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Q: Now that it's getting chilly out, I know I have to bring my fall and winter clothes out of storage. If I stored them correctly, is there anything else I should do to be sure they're ready to be worn again? — Rebecca, Chicago, IL
We know, it sucks that summer is over. But it's time to get excited about the clothes you haven't been wearing for the past few months, and pulling them out of hiding is like discovering a new wardrobe.
For tips on how to get sweaters and boots back into fighting shape, we consulted Yolanda Wikiel, senior editor at Real Simple, and Carrie Goldberg, associate fashion editor of Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings. This is what they advise:
1. Inspect all of your knits. Look for any moth holes, especially in wools and cashmeres, which are insects' favorite food. Ribbed knits will be easier to repair, but unfortunately some damage is not reversible. Consult your local drycleaner to see if the holes can be patched up. If you'd prefer to DIY, Wikiel recommends a wool filling kit by GreenerGrassDesign.com.
And -- this is gross, so we're sorry in advance -- you want to be sure there's no bug remnants in your clothes either. "If you don't see holes, there's also larvae shells or other gross kinds of things that you can look for as signs to see if they have gotten into your storage; there's silky tubes, casings or cocoons," says Wikiel. "So give the drawers, the bins, a little once over and make sure you don't see anything like that because if you do, you're going to really have to do an overhaul of everything because all of your stuff is going to be infested." If do you find signs of an infestation, take everything to the drycleaner (with our sympathies). Goldberg recommends checking for any pilling as well; de-pillers like this one are available at most mass retailers.
2. Puff life back into down coats. If you've found that your puffy coats have lost their natural fullness, Goldberg says to hang them in the bathroom during a really hot shower to let them reinflate. If you're in a hurry, Wikiel says that tossing them into the dryer with a few (clean!) tennis balls will quite literally knock them back into shape.
3. Get rid of musty smells. Taking things to the drycleaner is the quickest way to de-mustify your winter gear, but Wikiel also recommends this handy trick picked up from vintage store owners: "Spray it with a mixture of one part vodka and two parts water. If you mist it and just let it sit for a while that actually kills a lot of the odor."
4. Take a look at the soles of all your shoes, and inspect the leather of your boots. Make sure the taps of your shoes -- the black caps on heels -- are still firmly in place. "They tend to come out during the wintertime, and having them secure is important because that can be really dangerous," Goldberg says. Another great safety tip is to have rubber soles put on them to add more grip and to extend the life of your shoes.
Waterproofing leather is one of Wikiel's tips for getting your boots ready for snow and sleet. If they got a bit crushed, she also recommends stuffing them with newspaper or tissue paper to help reshape them.
5. This is also a great time to reorganize. "You want to put everything back in the order you would wear it: your more favorite things and lighter colors to the front [of your closet] because you might want to transition to darker colors as the season progresses," Goldberg says. Her other pro tip: hides contract in warm temps, so put furs and faux furs in cool spots away from sunlight, like the back of your closet.
6. Store your summer clothes properly. Though much simpler than your winter things, it's still important to care for the warm weather clothes you'll be putting away. Delicate fabrics and lighter colors should be dry-cleaned, even if you don't think they're dirty, to remove any body oils or perfumes. "Those kinds of fabrics are notorious for getting those gradual stains that pop up later on," Wikiel says. "You know, you could look at a white shirt or silk dress and say, 'Oh that's great, I didn't spill anything on it,' but then weeks later, a yellow stain will start to form that you didn't necessarily notice at first."
Don't store anything in the toxic plastic bags drycleaners hand out, and pick a storage place that's free from water, bugs and dust. "You want to wrap everything really well and be sure nothing is exposed at the top of your closet," Goldberg says. "Dust tends to get into finer fabrics like silks."