Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cheap Trick: Extending the Life of Unmentionables

Adola Bra ad 1940’s art by Cardwell Higgins
via VintageGal
I wrote about an undergarment shop I think highly of, but with or without access to a great shop to buy underpinnings, there are a few things about stretch one should keep in mind.

Something I didn't mention before is that I like the way the woman at BraSmyth on the Upper East Side always fits the band so that it closes on the last hook. I have been in other stores where the saleswomen have insisted that a new purchase should close on the center hook; the argument being that a woman needs a little more or less give over the course of a month.

But as undergarments will loose some of their elasticity over time, fitting a new purchase to the last hook makes it last longer, because one can use the tighter hooks as the elasticity gives. I have never experienced a problem by fitting new purchases to the last hook, so I have a suspicion that the suggestion of fitting to the middle hook is made in part due to the hope that the woman will need to replace her purchase sooner, rather than later.

Either way, once a purchase is made, one wants to protect the life of that purchase for as long as possible, and one of the things to protect is the stretch of the fabric. A common mistake is washing underpinnings in Woolite. Woolite is great for washing a variety of delicate garments, but should never be used on anything with stretch, because it actually helps deteriorate the elastic more quickly than other gentle washing products.

A surprising alternative is dish soap used for hand-washing dishes. Not the dish washing machine soap, but the kind one leaves on the counter by the kitchen sink. It is gentle enough to clean these garments, and is an easy and inexpensive alternative. The gentleness of this soap compares closely to the expensive undergarment washes sold at undergarment stores, with the only drawback being that the scent is often not quite as lovely as some of those expensive undergarment soaps. It does make the process of hand-washing more enjoyable to have a pretty scent, so one may choose to add a couple drops of essential oil in any scent she chooses.

And as I'm certain we've all been told, never, never send these underpinnings through the washing machine. No matter how tired or busy one is, putting anything with stretch through the washing machine is the quickest way I can think of to destroy the fabric, and should always be avoided. Just a little time soaking makes hand washing these garments much easier, and very much worth the money saved by making the garment last much, much longer.

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