As the British winter creeps in, it’s tempting to Nytol yourself into a state of permanent hibernation and take your treasured wardrobe with you. All that biting wind, the plummeting temperatures, the freezing rainstorms: sometimes it feels like the best way to prepare for these unforgiving conditions would be to trade everything in for 16 sq feet of tarpaulin, three huskies and a very sensible pair of shoes.
But dressing for the colder days doesn’t have to be a chore. “Actually, there’s much more choice in the winter,” says Mats Klingberg, owner of London menswear store Trunk Clothiers. “You can play around with several layers, ranging from T-shirts, shirts, sweaters and cardigans to jackets, coats and scarves: it’s just a matter of preparation.”
With that in mind, here’s how to get your wardrobe winter-ready.
1. Get Rid Of Moths
Clothes moths have expensive taste, and when it comes to your winter wardrobe everything’s on the menu: cashmere as an amuse-bouche, lambswool for the main course, shearling just to cleanse the palette, and heavy cotton for dessert. Here’s how to fight back.
Step one: Deep clean the wardrobe itself. Moth larvae love dark, warm, quiet corners. So hoover your drawers, sweep out the shelves and wipe down surfaces with a detergent-soaked cloth.
Step two: Make sure all your winter clothes have been thoroughly cleaned. Moths love any trace of human sweat or food stains, especially if it’s on knitwear. If you’re particularly worried about something, put it in the freezer overnight. “This will kill anything, including moth larvae,” says Victoria Stapleton, founder of luxury cashmere brand Brora.
Step three: Kit your wardrobe out with moth-fighting essentials. Store winter knits and natural fabrics in ziplock plastic bags if you’re not using them regularly, and line your drawers with moth strips – we recommend Rentokil’s unscented option, because it kills both eggs and larvae.
Step four: Use cedarwood hangers. Don’t quiz us on the science, but Johnsons Dry Cleaners tell us that moths can’t stand the scent of cedarwood.
And if anything does get through these battle lines, there’s still hope: almost every dry cleaner we spoke to now offers an ‘invisible repair’ service that can patch up those heartbreaking moth holes in no time at all.
2. Refresh Down Jackets
Down is one of mother nature’s greatest inventions: a lightweight insulation that’s extremely warm, and a filling that’s not only breathable but stops piercing winds in their tracks, too. However, like most of nature’s greatest hits (wine, whiskey, the Swedes), down is only as good as the care that’s given to it.
After a quiet summer stuffed in a wardrobe, your feather-filled coat will often emerge lifeless, flat and stale. But there is a fix that will resuscitate your down garment. “Bring it out and let it hang freely for a couple of hours or a day, preferably outside in the fresh air, or perhaps in a steamy bathroom,” says Klingberg.
If it’s really musty, place it in a warm cycle (about 40 C should do it) with a tiny bit of detergent. Then, when it’s time to dry it, put the coat in the dryer on a very low-heat cycle with three clean tennis balls – these will break up the clumping feathers, leaving your down as fresh and fluffy as the day it was plucked.
3. Treat Leather And Suede Shoes
“The first thing to know is that no leather is truly waterproof: it’s a natural product, and that’s what makes it so versatile and so appealing,” says Asif Mushtaq, manager at master shoemakers Crockett Jones in London’s Mayfair. “Having said that, there are a couple of products you can use to help maximise their resistance to the winter conditions.”
Mushtaq recommends using Scotchgard on the shoe’s upper to add some extra water-resistant oils. “And if you get salt stains on your boots, simply dampen a rag with warm water and a bit of vinegar, and gently work out the white marks.”
He also advises asking the shoemaker about the particular grain of leather used. “Some leathers, especially those used in boot-making, are much more naturally waxy than others. These are far better at repelling water and handling the cold.”
Klingberg, meanwhile, advocates a regular treatment schedule: “Just like you wash your face, you need to do the same with your shoes. There are several good brands to pre-treat leather out there, at Trunk we have a couple of really good products from Turms.”
4. De-Must Your Wardrobe
A summer spent in the dark and dreary lower reaches of your wardrobe will leave most garments smelling like the library of a particularly poorly-ventilated retirement home.
Fortunately, banishing that musty smell takes a matter of minutes. Simply get hold of some cheap vodka (no, really), dilute it down to one part water and one part spirit (no cocktail shaker required) and spritz it on stale clothes using a plastic spray bottle.
As if by magic, the vodka will eliminate the mildewy scent without leaving you smelling like a Yates’ Wine Lodge carpet. For particularly bad cases, drop a cup of baking soda into your next hot wash.
5. Care For Your Knitwear
“It’s well worth treating your quality knitwear with a little respect,” says Brora’s Stapleton. “Regular gentle washes are important, using something like the Brora cashmere shampoo: a mild, non-chemical based soap.” Well-cared-for knitwear also deters pesky moths, and makes the fibres last longer.
One of the most annoying things about knitted fabrics is that they pill or bobble. “Some pilling is not indicative of inferior quality – it’s an inevitable consequence of the careful processing of this fine fibre,” explains Stapleton.
Bobbles can be easily removed, she suggests, by dragging a clean disposable razor gently across the fabric, or by using a lint roller or a specialist cashmere comb: “Removing the pills this way will soften the garment, and good-quality cashmere and lambswool will actually improve with age if cared for properly.”
6. Up Your Layering Game
Forget the polar ice caps: the real victim of climate change is your winter wardrobe. Yo-yoing between mild, balmy afternoons and snowy, howling evenings, our country’s winter is famously unpredictable – and that’s before you throw in the curveballs of sauna-like commuter trains and overly chilled office blocks. Needless to say, it can be handy to have a couple of layers underneath your standard outerwear to bolt on or strip off, as and when the bungee-jumping thermometer dictates.
A light knit cardigan, for example, is a great way to add an extra layer of insulation to a business suit, and lends a bookish feel to a formal ensemble. A traditional mac, meanwhile, can be bolstered by a lightweight puffer, with the contrasting collars and lengths adding a casual edge to the more workmanlike garment.
Likewise, a lighter vest – in synthetic microfibre or light down – can act as a useful buffer between an Oxford shirt and a wool overcoat: opt for a low-key collar if possible, and choose dark neutral or autumnal colourways to style your way through the colder months.