Q In an effort to extend summer for as long as possible, I usually put off clearing out the last of the summer clothes from my closet until way past the end of the season. This warm fall was no exception. Recently, when I took my wool sweaters out of the drawer they'd been stored in all summer, they weren't spotted or dirty, but they didn't seem quite fresh. Any suggestions?
A: Yes. Put your clean (dry) sweaters -- turned inside out -- into the dryer on the "gentle" cycle and set the temperature to "air" (no heat!). Fluff them for five or 10 minutes. You might add one of those fabric softener sheets along with your dry sweaters -- preferably a variety that is not scented.
You will be amazed at the amount of lint, fluff, and dirt-holding fuzz that is released. You'll find it inside the lint trap.
Not only is this a good idea for the garments (and blankets) that you are bringing out for the current season, but it also works to freshen your clean, light-weight cotton sweaters that you are putting away until next spring. Obviously, for any items in need of dry cleaning or laundering, this is not a substitute. But for clean clothes, it is an excellent first step for storage.
An inexpensive solution for cleaning your less-than-favorite sweaters and knock-around jackets -- anything that does not need pressing, prespotting, or other special handling -- is a bulk dry cleaners. Some items that you're not sure whether to wash or dry-clean are good candidates for the same procedure. You can clean a whole load of items for about what it costs to clean one fine garment professionally. These can most often be found in the Yellow Pages, listed under Dry Cleaners, Self Service.
Q: I have a fine felt fedora that I paid about $80 for and have had for several years. The shape is perfect. I always get compliments when I wear it. But it needs to be cleaned and reshaped. Do you know anyone who is capable of doing the job right? Can my neighborhood dry cleaners do it? And how much should it cost?
A: Your neighborhood dry cleaner is not really equipped to do the job. The most reliable of them will probably send your hat out to be cleaned and blocked by a professional "hatter."
Felt hats are made of either wool or fur; most are made of the less expensive material, wool. The average wool hat costs between $25 and $40. On hats of this price, the "leather" band inside is usually made of paper and the body of the hat itself may be a reprocessed wool or a wool/poly blend. Wool felt hats look good when they are new; but when they are chemically cleaned or if you get caught in the rain or snow, they may droop and lose their shape. They are not really cleanable. And since cleaning costs in the $20 range, it's not actually worth it. A fur felt hat made of beaver or rabbit hair looks like a wool felt hat, but costs a lot more. Prices range between $75 and $185. The fur is sheared from ranched animals. These quality hats thrive in bad weather, keep their shape, last a lifetime, clean beauti
fully, and make unique -- and --ing -- gifts.
You may be surprised (as I was) to learn just how extensive the process is to bring a hat back to life. According to one quality hatter, the steps that constitute quality hat cleaning are:
* The band on the outside is taken off
* The inside satin lining is removed
* The hat is cleaned in the finest solvent available
* The hat is dried, blocked (reshaped), and chemically restiffened
* The hat is "lured" (greased) to give it luster and waterproofing
* The brim is reflanged (ironed out and reshaped)
* The lining is replaced with a new one
* The leather inside band is redyed, restoring its original color
* The outside band is replaced; a new feather and pearl pin affixed.
One fine hatter, The Custom Hatter, at 1291 Broadway, Buffalo, NY 14212, (716) 896-3722, charges $20 plus $5 (postage and handling) to clean a dress hat, $27.50 and up for cowboy hats.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.