The 6 Must-Have Tools For Every Wardrobe

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The must-have tools for every wardrobe. Tools and supplies to save your style and preserve your clothing for years by Alison Gary at Wardrobe Oxygen.

I know I am not the only person who is looking to buy fewer items and have them last longer. The past few years have changed our style and spending habits, and it makes sense from a financial, environmental, and sartorial level to buy less and do what you can to make what you buy last as long as possible. After many years as a stylist, wardrobe consultant, and fashion writer, these are what I consider to be the must-have tools for every wardrobe to keep your clothes looking great and lasting as long as possible.

What are the 6 Must-Have Tools for Every Wardrobe?

I am all about doing more with less, so this list of wardrobe tools isn't extensive. These tools are easy to use and easy to find at local and online retailers. Each tool will make a major impact on your closet! This post was originally published in 2021 and updated as I have found better products and better retailers for said products. I also added some links to tutorials to help you know best how to care for your wardrobe.

1. You Need a Garment Steamer

While an iron is great for crisp, wrinkle-free looks, I know we don't all have time to iron (or the space or the patience). A garment steamer is a quick way to get rid of wrinkles… plus so much more. No need for a floor model; a handheld garment steamer (I personally own this one) will hold enough water to steam a couple of garments.

  • For shirts, dresses, and other tops, hang the item on a plastic or metal hanger and ensure the shoulder seams are lined up along the hanger. Run the steamer up and down the garment, holding the fabric taut. The heavier the fabric, the more you will have to cross the fabric with the steamer and the tauter you will have to hold the garment.
  • For pants and skirts, use a clip hanger and have the piece clipped taut. For a front crease, match up the seams at the hem and clip from the hem instead of the waist. Then steam as you would for a top, holding the fabric taut and running the steamer across the clothing.
screenshot of a YouTube video by Melissa Maker on how to steam garments
If you learn better with visuals, this YouTube video from Melissa Maker can help you steam garments.

Though it's an added step, I recommend using distilled water in your steamer. Regular tap water can cause calcium build-up, which will cause your steamer to spit and may eventually cause it to stop working. Boiled water left to cool can replace buying distilled water. Trust me, I have destroyed many steamers, and since switching to distilled/boiled and cooled water, my steamer is going on three years without spitting or issues!

2. You Would Benefit from a Sweater Shaver

Knitwear balls up when rubbed against itself. Look at your favorite sweaters, and you'll likely find pilling under the arms, along the sides of the torso, and, depending on wear, on the hem, elbows, and cuffs. This pilling can really ruin your style, but it isn't usually a sign of the sweater being ruined. It just needs a shave.

A sweater shaver is specifically designed to remove the fuzz balls and pilling without damaging the garment. Unlike razors and DIY methods, sweater shavers have guards and controlled blades to prevent nicks and snags.

  • I own this one from Conair, which is less than $20 and has been rocking for several years without issue. This link offers the same shaver that takes traditional batteries and a rechargeable version.
  • For a travel-friendly and battery-free option, this sweater comb also maintains sweaters and keeps them fuzz-free (it's also less than $10).
  • A sweater stone is made from pumice and can remove light fuzzing and pilling between wears to keep your knits looking like new.

I find it's easier to shave my sweaters when I'm wearing them. Raising arms and bending elbows will stretch out the fabric to make it easier to access the fuzz balls. If not wearing the garment, lay it flat on a table or hard surface and pull pieces smooth so the sweater shaver doesn't get caught on folds and wrinkles.

For 100% wool and cotton sweaters, that fuzz can be added to your compost or left out for birds to use to pad their nests. Any poly blends should be discarded so the plastic particles won't get consumed or in the waterways.

3. Upgrade Your Hangers

If your closet is a mishmash of hangers from college, the dry cleaner, and what came with a purchase, it's time for an upgrade. The wrong hangers can cause dents or “wings” in the shoulders of your clothes, can cause creases, and clothes can slip off them and fall to the closet floor. You may be surprised but the wrong hanger can cause your clothes to not hang as nicely on your body, have items stretch out and look old, and cause permanent damage. Investing in hangers can elongate the life and improve the appearance of your wardrobe.

My personal favorite kind of hanger is a velvet-flocked hanger. Very slim, they take up less space in a closet than other kinds of hangers, and the texture keeps items from slipping off. I have found velvet-flocked slimline hangers at TJ Maxx and Marshall's but have had a lot of success with the Amazon brand for traditional hangers and clipped hangers for skirts and pants.

For blazers, coats, and jackets, consider molded hangers that keep shoulders properly shaped. A slim hanger, especially in a packed closet, can misshape structured jackets and coats, causing them to sit wrong on shoulders, gape at the neck, and even make hems uneven. While many love the look and function of wooden suit hangers, I find these plastic ones to be a great option for less.

A screenshot of a YouTube video from OrganizedLiving that offers a way to hang sweaters on a hanger without stretching them out.
If you learn better with visuals, this YouTube video from OrganizedLiving shows how to fold a sweater on a hanger to hang in a closet without stretching it out.

Some things should not be placed on hangers. Knitwear, especially sweaters, should be folded as gravity will cause them to stretch out when on a hanger. If you are low on drawer and shelf space for your knitwear, you can try this hack that has you fold knitwear on a hanger. (YouTube)

4. Have an Arsenal of Effective Stain Removers

The more often you wash your clothes, the more you break down the fibers, fade the dyes, and damage your clothes. Steaming and airing out clothes will help with odors, and stain removers can spot clean without washing an entire garment. However, not all stain removers are created equal or are made for the same sort of stain. My favorite stain removers:

  • The Tide to Go Pen is a genius way to deal with stains on the go. Compact enough to fit into the smallest handbag, the liquid will make many stains disappear by time it has evaporated. No need to rinse, you can treat and go on with your day. Have one for your luggage dopp kit, one for your handbag, one for your work bag.
  • My personal favorite stain remover is this recipe combining hydrogen peroxide and Dawn dish liquid. This works on so many stains: wine, blood, grass, chocolate, ink, and more!
  • Carbona Stain Devils is amazing for tricky stains. I was impressed that it totally removed lipstick from my favorite white shirt!
  • Lestoil is a heavy-duty cleaner that should be in every person's arsenal. It removes really difficult stains (for example, sports uniforms covered in mud, grease, blood, and sweat).
  • I keep a bottle of Shout Advanced next to my washing machine to pretreat any greasy stains on clothing. I find it very easy (spray, let it sit a minute or so, and then dump it in the wash) and effective.
  • HEX Performance is one of the only stain removers I've found to remove sweat stains from underarms.
  • Oxi Clean is great to have on hand to make whites whiter without bleach and to pretreat stains.

5. Lingerie Bags for More than Lingerie

A lingerie bag is a mesh bag with a zipper closure used for laundering underpinnings. By placing garments in the bag, they won't get tangled with other garments in the wash or twisted around an agitator, helping them keep their shape. But it's not just bras and undies that benefit from such TLC.

Looking for a way to wash cashmere sweaters in your machine? Place it in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle. Lightweight knit that often gets twisted around other garments on the spin cycle? Lingerie bag will do the trick. I even use lingerie bags to wash socks so I don't lose mates.

If you don't own lingerie bags yet, I recommend getting a set of multiple sizes. Small for underwear, medium for bras, large for apparel. Then as you use the bags, you will know what size is best for your wardrobe. Lingerie bags are not costly, and if you're a sewist you likely can make some quickly. But these little bags will extend the life of your intimates and keep your delicate apparel in great shape.

a screenshot from a YouTube video from Clobber Creations that shows how to sew a lingerie bag to wash delicates in the washing machine
If you by chance have a sewing machine, making your own lingerie bags is relatively easy. This YouTube video from Clobber Creations shows how.

6. You Need a Tiny Pair of Scissors

When wrapping up this list of must have tools for a wardrobe, I was thinking about what I use most often for my closet. And that is a tiny pair of sharp scissors that is in the shape of a bird. Popular with those who do embroidery and sew, sharp scissors like this should be dedicated just to threads, ribbons, and apparel to keep them sharp. But you will find you will use them in so many ways:

  • Garments have little ribbon loops to help you hang it up when not wearing. If they're slipping out of your dress when wearing, use these scissors to snip as close to the seam as possible. You don't need them.
  • Same with the thread loops to hold a belt in place. If you would like your belt higher or lower on your torso, do it! These sharp scissors will snip close to the dress without damage.
  • Handbag straps often get threads from repeated use; snipping them off will make your bag look instantly newer and more expensive.
  • Wondering what that X is on the vent of your jacket or coat? It's supposed to be removed, and these scissors will help.
  • Sharp scissors will also snip the threads holding pockets closed.

You could use a seam ripper, or cuticle scissors, or try to be careful with larger scissors. But having a dedicated pair at the ready will be really helpful in those last-minute moments to trim a loose thread, open a pocket, drop a hem, and much more.

What Did I Miss?

Are there any tools for your wardrobe that you swear by that aren't on the list? Share them in the comments, as they may be the exact thing another reader needs to up their style quotient!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. To remove sweater pills, I use the Gleener, recommended by the late fashion maven Brenda Kinsel. It has 3 separate detachable “heads” for materials from coarse to fine and comes in a little travel pouch. It has never torn holes in my delicate cashmeres, unlike the battery-operated tools.

  2. Wool dryer balls! No need to ever use dryer sheets, more eco-friendly, and they reduce drying time for clothes, saving wear and tear on those items.

  3. Point of information: Boiled water left to cool is NOT the same as distilled water. For distilled water you’d need to catch the steam that comes off boiling water and cool THAT. The minerals (calcium, etc.) won’t evaporate; they stay in the water that’s boiling, so boiled water left to cool would have a slightly higher concentration. There’s a way to do distill water at home without special equipment but I’ve never tried it. We have a home distiller because I use a lot for my CPAP, but if you don’t need a lot you can just buy a gallon at the store.

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