Every fashionista’s address book contains the name of a great tailor and a reliable cobbler. After all, some alterations and repairs are best left to the pros. But there are loads of inexpensive, easy-to-use and invaluable tools that can be kept on hand for minor wardrobe emergencies, touch-ups and maintenance.
• Even high-quality sweaters will start to pill eventually, especially under the arms and at the hem. Sweater stones can help a bit, but a $10 sweater shaver is faster, more effective and less likely to cause snags. The best versions of these little devices look like men’s electric shavers, with a perforated metal head that guards fibers from the whirring internal blades. Pills are gently lifted, trimmed away and deposited into a lint catcher. A quick pass with a sweater shaver can make a pilly old sweater look good as new.
• Matching a shoe polish color to every pair you own is virtually impossible, and creams and treatments can backfire. But an inexpensive oiled leather sponge can work wonders on scuffed and faded shoes. These sponges are injected with mild protective oils that restore suppleness and shine to most porous leathers. They’re surprisingly dry and mess-free — unlike smelly, goopy polishes — and can last for years if stored properly. Test an interior patch first to make sure the oils won’t drastically alter your shoe’s color, then gently rub the sponge across any worn areas. Shoes that have been thoroughly damaged by water, salt or dryness won’t be saved, but those with minor scuffs and fading will be restored instantly.
• Nothing makes a button-front shirt look crisp and new like a thorough pressing, but ironing takes time and a certain amount of skill. If you’re short on either, consider a handheld steamer instead. For $30 or less, you’ll get a portable device that works wonders on wrinkled garments. In most cases, you’ll fill a small tank with tap water, plug in the steamer, and wait while the water boils. Once steam begins to flow, slowly pass the steamer across wrinkled surfaces from the inside of the garment. Stubborn wrinkles in wovens and twill may require an iron, but knits, jersey, wool and cashmere will respond beautifully.
• Tall boots are a fall and winter staple, but keeping them in shape can be challenging. Instead of purchasing expensive boot shapers, try rolling up old magazines and sliding them into boot shafts. This will keep all but the most slouchy of boots upright and crease-free. Wine bottles work equally well, but can prove hazardous if boots are stored on high shelves.
• Storing a large collection of scarves can be tricky, especially because they vary in weight, size and texture. If you’ve got room inside your closet door or on an interior wall, try installing a towel rack. Scarves can be draped over the rack itself, or you can add shower rings to the bar and insert multiple scarves in each ring. Extremely delicate and valuable scarves should be kept packed away, but casual ones will fare well. This simple storage method keeps scarves visible, accessible and relatively wrinkle-free.
On the go
Keeping wardrobe maintenance tools at home is only helpful if you’ve got the time and foresight to examine your outfit before heading out the door. Most wardrobe malfunctions happen while you’re on the go, and they are guaranteed day-ruiners. Having the tools on hand to deal with common style-related problems can make a world of difference, so consider assembling an emergency kit to keep in your purse. Fill a small zippered bag with blister block, double-sided fashion tape, safety pins, a stain removal stick, a mini bottle of clear nail polish, bobby pins and nail clippers. If you can squeeze them in, add ponytail holders, blotting papers and tweezers, but remember that the ideal emergency kit can be tucked into a handbag. Don’t let it get too bulky.