When I was offered my current job, I was just as much excited about the new opportunity as I was to go shopping for new work clothes. I had been dreaming of this moment – the day I would purchase and assemble professional outfits. (On the first day of my last job, I was told I didn’t need to dress quite so nice – khakis and a tee would suffice, so you can understand my excitement.) Heels and dressy boots, button-downs and blouses, blazers, pencil skirts, slacks, and belted dresses… here I come!
There was just one problem with stuffing my closets with all these nice articles of clothing: ironing. My life before this job didn’t involve many outfits that required ironing, but button-downs and slacks wrinkle very easily. The first thing I had to do was go out and buy an iron and ironing board. Then, I recruited my grandma to show me the ropes. She doesn’t call herself a professional, but I do! In eighth grade she was working at a laundromat earning $1 an hour ironing men’s work shirts.
Here, Gram breaks it down for those of us who’ve avoided wearing certain outfits because we haven’t quite mastered the art of ironing.
Step 1: Check. Always read the tag on your clothes prior to ironing for instruction. If you’re ironing an article of clothing for the first time, test an insignificant piece first to ensure that the iron won’t scorch it.
Step 2: Collar. Begin ironing at the collar, starting with the back of the collar (the side that will be flipped under), then the top (the side that will be visible when worn). Same process goes for lapels.
Step 3: Body of the shirt. At this point, you’ll want to “follow the shirt” as you go. Press firmly (but don’t over-press – irons are heavy for a reason) up and down the front and then the back of the shirt.
Step 4: Sleeves. It doesn’t matter which side of the sleeves you iron first, just make sure you iron them. If there’s ruching on the sleeves (or anywhere else, for that matter), don’t worry about hitting it with the iron because when it’s on, no one will notice it.
Step 5: Review. Now give the shirt one more look over. If nothing else, the lapels may need one more quick press.
Step 1: Hips. Putting the waist opening around the ironing board, start ironing at the top by the hips, working your way to the front of the leg.
Step 2: Legs. Pants should have a crease, so watch where it is before you start ironing the leg. If you create a second, unintended crease, it will be hard to get it out (material has memory). On one leg, pinch the pants in two places: in one hand pinch where the top of your thigh would be and in the other hand pinch where the back of your thigh would be; pull your hands apart and lay the pants flat in this position. Remember that you’re ironing over the seams on the sides of the leg to create creases in the two places you pinched.
Step 3: Review. Hold the pants up to make sure the wrinkles are out and that there is only one crease (front/back) and not two (front/back and left side/right side).
Some notes on steaming: Regular water sometimes has so much iron that it may stain if it squirts out onto a white shirt. For this reason, some people prefer to buy distilled water for their irons, or use water from a humidifier. When to use steam? Anytime stubborn wrinkles won’t come out or the material is 100 percent cotton.
Some notes on washing: Put work clothes on the permanent press/light cycle in the wash with Woolite laundry detergent. Never put work clothes in a cycle that will twist the clothes to death or you’ll spend a lot of time ironing. In other words, wash these items separate from jeans — they’re probably not that dirty anyway. The more you can keep the shape of the shirt, the better. Lucky for us, most materials nowadays are made to be easy to care for (back in my grandma’s day, everything had to be ironed because it was cotton, stiff, wrinkly and not wash-and-wear!).
Some notes on drying: Hanging your clothes by a hanger when they’re still damp will help prevent wrinkles from setting. Remove from the dryer when the cycle has 10-15 minutes left.