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The #1 Thing You Should Always Do Before A Clothing Repair

Chances are that at some point in the past you have purchased an item of clothing that didn't fit just right. Pants too long? The waist is too big? Not quite big enough? Unless you have the skills to take care of these fit issues yourself, you may have taken them to your local alterations shop or dry cleaner to correct the problem.

What about split seams or a broken zipper? Maybe your thighs rub together and you need the inside of your slacks patched/repaired. The list is long and varied, but a common occurrence for the folks who work in the alterations field.

Personally, I avoid alterations as much as I can. I hate having to take clothes apart and then put them back together again without it looking like I've actually done that. There is something about being asked to do an alteration or clothing repair that just makes me cringe. That something is the "squick" factor. In my perfect world, the only alterations that exist are for clothing items that are brand new and have never been worn. Unfortunately, the world is not a perfect place and repairs/alterations are sometimes needed.

When I was taking alterations classes, our instructor bought many of our practice garments, mostly men's suits, at thrift stores because she could get the pieces for just a few dollars each. We could cut them up and repair or alter them to our hearts' content without worrying about destroying them. Of course Kathy, our instructor, did not have the suits dry cleaned after she bought them, instead, she taught us the value of steam. Water turns to steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and gets much, much hotter. According to WHO, germs are killed off at only 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Feeling squicky about taking in the seam of those pants because you don't know where they came from? Give them a really good steam and voila! Any weird odors are gone and the germs have been destroyed.

Now of course, a high temperature steam iron is not always appropriate, that all depends on the garment and that is why I am asking you to please, PLEASE only bring in clothing that has been freshly laundered. Yes, I know, to you it may not make sense to wash and dry your favorite pants when the back seam has ripped out, but those of us reviving your favorite pants will thank you. Let me tell you how much.

I had a friend who worked as a hairstylist in a salon. Part of their work uniform included black pants and she had a favorite pair that she had pretty much loved to death. The back seam had disintegrated and needed to be replaced; really, the pants themselves needed to be replaced but because she was a friend, I told her I would try to repair them. What I was not prepared for was for her to take them off at the end of her shift and hand them to me. Not only were they dirty and sweaty, but they were also covered in hair from the salon. I tried to take comfort in the fact that the hair was clean, but... I could just not stand the thought of trying to put that dirty pair of pants back together.

I ended up washing the pants before I did the repairs, but friends, this is NOT something you should ever expect to happen unless you are getting your pants repaired as part of your dry cleaning service. What I should have done was hand them right back to her and tell her that I would work on them after they had been cleaned. Kathy, my instructor, would have told her to go buy a new pair of pants.

While alterations are not my cup of tea, those that work in the alterations field are the experts at what they do. You can rest assured that your garment will be returned to you refreshed and ready to wear.

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