“If you’re investing in your wardrobe, whether or not we’re talking about custom suits or even sports equipment and gear, you have to take care of it if you want it to last,” says Julie Ann Clauss (née Orsini), who’s stored some of the world’s most beautiful clothes as an archivist for Tom Ford. “That includes being diligent about cleaning and storing the right way.”
Clauss has advised clients such as Calvin Klein, Jason Wu and Marc Jacobs, among others, and now runs The Wardrobe, a private archival consultancy that offers museum-quality conservation and restoration. Here, she recommends a few simple steps to assure your sartorial investments (big or small) are well protected.
Before investing in new garments — or launching a full-scale reorganization — consider selling or donating items you haven’t put on in a while. “If you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not wearing it again,” Clauss says. Exceptions to this rule: custom tuxedos or other timeless special-occasion garments.
Organize your closet in a logical, functional manner. “I like to keep things of like types together,” Clauss says. Consider grouping shirts from short sleeves to long sleeves, and color coordinating everything from light to dark. If you only have one closet, adjust your storage for ease of use. “The things that you wear most often should be front and center,” Clauss says.
Keeping your clothes clean is the most important thing you can do for their longevity — and that means really clean. Even items that aren’t visibly dirty can attract moths. “If you put something back that’s been worn, [moths are] attracted to this,” Clauss says. Moths will eat through clothing and lay eggs in fabric, potentially ruining an entire closet. If you sweat or spill anything except water, wash the item before putting it back in your closet.
Clauss recommends hand washing knits and button-ups at home, or using the services of a hand laundry, which is cheaper than dry cleaning and also better for the garments. “You’ll see that your cashmere stays really soft,” Clauss says. “It keeps it in better shape than sending it to the dry cleaner.” Plus, the gentle cleaning helps preserve color.
One exception to constant cleaning? Suits. If you’ve only worn a suit once, “leave it on a hanger in an area that’s well ventilated in your home for a day or two before you put it away,” says Clauss. You should only take it to the dry cleaner when it’s visibly soiled.
The way you store your clothing will not only preserve how it looks, it will also extend its life. Most importantly, don’t overcrowd your closet. Clauss avoids space-saving hangers, since storing clothes too close together damages clothing and can attract moths. (Clauss’s handy hack for storing neckties: just drape them over the bar of a standard hanger.)
“Clothing is meant to be worn on a three-dimensional body,” Clauss says. “So storing [suits] is usually a challenge because a really thin, flimsy hanger doesn’t allow the garment to take the shape it was intended to have.” Choose a hanger with a fuller shoulder to support the garment’s natural silhouette.
Plastic Suit Hangers by Mr. Siga $24
Thinner hangers are more appropriate for button-ups, but Clauss prefers plastic over wood, which can release gasses over time. “We use polypropylene hangers because they’re considered chemically stable,” Clauss says.
Clear Plastic Top Hanger by The Great American Hanger Company $29
Folding pants and hanging them over a hanger bar can lead to unwanted creases. “The best thing to do is to clip the hem of the pants and hang them that way,” Clauss says. To prevent clamp marks, Clauss recommends cutting a small piece of tissue paper to use as a barrier between the clip and pant.
Clear Plastic Pant Hangers by House Day $11
Knits should be folded so that they don’t stretch over time. When you fold a sweater for storage, Clauss advises using a layer of tissue paper to protect against wrinkles. “That way, as you stack sweaters on top of each other, the weight won’t push down [into the] crease and make a permanent wrinkle,” she says.
White Tissue Ream by Crown Display $27
Though there aren’t too many tools necessary for keeping a man’s closet in top condition, Clauss recommends having a basic iron and a $20 Secura steamer — both of which should be kept dry between uses. “The important thing is to change the water,” Clauss says. If you don’t empty the water after each use, you could spread mildew to your clothes the next time.
Instant-Steam Handheld Steamer by Secura $20
DW5080 Focus Steam Iron by Rowenta $73
A well-organized and -maintained closet need not be stagnant. If you want to buy something new and you have limited space, consider making room by donating items that have fallen out of favor. “One in, one out is a great rule,” Clauss says. If storage space isn’t a concern, Clauss gives the same advice as any investment professional: diversify. “Just try not to buy the same thing over and over again,” she says.