Ins and outs of ironing
You say your dry cleaning bills have hit the roof because you keep sending shirts out for laundering? And your wife, girlfriend or significant other refuses to iron your clothes?
Well, here's the pithiest, wittiest guide to ironing that a guy could ever use. And even though "The First Men's Guide to Ironing" (St. Martin's Press, $9.95) is written for men, it's pretty handy for women as well -- particularly those of us raised in the permanent-press era.
E. Todd Williams, former Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Michigan and now a father trying desperately to send his two children to private school, is here to show us the ins and outs of ironing.
The most basic lesson is this: Don't buy all-cotton shirts unless you have a small fortune to hand to your dry cleaner. Instead, Mr. Williams suggests cotton blends and equipping one's laundry room with a heavy, old-fashioned iron and a heavy, old-fashioned ironing board. Inside, he also reveals the secrets of spritzing.
And just when you thought you had heard the last word on ironing, Mr. Williams gives us this hint: His cousin's wife freezes shirts before ironing. And for some inexplicable reason, they always look great.
Sportswear dressing, born during the Great Depression -- is with us again. There are new pieces to put together in the separates scheme, which is a key to casual dressing.
The vest is a basic component, worn over a blouse or, new this season, over a jacket. Leather is a major factor, to be mixed with other leather pieces or with silk and wool. The scarf is a significant addition, large enough to serve as a blanket.
Put together matching pieces and you have a suit. Separate the parts and you have separates.
Does today's torpid economic climate have anything to do with the revival? Everything, says Louis Dell'Olio, who designs for Anne Klein and is one of the foremost practitioners of the art of separates dressing. Women are not in the mood to go out and buy complete new wardrobes each season, he said.
But they are not at all averse to buying a piece or two. And if it is the right piece, it will spruce up a lot of other styles. The right long skirt will do. So will a pair of clingy pants or even a well-cut jacket.
"The designer's job is to show the way, to offer ideas on how to mix things up," Mr. Dell'Olio said.
This line of reasoning bears a close relationship to the one that gave rise during the 1930s to the kind of clothing known as sportswear, though it had nothing to do with the playing fields. Women who could not afford a dress could buy a sweater and a blouse, which cost less. They could alternate to make their wardrobe look larger than it was, especially useful if the woman worked.