulder area as much as possible.
  • When storing cashmere garments long term always protect them from pests by packing in a special knitwear bag such as this one from Brora or in a similar breathable clothing bag, this is essential as moths adore cashmere. See Seasonal Storage for further tips on storing clothes.

Pilling

Bobbling or “Pilling” is common in knitwear and is caused by repeated wear of garments which causes fibres to loosen and form little balls. Pick off bobbles with a sweater comb or a bobble remover gadget/clothes shaver or individually with a disposable razor. Take care when using gadgets/combs on delicate wools as you risk damaging the rest of the garment.


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bobble remover

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knitwear comb


The Lady’s Maid Recommends:

These are The Lady’s Maid’s recommendations for quality cashmere garments:

  • Brora – quality cashmere specialist, beautifully made and timeless pieces. A large range of patterns and colours. All garments made in Scotland.
  • Marks & Spencer – reasonably priced classic cashmere jumpers and cardigans.
  • Johnstons of Elgin – scottish supplier of classic cashmere garments since 1797.
  • The White Company – elegant neutral shades of classic cashmere.

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Clothing Care, Top Tips

The Scourge of The Moth

“The old definition of moth was, ‘anything that gradually, silently eats, consumes, or wastes any other thing.’ It was a verb for destruction too. . . . ”

– Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs

There is one creature that really tests the otherwise impeccable and unflappable demeanour of The Lady’s Maid, and that is the clothes moth. It indiscriminately wreaks havoc within the finest of wardrobes across the land, ravaging the most expensive and luxurious of clothing in its path. So what should one do if ones winter woollens fall victim to the scourge of the dreaded moth?  If your winter wardrobe is full of cosy cashmere and luxury knitwear, then I applaud you for your excellent taste, but unfortunately for you the moth has exquisite taste to match. In fact, the finer the yarn the more digestible it is, so angora, fur and cashmere are akin to banquet food for moths. Clothing made of animal protein fibres only, eg. silk, wool, fur and leather are the textiles most at risk from moth attack. The damage itself is not caused by the adult moth but by the larvae which the female moths produce, these larvae burrow across protein fibres within the textile eating it as they go and leaving behind holes in the fabric. It is worth mentioning here that the moths most likely to cause trouble in your wardrobe are the common clothes moth and the case-bearing clothes moth, which are generally smaller and paler in colour in comparison to the large brown house moths that you may find flying around kamikaze style into the light of your bedside lamp. These larger house moths prefer feeding on plant material, so they are not as keen on your clothing.

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Recognising a moth attack

Clothes moths live quite happily in warm and dark areas, so you may not even notice that you have a problem until you bring out your winter clothing after storing it for the summer months. If you notice large ragged holes in your knitwear, then this is probably a result of a moth attack. Other signs could be the presence of little eggs about the size of a pin-head; these then hatch into larvae, which look like creamy white caterpillars which then feed on the clothing fibres leaving behind trails that look similar to wispy cobwebs.

Treating a moth infestation

  • Remove all clothing from wardrobe units, even if it isn’t visibly damaged. Wash or dry-clean to kill any moth eggs or larvae that may be present on the clothing. Brushing clothing or ironing with a hot iron (between a damp pressing cloth if necessary) will also destroy moth eggs.
  • Thoroughly vacuum and clean the wardrobe and room, paying particular attention to the cracks and crevices of the wardrobe and the corners of the room in case any moths are hiding under carpets. Dispose of the vacuum bag immediately as this will be a dream home for moths – if you have sucked up any larvae they will set up residence inside the bag.
  • To trap adult male moths and prevent them from breeding place a moth trap inside the wardrobe, available from www.mothprevention.com.The strip contains powder saturated with female pheromones which will attract and trap the male moths preventing them from reproducing and causing any further damage. Use a pesticide spray such as Moth Stop Spray, available from Lakeland Ltd. Spray on infested areas, paying particular attention to the cracks and crevices of the units. Remember never to spray pesticides directly on clothing – all clothing should be removed from the wardrobe before any pesticide is used.
  • For clothing that is damaged, isolate the garment by placing in a cellophane bag and then into a freezer for 2-3 days. This will kill the moth and any moth eggs or larvae present. On removal from the freezer leave the garment in the bag until it is brought back to room temperature. It may be possible to repair damaged woollen garments by darning if the holes are not too big. If the damage is very bad and the garment is valuable to you take it to a professional seamstress to repair. There is a process called “invisible mending” where threads are taken from the seam allowance of the garments and re-weaved over the hole by hand. www.invisible-mending.co.uk
  • If after returning your clothing to the wardrobe you notice further insect damage, then it may be necessary to seek help from a professional to treat the infestation. See www.rentokil.co.uk for further advice.

Preventing future moth attacks

The following steps should be taken to prevent future moth attacks:

  • Keep your house as clean and dust-free as possible – vacuum and dust regularly, especially the wardrobe space and clothing storage areas. The wardrobe should be cleaned out thoroughly a couple of times a year – perhaps when you are rotating the clothes with the seasons. Re-line drawers with lavender or cedar-scented lining paper eg. Cedar Rose Draw Liners from The White Company. The bedroom/dressing room, along with the rest of the house, should be deep cleaned once every month to prevent a build up of dust and dirt. Deep-cleaning is a thorough clean where furniture is moved and cleaned underneath, inside and out. Every surface, nook and cranny is thoroughly dusted, cleaned and vacuumed.
  • Utilise insect repellents to deter the pests. Lavender sachets or cedar wood blocks are the Lady’s Maid’s particular favourites as they are natural and will also make the clothes smell nice. John Lewis and  Lakeland Ltd sell good ranges; Cologne & Cotton also sells some pretty lavender sachets. Replace or re-fill every season as the moth-repelling properties will wear off over time.
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Cedar Wardrobe Fresheners: John Lewis

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Lavender Sachets: John Lewis

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Lavender Sachets: Cologne & Cotton

  • If you buy a vintage garment or any second-hand clothing made of animal fibres, always wash or dry-clean before putting in your wardrobe to minimise the risk of transporting any larvae that may be present on the clothing.
  • Always wash or dry-clean clothes before long-term storage and pack away properly (see post one on seasonal storage). Pay particular attention to clothing that is made of protein fibres: wool, fur, feather, leather.

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Top Tips, Wardrobe Management

Seasonal Storage

As the days start to draw in and the temperature drops autumn/winter brings not only the very welcome start of a new series of Downton Abbey (about which the Lady’s Maid is naturally very excited) but the need for a seasonal wardrobe change. Now is a perfect time to pack away your summer clothing and bring out the winter woollens. With that in mind the Lady’s Maid thought it fitting to use her inaugural post to offer tips and guidance on how best to store clothing when it is out of season.

‘ “This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.’

– C. S. Lewis, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe

If you don’t have an enormous wardrobe extending onto a further magical world like Narnia you will need to pack away clothing after summer has passed to maximise the space available for winter wear, which is likely to be much bulkier (especially if like lucky Lucy your wardrobe is full of furs).

Clothes are at the greatest risk of damage when in storage if they are not protected properly, so ensure that you take the correct steps to protect your garments. If you have a spare room, put a rail or wardrobe in there for clothes you want to keep on hangers, otherwise most clothes can be folded and put in clothing storage bags or boxes and placed on top of wardrobes or under beds.

1. Firstly, ensure that everything going into storage is washed, clean and thoroughly dry. Surface dirt and dust will become more ingrained over time and cause damage to the clothing fibres. Dirty clothes will also attract bugs and pests – any natural protein fibre clothing with old food stains or perspiration will attract moths and carpet beetles which cause damage to the clothing fibres. Some stains are colourless, so even if the clothes aren’t visibly dirty it is best to wash/dry-clean them first before storing. Moths attack only natural protein fibres (silk, cashmere, wool) so your winter wear is more susceptible than summer wear but other bugs could still be attracted to any dirty or dusty clothing.
2. If there are any clothes that need mending make sure they are fixed before storing.
3. Never store clothing in polythene bags or plastic garment bags, especially if the garments are made of natural fibres which need to breathe. In plastic bags condensation will form and could cause mould or yellowing of fabrics, leading to permanent staining.
4. Garment bags should be made of a breathable material, like calico, and large enough to hold each garment. Do not pack too many garments in one bag as the fabric needs space to breathe and to hang naturally to prevent creasing.

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clothing storage box: The Holding Company

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garment bag: The Holding Company

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clothing storage bag: Cath Kidston

   5. If storing garments in boxes, fold and wrap clothing with acid-free tissue paper to provide further protection and prevent creasing. Use breathable boxes or bags specifically for storing clothing. Acid-free tissue paper is available from specialist stationers or some dry cleaners e.g. Jeeves of Belgravia. Garment bags and boxes can be bought from department stores and specialist storage companies such as The Holding Company or http://www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk. For added protection you could seperate precious knitwear from  other clothing and place in special cashmere storage bags such as these ones from The White Company.
6. Place an anti-moth lavender sachet or cedar wood block at the top of each storage box or hanging on the garment bag to protect from moths and other pests.
7. Place the storage containers in a cool damp-free area away from direct sunlight and heat. Above wardrobes or under beds are the most obvious places, or in spare rooms. Attics are not the best place for storing clothes as they are likely to become quite hot in summer and possibly damp in winter. They are also likely to be very dusty places as, unless you are the most devoted of housekeepers, it is unlikely that you regularly dust your attic. These conditions combine to make them the ideal home for bugs, and conversely the worst home for your clothing. Clothing stored in attics is also susceptible to damage from rodents looking for bedding material to make nests.
8. Try and inspect clothing that is in storage every now and then – moths are crafty creatures and even if you have taken all of the above precautionary measures, the odd one could slip through. In the event that this occurs you will want to be able to deal with any damage caused as soon as possible.
9. If you are likely to go on holiday to sunnier climates during the winter, it would be a good idea to keep holiday clothes together in one storage box so that they will be easy to locate when it comes to packing for your holiday.
10. When bringing clothes out of storage brush them down with a clothing brush and give them a steam or press to freshen them up. Wash if necessary or refresh with a scented linen spray.
11. If your wardrobe overwhelms you and you are prepared to pay to store clothing off-site companies such as The Wardrobe Curator will catalogue your wardrobe and store out of season clothing until you need it again.

In the next entry The Lady’s Maid will look at what you should do if your knits have suffered that most calamitous of clothing crises – the moth attack.

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