Con­fes­sions of a wardrobe-main­te­nance geek. By Lisa Arm­strong

Never buy cheap suede, sep­a­rate navy from black, and don’t lend your daugh­ter your shoes. Who bet­ter to tell us how to look af­ter our clothes than The Tele­graph’s own fash­ion di­rec­tor, Lisa Arm­strong

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WHEN IT COMES to look­ing af­ter my clothes and ac­ces­sories, I’m an al­pha anorak (freshly laun­dered, nat­u­rally). Noth­ing was more thrilling to my sev­enyear-old self than pol­ish­ing my patent Pil­grim shoes – with what­ever you pol­ished patent with in the 1960s (some­thing highly toxic, pre­sum­ably) – un­til I could see my dim­ples. Is this weird? Don’t an­swer. Clean­ing, gloss­ing and end­lessly re­ar­rang­ing my sar­to­rial pos­ses­sions suf­fuses me with a pro­found

calm, which is odd, be­cause clean­ing, gloss­ing and re­ar­rang­ing any­thing els e, apar t from my desk (you should see my pots of colour­co­or­di­nated Sta­bi­los), seems like a hell of a lot of ef­fort.

My nascent Marie Kondo passion for or­der used to be one of my se­crets. Shoe trees, laven­der sa­chets, in­ge­niously fiendish moth traps, laun­dry starch (try lake­, stor­ing hand­bags in their cloth cov­ers – these do not speak of a devil-may-care at­ti­tude.

I was faintly con­cerned about my hanger ob­ses­sion too – later re­solved. Oh, and by my abil­ity to spend hours com­par­ing con­di­tion­ers and pro­tec­tors, shoe creams and saddle soaps (Pene­lope Chil­vers for the lat­ter, ev­ery time).

Hah! Turns out that be­ing OCD about socks t or­age s ol uti ons ( thos e div i ders f rom t ot a l wardrobe­ is very zeit­geisty. Nur­tur­ing the con­tents of your wardrobe is the best way to en­sure their longevity, which is bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment (so is not buy­ing any­thing, but let’s be re­al­is­tic: this is a Fash­ion Is­sue).

It also en­sures your clothes look much bet­ter while they’re in ser­vice. Shoes? I take them boxfresh to the menders to get the tips rub­berised to pro­tect the toes, and al­ways keep up with heel main­te­nance. When my peers on the frow were stu­diously scuff­ing up their an­kle boots be­cause it was A Look, I… well, I couldn’t do it. Obvs.

Coats? I have many, all well-pre­served, in­clud­ing one sheep­skin that’s at least 10 years old and still a show­stop­per. Ad­mit­tedly not much can go wrong with she ep­skin, other than moths, on which sub­ject more – much more – anon. But you still need to hang it right.

Like my col­league and fel­low anorak Carolyn Asome, I reg­u­larly weed my crop – you need to be able to see ev­ery­thing in your wardrobe to avoid the dreaded 60-per- cent-un­worn stati stic. We’re con­stantly email­ing each other pic­ture s of clothe s we ei­ther want to buy or get rid of. It ’s in­cre di­bly use­ful to have some­one you trust to bounce off. I sell on the good stuff, take the high street and older items to char­ity shops, and cut up the rest for shoe- clean­ing duty.

Good job I love pol­ish­ing. KEEP­ING SHOES AND BOOTS SWEET Two words: shoe trees. These in­crease the life of shoe and boots – and pre­serve their shape. I have one sturdy wooden pair for stretch­ing the rare (ahem) pair I’ve bought too small. For the rest, I use foam. It’s light, rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive and ab­sorbs sweat nicely. You can even hand­wash them if nec­es­sary. (To keep my case light, when trav­el­ling I just use tis­sue pa­per or socks). For boots, I add a leg-tree in­sert. Apart from any­thing else, it stops them top­pling over in the wardrobe. It also re­stores them when they’ve been a lit­tle, erm, stretched over your calves. John Lewis is your happy place for all the above. As for shoe pol­ish? I pre­fer creamier con­sis­ten­cies such as Wren’s Leather Cream Clas­sic (£4.49, ama­, which is easy to spread, buffs to a mil­i­tary s hi ne a nd fe e l s nouri s hi ng. (Leather is prone to the same dry­ing-out process as your skin, which is why, when I’m trav­el­ling, I have been known to treat my most pre­cious shoes, par­tic­u­larly patent ones, to mois­turiser. I’m talk­ing about ho­tel-bath­room lo­tions, not my Alexan­dra Soveral balms.) Take shoes to be re­heeled and soled be­fore they’re be­yond sav­ing. Get to know your lo­cal (con­ve­nience is key when it comes to im­ple­ment­ing any good habit) clean­ers and menders, al­though if a heel gets a tear in it, it’s worth trav­el­ling to a spe­cial­ist. John­sons ( john­son­clean­ gets high approval rat­ings from the fash­ion set. For Louboutin wear­ers, will keep the un­der­car­riage as f aw­less as Chris­tian would wish, even sell­ing kits you can use at home. Ex­treme points? I’ve given up on them. They in­vari­ably get that pecked-at look the first time you wear them, af­ter which, they are dead to me.


First things first, I never buy suede shoes. It’s not just the rain. Suede has a habit of fad­ing. Ac­tu­ally, I do have fringed suede Prada san­dals. They’re fab, but there’s not much to them –ergo, lit­tle to de­stroy. I’m also par­tial to the odd suede jacket ( no t tr o u s e r s , whi c h stretch too eas­ily and are a pain to clean) and love the oc­ca­sional suede bag, but it has to be a style that looks good when it ’s a bit bashed. Cheap suede is hope­less. Nubuck i s fa r more ro b u s t . Boot-and-bag supremo Pene­lope Chil­vers rec­om­mends us­ing a crêpe rub­ber to re­move marks – gen­tly. I spray all my suede and nubuck with pro­tec­tor. En­vi­ron­men­tally, this is quite prob­lem­atic. Nik­wax (nik­wax .com) i s the least worst op­tion. Do it rarely and walk ev­ery­where that day to off­set.


You wouldn’t just chuck pic­tures on a wall. Same with Er­dem (or Mango). Af­ter years of search and res­cue, I rec­om­mend those skinny, non-slip rub­berised hang­ers – they take up far less space than wooden or silk ones, and don’t leave nasty dents in shoul­ders. I bought mine in in­stal­ments from to­tal­wardrobe­ – there’s a range, with clips for trousers (£13.50 for four) or with­out (£12) – but the

white ones (£18 for 10) on the­o­r­gan­ised­ are less ex­pen­sive and ob­jects of beauty, in my opin­ion. Don’t be tempted to over­fill cup­boards or ev­ery­thing will crease. All my hang­ers face the same way, and ev­ery­thing is grouped into cat­e­gory.

Wardrobe doors are es­sen­tial. Light will fade colour. Coats are in a sep­a­rate closet, so come sum­mer I can for­get about them (af­ter hav­ing them dry-cleaned, etc). Other than those, and heav­ier knitwear, I don’t switch my wardrobe around be­tween sea­sons as I tend to wear lay­ers all year round.

Hol­i­day clothes are kept in s i mple whit e- c o t t o n st o r a ge bags ( £20 for one, the­white com­, with laven­der sa­chets. Out of sight, out of mind. Ev­ery time I open them it’s like hav­ing a new set of clothes – al­most – and I’m able to ap­proach the weed­ing ob­jec­tively.

Each sec­tion in my wardrobe is graded by colour. I keep navy and black apart so that on dark win­ter morn­ings I don’t mis­take one for the other.


Our most re­cent in­fes­ta­tion of moths, in­duced, I reckon, by my younger daugh­ter’s habit – since banned – of buy­ing sec­ond-hand clothes by the kilo in Brick Lane, cul­mi­nated in some ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing pro­fes­sional heat treat­ment. Try not to let it get to that. All my knitwear is now stored flat, with laven­der or cedar sa­chets, in zi­plock bags. Sprays? I’ve caused so much in­sect carnage I’ve felt like Martin Sheen going into ’Nam. The best, al­beit ruth­less, de­ter­rents are those sticky traps from En­topest (£14.99, ama­ They only at­tract the male, but if my bi­ol­ogy serves me cor­rectly, with­out the male, the fe­male can­not pro­duce. Keep­ing clothes pris­tine helps (they like sweat). But a moth hunter’s work is never done. CODDLING CASH­MERE When wash­ing cash­mere, add a few drops of vine­gar to soften the wa­ter. Fash­ion stylist Deb­o­rah Brett washes hers in cool wa­ter with a lit­tle Woo­lite and lets it soak: no wring­ing or rub­bing. ‘I have cir­cu­lar dry­ing discs from Lake­land that are cov­ered in mesh. Per­fect for dry­ing your sweater over, so it doesn’t lose shape.’

Like me, Deb­o­rah folds knitwear to avoid stretch­ing it. Don’t make piles more than three deep or they’ll crease. She also makes her own laven­der pouches from Lib­erty prints. Which makes me seem like an ama­teur.

To de­bob­ble, use a man­ual comb rather than the bat­tery­op­er­ated one I got so ex­cited about once. Dev­as­ta­tion.

Love C ash­mere ( ca s hmere care s er in Haw­ick, Scot­land, of­fers a com­plete re­pair ser­vice from £29 for all knitwear made f ro m e i th e r ca s h mere or lamb­swool.


Oh, the deep rab­bit holes I have tum­bled down in my search for the ul­ti­mate Biro re­mover, in­clud­ing one dark af­ter­noon of the soul that took me to Mum­snet. To get pen out of leather, tread cau­tiously. First, try the creams. If the mark’s stub­born, a lit­tle hair­spray or a drop of nail-var­nish re­mover is the kill or cure op­tion. For the love of God, first try this on a teeny, un­seen patch. To avoid in the first place, only carry pen­cils in your best bags, or keep pens in your makeup bag. Spray suede lin­ings with pro­tec­tor.

When wash­ing whites – I do them on as low a tem­per­a­ture as pos­si­ble and use the rec­om­mended doses of Ecover or Method – us­ing more ul­ti­mately de­stroys your ma­chine. If they’re look­ing ding , try Dr Beck­mann Glowhite (£1.89, dr-beck­

Re: stain re­moval, I’m to­tally out­classed by Lara Sin­clair, head of UK press for Jimmy Choo and a mother of two young boys, who keeps at least half a dozen Dr Beck­mann spe­cific stain re­movers (mud, grass and make-up; cur­ries; tea and red wine; ink; grease; etc) on hand so she can at­tack the of­fence im­me­di­ately. Lara also turns jeans and lo­goed T-shirts in­side out to pro­tect colour, and reg­u­larly runs her ma­chine empty, with malt vine­gar/wa­ter/ crys­tals wash to clean it. She hangs as much as pos­si­ble to avoid tum­ble-dry­ing, which is tough on clothes and the en­vi­ron­ment. If you have space, you can dry most things nat­u­rally on a Sheila Maid ini­tially, be­fore a blast in the tum­ble-dryer to soften tow­els. In win­ter I love my heated tower dryer (£109.99, lake­


I’m so flat­tered if they want to wear my clothes that, now that they’re in their 20s, I don’t mind let­ting them, pro­vided they ask, and re­turn them the next day. I trust them to fol­low due dili­gence (they’ve had enough train­ing, af­ter all). That said, my shoes are out of bounds – the girls are so heavy on their footwear. Luck­ily, none of us is the same size.

Wooden shoe trees help stretch footwear that’s on the small side

Sheep­skin – like this Chloé num­ber for au­tumn/win­ter 2017 – is se­cretly low-main­te­nance

No exc abby Louboutins when there’s a whole com­pany de­voted to their re­pair:

Marks on suede can be re­moved with a crêpe rub­ber

Be­low Dis­card­ing never-worn clothes and colour-cod­ing the rest will keep your wardrobe ship­shape; as Lisa says, ‘A moth hunter’s work is never done’

Fresh laven­der is a nat­u­ral way to fra­grance clothes and de­ter moths

A god­send in win­ter: Dry:soon heated tower airer, £109.99 (lake­

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