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Make a toolkit part of your wardrobe

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Published: March 22, 2012

photo - Rolled-up magazines are a great way to keep boots standing tall. (Sally McGraw/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)
Rolled-up magazines are a great way to keep boots standing tall. (Sally McGraw/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)
Every fashionista's address book contains the name of a great tailor and a reliable cobbler. After all, some alterations and repairs are best left to the pros. But there are loads of inexpensive, easy-to-use and invaluable tools that can be kept on hand for minor wardrobe emergencies, touch-ups and maintenance.

At-home helpers

Even high-quality sweaters will start to pill eventually, especially under the arms and at the hem. Sweater stones can help a bit, but a $10 sweater shaver is faster, more effective and less likely to cause snags. The best versions of these little devices look like men's electric shavers, with a perforated metal head that guards fibers from the whirring internal blades. Pills are gently lifted, trimmed away and deposited into a lint catcher. A quick pass with a sweater shaver can make a pilly old sweater look good as new.

Matching a shoe polish color to every pair you own is virtually impossible, and creams and treatments can backfire. But an inexpensive oiled leather sponge can work wonders on scuffed and faded shoes. These sponges are injected with mild protective oils that restore suppleness and shine to most porous leathers. They're surprisingly dry and mess-free _ unlike smelly, goopy polishes _ and can last for years if stored properly.

Test an interior patch first to make sure the oils won't drastically alter your shoe's color, then gently rub the sponge across any worn areas. Shoes that have been thoroughly damaged by water, salt or dryness won't be saved, but those with minor scuffs and fading will be restored instantly.

Nothing makes a button-front shirt look crisp and new like a thorough pressing, but ironing takes time and a certain amount of skill. If you're short on either, consider a handheld steamer instead.

For $30 or less, you'll get a portable device that works wonders on wrinkled garments. In most cases, you'll fill a small tank with tap water, plug in the steamer, and wait while the water boils. Once steam begins to flow, slowly pass the steamer across wrinkled surfaces from the inside of the garment.

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