From Handbags To Jewellery: How To Take Care Of Your ‘Nice Things’

Valerie Loftus finds out how to keep your most beloved items looking their best for as long as possible.

I made my first ‘investment purchase’ four years ago. It was my birthday, work had just given me a (tiny) raise, and I had two Brown Thomas vouchers burning a hole in my pocket. Over the previous few months, I’d been visiting a particular Marc Jacobs bag in store – a soft black saddle bag with burnished gold hardware and a roomy, burgundy-lined interior. “It’s beautiful, but also practical,” I reasoned with myself as I plunked down what was an obscene amount of money for a 24-year-old journalist. And then, after years of imagining what it would be like to be a fancy lady with a fancy bag, I was one.

But I had to learn how to love that bag as it was meant to be loved. I was a child who kept things ‘for good’, saving up stickers and pretty notebooks and coloured pens for an unspecified later date. I was cursed with having both expensive taste and extreme fear of ruining nice things by using them. But what was the point in having that Mark Jacobs bag if I was going to leave it in the dust bag? Why wait for the ‘right’ time to put on that lovely Joanne Hynes shift dress? I’m still careful with my nice things (it hurts my heart to have to put my handbag on the floor) but I know that they are made to be enjoyed. Now Marc is well-worn but happy. If he breaks or scuffs, I can fix him – and the same is true for all my most treasured objects.

‘Good’ clothes

We’ve spoken before about restyling unloved clothes (check out my feature on upcycling from our February issue) – but now, let’s find out how to take proper care of the bits you really love. Here in Ireland, we have very set ideas about what constitutes ‘good’ clothes, but for the purpose of this article, they can be anything you want them to be, whether that’s a €300 silk dress or a white t-shirt that’s just right (Lord knows they don’t show up often).

The first thing I’m going to say is super boring, but: Please pay at least some attention to the washing directions on the label. You don’t have to follow them to the letter all the time, but utilise good judgement. Most high street items that have to cheek to say they’re dry-clean or hand wash only will survive being put through a cold wash, and I say this from experience. However, you can never be too cautious when it comes to pricier items, so get out the basin or cough up the dry-cleaning bill.

If you are getting garments dry cleaned, store them as normal, not in the plastic bags they’re sent home in – these trap mosture, which can lead to the dreaded mould. Steamers are kinder to clothes in the long term than irons (I use the travel-friendly Pro Breeze Garment Steamer, €24 from Amazon) and from what I see anyway, they’re a lot better at actually getting creases and wrinkles out.

Other clothing crises are more easily solved than you’d think. Jumpers can be de-bobbled with a cheap razor. Yellow pit stains can be pre-treated before washing them with a bit of vinegar, and makeup stains with Fairy Liquid. Vanish stain remover spray is still my absolute bar. Gather up all your grams in need of TLC, carve out a Saturday afternoon and have at it.

Leather handbags

Handbags are still the first big purchase many women choose to make for themselves, and of course, we want them to be beautiful forever. According to Ella de Guzman, founder of the designer resale store Siopella, while we should, of course, be using and loving our bags, we need to hive a little thought to what we put in them.

“Always use makeup bags or ziplock bags when storing your makeup and pens in your handbags. Nothing devalues a handbag more than makeup, foundation and pen marks,” she advises. “To get pen marks out, you can try nail polish remover, but be super careful because you can remove the colour too.”

She’s found a rather unusual solution to the problem of keeping her own handbags clean: “I’ve been known to throw €1000 Louis Vuitton Neverfull bags into the washing machine – gentle cycle, col water, 30 minutes – and have never had an accident, but of course only do this at your own risk!” It’s good to know it’s an option, but we may leave that one to the pros.

Get yourself a leather protection cream, which has to be massaged in periodically to prevent scratches and minimise any superficial marks, like dents from your fingernails. Much like your face, don’t be tempted to use a makeup wipe to clean your handbag, as the ingredients may cause discolouration. Stuff your bag when you’re not using to help it keep its shape, and cover it with the dust bag (or an old pillowcase if you’ve long since chucked the bag it came in). Basically – treat your bag with a little kindness and you’ll have it for a long time.

If your bag needs some serious rehab, seek out a cobbler with experience in handbag restoration, like Jervis HubShow Repairs in Dublin’s Jervis Shopping Centre (Instagram’s @the_kind_cobbler). Not only can they buff out marks and repair worn-down edges, they can bring unloved bags back to life with a lick of paint. Definitely worth it if you’ve got a forlorn-looking Michael Kors staring down at you every time you open your wardrobe.

Jewellery

As far as nice things go, a diamond ring is a pretty big one, isn’t it? We like them best when they sparkle, but you’d be surprised at how quickly they can get gunky. Most jewellers will clean your diamond free of charge (they can also check the setting for you yo ensure no stones have come loose), but you should spot clean at home regularly. The best way to do this is by leaving your ring to soak in a solution of dish soap and water to loosen up any buildup, then brushing it carefully with a soft toothbrush.

For other pieces, whether they’re solid gold or silver or plated, the following rules of them apply:

  • Store jewellery in a soft-lined box with little compartments that keep your pieces from scratching or knocking into each other.
  • Keep your jewellery well away from chlorine. And don’t wear your rings into the sea – cold water makes your fingers shrink, and well… you know what happens next.
  • Take off your jewellery before any activity that could damage it. This includes showers – the water can strip gold or silver plating, while soaps and shampoos leave a film on diamonds, dulling their sparkle.
  • Apply your perfume or body cream before you put on your jewellery, making sure it has dried completely.

With the right care, even your less expensive gold or silver-plated pieces can last a long time. Polishing them with a soft cloth should keep them shiny – unfortunately, though, the plating will eventually wear away where it comes into contact with the oils in your skin, and there’s not a ton you can do to stop that from happening. Most good jewellers should be able to re-plate your pieces for a fee – Irish brand Chupi offers the first re-plating of their pieces for free, with any subsequent re-platings coming in at €49.

Images: Twenty20

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