No matter how much time you spend picking your clothes, there’s always the chance that some little issue will catastrophically destroy your outfit.
To save you from ringing your mum every time a button pops off, we spoke to two experts in the field of haberdashery and clothing repairs for some insider tips on how to solve your style emergencies with minimal fuss. (Spoiler: You’re going to need lots of Vaseline.)
My Zip’s Stuck
It’s been almost 20 years since Ben Stiller snagged his ‘franks and beans’ in a zipper, yet this mechanism is still causing men trouble.
If There’s Something About Mary taught us anything, it’s not to try jamming a stuck zip open; not least because this may break it entirely.
First, check there’s nothing caught in the teeth of the zip. If there isn’t, Gayle Hall, owner of haberdashery shop Habbydays, says it’s time to crack out the lube: “Try greasing the zip with Vaseline. If you don’t have any, you can also try rubbing a bar of soap, candle wax, graphite pencil or olive oil on it.”
Beyond that, buy a longline jumper and hope you don’t need the loo anytime soon.
My Collar Keeps Popping
Popped collars barely worked for Kanye in 2006, let alone you in 2017. As a preventative measure, if your collar has pockets for stiffeners, bones or stays, use them.
To get rid of an awry collar without them, Hall says: “You’ll need an iron, some starch spray [to stiffen the fabric], which you can get at any supermarket, and some patience to just push it down.”
I Scuffed My Shoes
Providing your shoes are properly cared for the rest of the time; this should be a relatively easy mishap to fix.
In the case of ordinary leather Oxfords or Derbies, Hall recommends applying moisturiser or lotion to the damaged area, buying time until you can use polish to buff out the mark properly. When it comes to patent shoes, a small amount of Vaseline on a cotton bud can smooth over scuffs and restore shine in a pinch.
My Hem’s Come Loose
Anyone who’s seen Sylvester Stallone sew up his own arm in Rambo will know carrying a needle and thread has its payoffs, like when a hem comes loose. Zoe Robinson, freelance lifestyle writer and Head of Wardrobe Wisdom at The Good Wardrobe, recommends a basic blind stitch (on a hem, not an arm) as the ideal solution.
If you didn’t pay attention in your design and technology class at school, or don’t have a sewing kit to hand, other fixes can be done at home. “Iron-on hemming is your friend (just make sure to check the garment care instructions before doing so),” says Hall. “If you’re out and about and need a temporary measure, then double sided sticky tape might work, too.”
A slightly different approach is needed for trousers: “In a real emergency, you can carry out fabric first-aid with safety pins, but do a proper repair as soon as possible otherwise the fabric will get damaged,” adds Robinson.
My Button Fell Off
You kept the extra button that comes in the little plastic bag, right? Of course not, that would have been too easy. It looks like you’ll have to take another from a less conspicuous place (the cuff if it has two, or the bottom button that’s usually tucked in) to replace it.
Hall does have a handy hack for avoiding the dilemma in the first place: “Clear nail varnish applied to the thread adds strength and prevents the button from coming off.” Get painting.
I Spilt Something Down Me
Spilling food or drink down a shirt is a numbers game. Wear enough shirts to enough dinners, and eventually, it’ll happen. Worst case scenario is you don’t know how to get it out – or accidentally make it worse.
The key with all stains is to get to work fast. “Treat it as soon as possible and try not to let it dry before you act,” advises Robinson. Once a stain has dried, it has fused with the fibres of the fabric, and this is when you might need professional help.
If red wine is the culprit, it’s best knowing early on that the old trick of covering it with a glass of white is a myth. There are, however, a few effective ways to sort the problem: “Salt soaks up stains and can be brushed away,” says Hall. “If you can get it, boiling water will help dilute the wine, but whatever you do – do not use dry heat to dry the stain until it is gone.”
There’s little that can be done for grease stains if you’ve got to wear the shirt all day. That said, if at home, there are a couple of options available: “Chalk soaks up grease, so just rub it on the stain and put it in the washing machine as normal,” says Hall. “And if you don’t have chalk, then soak it in Coca-Cola before washing it. Sounds weird, but it can work.”
For any other stains, Robinson recommends, “neat laundry detergent, washing up liquid or hand soap, but if the garment is made of silk or wool or is dry clean only, leave it to the pros. As with any stain, do not tumble dry, always air dry.”
My Sole Has Come Loose
Unfortunately, there’s no long-term solution to fixing a loose sole without the help of a professional. That said, if you just need to get from A to B without looking like Steptoe and Son, products like Shoe Goo can be used to hold together footwear.
However, if it’s a Goodyear Welted shoe that you plan to have resoled, avoid any DIY fixes that could void their warranty or make the job harder (or even impossible) on the factory floor.
I Sat In Chewing Gum
Sitting in someone else’s chewed-up, saliva-filled gum is one of the more annoying problems on the list because it is simply not your fault (unless it was, in which case, how’d you manage that?). Fortunately, it’s also a relatively easy one to solve.
“Put the garment into a freezer bag and freeze for a couple of hours, then attempt to peel off the hardened gum,” says Hall. And if there’s no freezer handy? “Try covering it with lemon juice or hairspray – just soak the gum and gently scrape, but do not use anything sharp do this with,” she adds.
I Ripped My Shirt
Regardless of whether this happened because you’ve been bulking up at the gym lately or went all movie sex scene, there’s no easy fix.
Whether the tear is in the fabric or on the hem determines the plan of action: “If the tear is on a side seam and the shirt is big enough, you may be able to have it taken in so that the tear will be in the new seam,” says Robinson.
But if the tear is in the fabric, you’ll have to decide if it’s a job for the professionals or it’s ready for the bin. As a general rule, anything bigger than three centimetres can’t be fixed neatly.
I’ve Got Deodorant Marks On My T-Shirt
White marks (of this kind, anyway) aren’t the most embarrassing stain, but they can ruin a well put together look. Of course, there’s also the added sod’s law that you’ll only notice marks caused by deodorant once you’ve left the house. All is not lost, though.
Hall recommends reaching for a dryer sheet or a pair of women’s tights and rubbing the mark away firmly. If out and about (assuming you don’t carry women’s tights around with you), Robinson suggests seeking out either a damp towel or baby wipe to brush off the marks gently. “But don’t scrub at the garment, this will damage the fibres,” she says.
My Clothes Are All Static
Some clothes have a habit of being more electric than Bob Dylan in 1965. To eliminate static from your menswear staples, Hall suggests, “using a dryer sheet, dryer balls or DIY tin-foil balls in a tumble dryer,” to solve the root of the problem.
For a more scientific approach when out and about, lightly wet your hands and run them over the clothes, or, touch a piece of grounded metal – a lamppost will do the job.
I’m Covered In Pet Hair
Aside from only owning hairless breeds, and in turn looking like a Bond villain, there’s not a great deal that can be done to stop animal hair making its way onto your suit.
That’s not to say you should let your two-piece double up as a Chewbacca costume. Hall suggests keeping a lint roller by the front door, but if it’s an emergency, “fold over sticky tape so it’s double sided and put it over your hand, it will work.”
When tumble drying ordinary clothes, throwing in a dryer sheet can also help attract any unwanted fur.
I Sweated On My Shirt
Rough day at the office, a run-in with the in-laws, a trot for the last train – all of these can have you sweating it out in your shirt. Bar trying to stick your pits under a toilet hand dryer, there’s no quick fix while you’ve got the shirt on. Yet you can minimise the long-term damage caused by sweat, particularly on white shirts, before shoving it in the washing machine.
“Using vinegar (not balsamic) to treat the underarm before putting in the machine will work on smaller stains,” says Robinson. “However, obvious marks and more stubborn odours will first need spraying with the vinegar, then putting into a bowl of cool water and bicarbonate of soda. Leave this overnight and then wash as normal the next morning,” Don’t attempt this with dry clean only or delicate garments, though.
When you’ve finished washing, Hall recommends putting them out on the line (weather depending): “The sun, rain and UV from the sun does wonders for stains,” she says.
My Jumper Shrunk
After a cashmere hoodie or wool jumper has seen the inside of a boil wash, you’ve got two hopes of getting it back to shape: Bob Hope and no hope.
But if accidentally including it in a 40-degree cycle has resulted in only slight shrinkage, there is a chance you could save it from its new, more ‘fitted’ dimensions.
Hall recommends a six-point plan of action to bring the piece back to life: “Soak the jumper in lukewarm water and some gentle hair conditioner for 15 minutes, then drain the water while you leave it in. Don’t wring it out, instead get the excess water out of the jumper by gently pushing it against the sides of the tub or sink. Remove the garment and lay it flat on a thick, absorbent towel. Lightly blot the excess water away with another towel and gently pull the jumper into shape. Then air-dry it flat.”
My New Shoes Are Giving Me Blisters
New shoe rub causing your footwear to fill up with blood? The only option is to hobble somewhere that sells plasters or stick-on pads to make them more comfortable.
Now that you’ve learnt your lesson, go home and break the shoes in properly – a process that includes wearing them for a few hours at a time and regular polishing.
I Forgot To Iron My Shirt
Unless wearing linen, wrinkles aren’t an accessory you want to be working with. While there’s no substitute for a proper steamer or iron, if you forgot to sort out your shirt and you’re in a rush then there’s one thing you can try: “Hang up your shirt in the bathroom when you have a shower as the steam can help the creases drop,” says Robinson.
Be aware, though, that this won’t work on heavy creases, so you’re going to need to keep your jacket on if your shirt has started to look like one of Indiana Jones’ maps.
I’ve Got A Weird Wrinkled Spot On My Shirt
A niche problem, but a problem nonetheless. If a liquid spillage has dried into a wrinkled spot, it’s going to take more than just pulling at it to make it straight.
Hall recommends, “wetting it again and using a hair dryer on the affected spot. It should help you control how it dries if you pull it taut as you do it.”
My Fly Zip Won’t Stay Up
At best, flying low is a bit embarrassing. At worst (especially nearer to wash day when underwear is in short supply), you get arrested. If your zipper is betraying your carefully constructed look, you’re going to need to get crafty.
There’s no easy, long-term solution – bar making sure your jeans fit perfectly – without the need for a professional, but Hall’s quick fix can help you out in a pickle: “Grab a split ring from your keys, fix it to your zip pull and hook over your button, easy. Or, you can also use a safety pin.” Fly high, please.
My Hoodie Drawstring Has Vanished
The athleisure trend may have made all our lives more comfortable, but the rage that creeps in when the string from your hoodie vanishes? Unthinkable. Before you chuck it out in anger, try making do and mending.
“You’re going to need to pull the string out completely and rethread it,” says Hall. “I would use a loop turner, but if you don’t even know what one of those is, you can use a large safety pin or wire coat hanger to coax it through.”
I Got Lipstick On My Collar
We don’t want to know how this happened or why you need it removing so quickly; but if you do, there’s only one thing for it. There’s a reason women need special make-up remover, and that’s because it’s made of tough stuff.
Hall recommends getting some make-up removing wipes and gently rubbing the stain until it’s gone. The lipstick may smudge at first, so you will need to bear with it and use several new wipes, but look at it this way – you’ll now understand why women spend so much time in the bathroom.