Take a deep breath. It's not ruined.
Is that perfect sweater you've had forever looking a little, well, less than perfect? “Now what?!?” columnists Andra Chantim and Brandi Broxson explains what to do when you realize your favorite clothing item needs a little extra love.
"My workout rain jacket doesn't repel water like it used to." —Lisa P., via e-mail
THE FIX: Machine wash the jacket, in case dirt is interfering with the water-repellent coating. Use a specialty detergent, such as Tech Wash ($10, nikwax.com), because traditional laundry formulas can leave residue. If this doesn't do the trick, your garment may have "wetted out," says Philip Werner of the backpacker blog Section Hiker.com—meaning it has lost its magic powers and begun absorbing instead of repelling. If that's the case, restore the resistant finish with a wash-in or spray-on waterproofer, such as Nikwax TX Direct ($13, nikwax.com).
"I found a hole in my favorite cashmere sweater." —Bev, via e-mail
THE FIX: With a Woolfiller kit ($36, greenergrassdesign.com), you don't need to be handy with a needle and thread, says Kristin Nicholas, a knitting expert on public television's Knit and CrochetNow! The kit includes two felting needles and several colors of balled wool. (You can use the same kit for many repairs; the whole process takes about five minutes.) Choose the closest color wool (or try a contrasting shade for a fun pop), then follow the simple directions to create a patch. For a more seamless repair, mail your garment to Alterknit (alterknitnewyork.com), where fabric experts will "reknit" your sweater—that is, remove yarn from a hidden seam and use it to fill the hole. The service starts at $45 and takes two to six weeks to complete.
"I just took a linen dress out of winter storage and discovered that it has big yellow spots on it." —Sheva, via e-mail
THE FIX: If the dress is dry-clean only, bring the problem to a pro. If it's washable, fill the sink with lukewarm water and three to four ounces of OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover ($8, walmart.com), then soak the dress for an hour and rinse in cold water, says Wayne Edelman, the owner of Meurice Garment Care, a dry cleaner in New York City. Line-dry the dress and then check to see if the blotches are completely gone. (Don't put it in the dryer until you're sure, because heat can set stains.) If the stains are still there, see if a dry cleaner can remove them. To fend off surprise spots in the future, remember to launder clothes before placing them in off-season storage. "Sometimes clothing that looks clean has invisible splatter marks from oily foods, like salad dressing, or sugary drinks, like white wine," says Edelman. "These stains oxidize and change color over time." And never stow garments in plastic dry-cleaning bags; that can mar fabric, too.
"I have a V-neck blouse that I would like to wear to work. But sometimes my bra shows in front." —Sonya, via e-mail
THE FIX: A camisole does the trick, but it should look special, not like an undershirt. Opt for pretty lace trim or a bold, contrasting color. "Emerald works well with gray, and ruby is great with camel," says New York City-based stylist Kim Naci. If the extra layer has you breaking a sweat, spring for a Chickie ($50 to $150, chickiescleavagecoverage.com), which is essentially a scoop-neck dickey that hooks right onto your bra. Other solutions: Attach your shirt to your bra with a brooch or double-stick fashion tape ($9, hollywoodfashionsecrets.com). Or throw on a light scarf or a chunky bib necklace to hide your cleavage.
"My suede jacket got soaked in the rain." —Alexandra, via e-mail
THE FIX: First let the jacket dry fully at room temperature, says Jeffrey Schwegmann, the general manager of Schwegmann's Sunshine Cleaners, in Silver Grove, Kentucky. Be patient: This can take as long as 24 hours. Then use a suede eraser (available at shoe-repair shops and most drugstores) or, in a pinch, a dry kitchen sponge to feather the edges of any watermarks you see. Finally, brush the surface with a velvet lint brush to lift the nap and restore the coat's texture, says Steven Ritt, the owner of LeatherCare, Inc., a cleaning company in Seattle, and a member of the Professional Leather Cleaners Association. Did your suede heels get wet too? Use the same process to salvage them.