Friday, March 23, 2012

As The Wardrobe Turns

("Springtime and the Average Guy," part two of three)
Chapter 59
Happy Spring, O My Average Guys! Yes, it's the time for Spring Break, outdoor sports, barbecues, and touring. My Advice for Spring Breakers is still timeless and required reading -- but before you get too excited, remember it's also time for yard work, repairs, and the dreaded annual Spring Cleaning. 

No, men are not exempt from Spring Cleaning. Especially now that you have endeavored to make the leap into dressing like an adult, you have some regular closet maintenance to take care of now. Specifically, the Seasonal Wardrobe Rotation. Clothes are seasonal things, as you should know by now, and the seasons are not "tee shirt" and "sweatshirt." Proper attire means more attire, and more specialized attire. Unless you have a cavernous closet, you should only have hangers for the current season's needs: no more than three months. In other words, there's no need to keep your heavy coats on hangers anymore -- they need to make way for sweaters and sport coats, and later on, polo and aloha shirts, before making way for the tweeds and wools of winter again. 

Clearing out hanger space begs the question, what do you do with the off-season's clothes? The answer is self-evident -- put them in the space left over by this season's clothes. Exactly where that is, depends on your own situation. If you don't have spare cedar-lined wardrobes scattered around your mansion, then a dresser, chest of drawers, or trunk, is the obvious solution. There are underbed storage solutions available for those tight on space. If you pack carefully and take steps to ensure the contents are  kept dry, even a cardboard box in the attic or cellar works well. Don't underestimate the value of a SpaceBag® storage cube, either; they really do work wonders. For those truly bereft of extra storage space, such as students and the like, think of using space that you're already using, such as storing your off-season clothes in your suitcases.

When packing away for the season, you want to make sure your clothes are clean and dry, so they will be ready to use again as soon as you unpack them. You needn't dry clean everything you own -- but you should make sure they are free of dirt, beaten well and "rolled" to remove lint and dust, and brushed with a clothes brush.

The question of just how to fold a coat is not one to take lightly. If you've had any experience with coats at all, you've noticed that, as well as they behave on a hanger, they can be darned unruly anywhere else. The shaped construction of the shoulders and chest don't seem to want to fold and pack away neatly. Don't worry; this is not a new problem. For hundreds of years, men have endeavored to find a way to fold their coats that would leave them wrinkle-free and fresh after extended storage.

There has always been a subtle black magic to folding a coat. There are some Internet tutorials on how to do it properly; but as these are varied, and sometimes conflicting in their information, I'll show you how to fold a few different sorts of coat when you put them away. 

The first thing to realize is that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Coats are of all different weights and styles of construction, and what works for one may not work as well for another.

First, I'll show the oldest method of folding, which dates back to before 1820. It works best on heavy, full-length coats without shaping in the shoulders. I'll demonstrate this on my winter Ulster coat. It's a box-coat, made full and square with no shaping at all, big enough to wear another heavy coat underneath it.. It's massive, but not padded or shaped. 

The first thing to do is lay it out flat and face down. 

Then turn the shoulders in so that they meet at the center back seam. 

Double the sleeves over at the elbow.

Unfold the lapels, and fold the fronts over so that they cover the sleeves.

It's important to make sure that the fabric is laying down perfectly smooth and even without any wrinkles.

Fold the coat in half such that the bottom edge is even with the collar.

Turn the coat over, and it should look like this. If you have a large, flat area to store your coats, you should stop here. The fewer folds the coat has, obviously, the less creasing you will see next winter. 

If you have a smaller area to fit your coat, fold it in half again. Several heavy coats will stack in a drawer this way.

If your coats have "hard" shoulders, the old method shown above won't work as well: it'll mash the shoulders flat and cause trouble later on. This next method works best for long, shaped coats. Here is a camel hair paletot. It's not an overcoat, but made to wear over a shirt like a jacket, with jacket-style shaping in the waist and shoulders. 

Lay the coat out flat as before. This time, turn one shoulder inside out, and turn that side of the front across to the back.

Hold the inside-out shoulder, put your hand in the other shoulder, and tuck the shoulders together. 

The result should look like this. Both shoulders are nested together: they support each other's padding, and the coat's lining faces out. The lapels and collar are unfolded. Make sure the sleeves nest together smoothly without wrinkles.

Then take the lapels and turn them inside the coat.

Turn the skirts halfway up like this.

Then fold the top half over, and this coat is ready to be packed away. 

The last remaining method I'll show is a hybrid of these two methods. It's very useful with short coats and jackets with lightly padded shoulders, but without a lot of shaping. Here's a heavy-ish tweed coat of mine. It's nice for the cold, but I have lighter tweeds for Spring, so in the trunk it goes!

Start with the coat face down.

Then turn both shoulders inside out. 

And then, fold both front sides over. Essentially, you've turned the coat inside-out, with the sleeves inside and the collar unfolded. Make sure the sleeves are laying smoothly inside.

Fold the coat in half...

...and in half again. This is a good space-saving method for these sorts of coats.

As you can see, each method results in a compact package with minimal creases, wrinkles, and stresses on the fabric. They all have several things in common, though -- They turn the lining out to protect the fabric, they fold around the sleeves so they can't get loose and flop around, they use as few folds as possible, and they all unfold the collar and lapels. When late Fall rolls around, you can be assured that when you crack open your trunk, your heavy coats will be fresh and ready to wear with minimal attention! 

Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about using mothballs, unless you have a bug problem in your area. Most modern homes are tight enough not to have to worry about such things -- unless you really like that old-world wool-and-camphor smell. For many, the smell of mothballs in winter clothes brings back strongly pleasant olfactory memories of family, grandparents, and Christmastime.

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