Paris – It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Parisienne is chic. As hell. This sense of chic is so powerful, in fact, that it spills over into her children’s wardrobes. At times, particularly toward the beginning of my life in France, I believed these children would always sartorially one-up me, and that I was doomed to dressing like a schlep in comparison.
Wrong. Fast forward to 2016.
Yet, I’ve learned, the secret to chic is not just labels. Or sense of style. What keeps Parisiennes looking so crisp and put together is an arsenal of savoir-faire when it comes to taking care of their clothing. The Parisienne sees her wardrobe as an investment, and does what she can to keep her coats, pants, and dresses in tip-top shape for as long as possible.
It all boils down to how she does her laundry.
START WITH SORTING
If you’re anything like me six years ago, you probably throw all your clothes into a hamper, and when it’s full, throw it all into the laundry on a generic, mid-temperature regular wash cycle. Your towels are probably in there too, along with your lingerie, your socks, and probably even your jeans. Once your laundry is clean, I wager that you probably also throw it all into one dryer load. Allez, hop! Ready to fold in 45 minutes.
That, my friends, is precisely what not to do. Why not? Sorting is the key to taking care of your clothes. Darks should not be treated the same way as colors, and delicates are definitely not the same as everything else.
First things first, my aspiring Parisiennes: sort your hamper into at least four distinct piles. The first pile should contain all your darks, so denim or anything that is black, navy, or deep-hued. The second should be your colors, with the exception of anything susceptible to bleeding. The third should be your whites, and the fourth, your delicates, including fragile lingerie.
GET DOWN WITH DETERGENT
Before you start tossing your clothes into the machine, make sure you have the right tools on hand. Namely, the second best way to take care of your clothing is to pay attention to your detergent.
Most Parisian households keep a small army of detergents and stain removers on hand, but the fundamental trio consists of a good, basic detergent for colors, a special detergent for black clothing only, and a detergent designed for silk, wool and delicates.
For further upkeep, a Parisienne usually stocks a strong oxygen based whitener, such as Dr. Buhler, for her whites, and then individual stain sticks for different types of stains – grease, red wine, or even ink. Dr. Beckman’s Stain Devils is a favorite.
READ THE LABEL
Believe it or not, the labels sewn into your clothing are there for a reason. They indicate what type of fabric your clothing is made of, and more importantly, at what temperature and type of laundry cycle it should be washed. Adequate temperature and cycle is critical to preserving your clothing. It keeps your favorite sweaters or dresses from shrinking or the dye from bleeding.
French designers, such as Sandro, Maje, or even BA&SH, typically use fabrics such as cotton, viscose, wool, cashmere, polyester, silk, or some blend thereof. If your clothing is a blend, such as 70% polyester and 30% viscose, favor the fabric that composes the higher percentage of the blend.
To quickly break it down, viscose should always be washed in lukewarm water, wool and cashmere should be washed in cool water, polyester in cold water, and silk in cool water. Delicate fabrics (wool, cashmere) or items of clothing (lingerie) should be hand-washed, left to soak for a while in a laundry room sink before rinsing.
AIR DRYING IS YOUR FRIEND
You heard me. Air-drying is your friend. The dryer? Not so much. Letting your clothing air-dry keeps it from the ravages of your machine, which have a tendency to eat your fabrics. As much as you can, let your clothes dry on a drying rack. For any delicate sweaters, your best option is to lay a towel down on a drying rack and to lay your sweater across them. It will take time to dry out, but in the long run, you preserve the knit. As for lingerie, it goes without saying – keep your lacy things lacy by letting them air-dry! Machines will snag your bra hooks and warp them, or tear any delicate embroidery and lace apart. Bonus, air-drying is good for the planet.
Last but not least, the good old iron. Look to the label, and follow temperature instructions. Don’t forget the starch, and only use demineralized water in your iron for the steam function. Though you may be a busy career woman (I’m one to talk), ironing is the last, little finishing touch that makes you look so much more put together and chic.
And man or woman, no Parisian would dare leave the house in something wrinkled.