Starch Madness-to starch or not?

Starch Madness to starch or not?

In some parts of Texas there are still people who like the look of ultra-starched jeans and shirts. To starch or not to starch is a personal preference.  It’s important to know that not all clothing will react to starch in the same way.  Fabric thickness and weight determine starch saturation. Poly blends don’t absorb starch at the same rate as cotton shirts. Dark shirts do not respond as well to starch and will begin to develop a “shine” if overly saturated.  You should never starch a garment that is “wrinkle-free”.  Some people shy away from starch because they think it will make their clothing overly stiff, but that is not the case.  Adding some amount of starch provides crispness to the body of a garment and you’ll be less likely to develop a wrinkled shirt while wearing it over the course of a day.

Commercial laundry pressStarch is a carbohydrate produced by all green plants as a source of energy. When mixed with warm water, it creates a thick, sticky paste. It’s used in the commercial laundry to stiffen fabrics. Starch is added to the actual wash cycle and then garments are actually dried when put on the press. The press gives shirts their shape and form.  Shirts that receive no starch in the actual wash cycle will feel stiffer than shirts washed and dried at home due to the heat from the metal press. If you prefer hand-finishing over machine finishing, then you should have your shirts processed on the dry cleaning side. 

Most ordinary cleaners starch their shirts with a cheap synthetic glue (it’s poly vinyl chloride commonly known as PVC). Synthetic starch adheres to your shirt’s fibers like a coat of paint and each time it is cleaned, another coat gets added. Corn starch is another alternative but the particles do not stick to fibers as well and doesn’t provide a lasting finish. At Westbank, we use a combination of fine natural and synthetic starches that dissolve immediately in water. The combination of the two starches allows for consistency and staying power so your shirt looks perfect every time.

Heavily starched jeans


How to Store Your Winter Clothes

Knowing how to store your winter clothes can mean the difference between a well-preserved wardrobe and a mildewed, moth-ridden mess.  Here are a few tips to prolong the lifespan of your garments:

Keep it Clean

The most important thing you can do when putting away garments for seasonal storage is to make sure they are clean. That means either a trip to the dry cleaner or a spin in the home washer.  Insects are attracted to body oils and dirt and putting a garment away dirty gives them an instant meal.  Also keep in mind that invisible stains, such as clear sodas, perfume and white wine can oxidize over time and appear yellow the next time you pull the garment out to wear it.  The longer the stain sets, the harder it is to remove it without damage to the fabric.

To Hang or Not to Hang?

Store delicate items like knits and sweaters folded and flat to prevent stretching and distortion. It’s also recommended to store sweaters in sealed storage containers or enclosed in breathable sweater bags.

Heavy coats and jackets should be hung on sturdy hangers, not wire hangers, which are weak and not suited for heavy items. It’s also better to hang furs in a cloth garment bag because they’re a natural fiber. It should be sealed up. And make sure it’s in the coolest part of your closet.  When possible, store dark and light colors separately.  This prevents any dye transfer.

Clothing storage bag, $8.75
Sweater box, $5.39

Just Say “No” to Plastic

Don’t store any clothing in poly bags from the dry cleaner or the retailer.  Over time these bags can promote moisture in extremely humid environments.  Closets are often located off of bathrooms which tend to be very humid.  Plus, plastic doesn’t breathe and garments need air.  Use breathable fabric bags to store clothing long term.

TLC for your Closet

The best overall strategy for keeping your clothing looking good is to have a clean, organized closet.  From time to time, it’s a good idea to take everything off the floor of your closet and vacuum thoroughly, dust off shelves and purge your closet of clothing you no longer wear.  If you have a cedar closet in your home, renew the cedar every few years.  Cedar must be re-sanded or fresh cedar oil applied to retain its effectiveness. Lavender sachets are also a nice way to keep sweaters smelling fresh and ready to wear.  Finally, avoid mothballs.  They are a pesticide and are toxic to pets and children and the odor is very difficult to remove even with dry cleaning.

Sonoma lavender sachets by the yard, $19.95; 





3 Tips on How to Maximize your Wardrobe Investment by Making your Clothing Last Longer



For the budget conscious, I encourage you to purchase the right pieces up front, with a focus on “price per wear” vs “purchase price”. For example, if you wear a ‘bargain’ blouse you bought on sale for $50 only once or twice versus your “go to” blouse which you paid full price for at $200 and wear it say 50 times – which is the real value? I like to think of clothing pieces as serving a function, to clothe people each day in the most effective way and for the least cost. Budget conscious woman typically would rather fill their closet with pieces that average $4/wear vs $25/wear every day of the week. The longer a piece lasts the further your dollar stretches because you’re not having to purchase replacement pieces as often. That’s not to say that you should avoid clearance racks, but just be selective and don’t get caught up in “saving” money. Only money that hits your savings account is an actual savings. I recommend that as a measuring stick of whether to buy a ‘bargain’ or not: only buy pieces that you’d purchase at full price anyway – then you can’t go wrong!

2. Create a coordinating wardrobe of mix and match items rather than buying in outfits.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a beautiful ensemble and buy an outfit without thinking about how it may work with other pieces in your wardrobe. I know I’ve been guilty of it. Doing this occasionally is fine, but if it’s your “system”, it will cost you a lot more money and closet space to have an entirely working wardrobe. Instead, I encourage my clients to buy ‘wow’, statement pieces or even entire outfits that will coordinate back to the remainder of their existing wardrobe (built around capsules of color) so that you can create numerous combinations of outfits. For every base piece (pants, skirt, shorts) you have in your closet, aim to have 3 – 5 top combinations that go with it as a minimum. The closer you approach 10 combinations per base piece, the more effective your wardrobe is. Think about it, if you wore the same pair of black pants every day, would anyone notice? Now, wear the same blouse, sweater, or suit jacket every day… people are likely to take note!

3. Rotate your wardrobe on a regular basis.
I just spoke above about wearing the same pair of pants every day, but please do not confuse that as a suggestion. In fact, I would recommend that if you have a favorite pair of pants you just love and could live in everyday to actually purchase multiples of the exact same pair of pants. For example, I own 4 pairs of black ‘Miracle Pants’ from Doncaster [] that I just live in! The consistent look is fine (as I mentioned above) but wearing items too often back to back puts excessive wear on them. Your clothing and shoes need time to rest – for the fabric (or leather) to retreat back to their natural state before they are worn again. Ironically, wearing 1 pair of pants say 5 days in a row will wear out faster than that same pair of pants worn 5 times over the next month. So, if you want your pieces to last longer, rotate them in your closet. Also, if you purchase a matching suit, remember that the base piece (pants or skirt) will receive twice the stress that the jacket receives – so if you want the two pieces to stretch further together, change up the jacket with other base pieces too before wearing it once again with its matching base.


Author Bio

J Lee of Strategically You
J. Lee, the founder of Strategically You, empowers women by leading image and wardrobe coaching programs for women who want to craft their own authentic signature style and build a wardrobe that supports them rather than work against them by learning the industry insider techniques; the timeless principles of image, style, and wardrobe mastery; and the best ways to shave off hours of shopping time and thousands of dollars when stocking their closet.  J. Lee is based in Austin, TX, but works with women throughout the United States – offering in-personal and virtual programs, workshops, and conferences. You can connect with her on the Web, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

For a free report that shares the 6 essential keys to a working wardrobe & 10 strategic shopping tips, visit:

Prom Rack 2012 Mission Accomplished

Tulle, sequins, silk, high heels, embellishment……and teenage girls.  That pretty much sums up last Saturday’s Prom Rack dress giveaway.  Over a thousand new and donated dresses lined the room at Mount Sinai Baptist church in Austin.  Hundreds of shoes where sized and displayed along with handbags and lots and lots of sparkly  jewelry.  It’s a teenage girl’s paradise and we were so happy to be right smack in the middle of it.

This is the third year we’ve partnered with the Prom Rack and we are honored to be part of such a great event.  The powerhouse behind this event is Austinite Gigi Edwards Bryant, supported by her Write to Me Foundation.  This group serves youth in the foster care system, which is an underserved at-risk group to start with.  Gigi has opened up her prom dress giveaway day to include girls in the community who might need a prom dress.  Bryant reached out to school counselors and ministers in the community to get the word out.  Nearly 200 girls walked away with 2 and sometimes 3 prom dresses, shoes and jewelry.

All the girls were welcomed by a volunteer who assisted them as their own personal shopper.  They were delighted see the many separate racks of dresses containing retro dresses and the highly coveted “princess” rack, a selection of dresses with voluminous tulle skirts and elaborately beaded satin bodices.  There were short dresses and plus-size dresses….something for everyone.  The Austin chapter of the National Charity League has partnered with the Prom Rack the past two years and they are a welcome addition to the event.  There was also a makeup artist who provided the girls with skincare advice and makeup tips for the big night.


Prom Dresses

Over a thousand dresses were available to choose from.

Thank you to all of our customers who donated a dress for this year’s giveaway.  You definitely helped make a young girl’s prom dream come true.


A happy shopper

A happy shopper leaves with two beautiful dresses.

Thank you to all of our customers who donated a dress for this year’s giveaway.  You definitely helped make a young girl’s prom dream come true.

A “Spot Clean Only” care label is typically found on higher end designer clothing.  Sometimes these garments are hand-made, fragile, contain delicate lace, or other types of decorative trims. “Spot Clean Only” means that the item can’t be safely submerged in any type of commercial cleaning machine. It must be cleaned by hand using a local spotting agent along with steam and air drying. There may be residual watermarks from the cleaning solvents or the area that was cleaned will still stand out because it is cleaner than the rest of the garment.

Leave It To The Pros

At Westbank Dry Cleaning, we specialize in hi-end garments and we’ll be sure to discuss the risks and results with you prior to cleaning the item so that you’re aware of possible outcomes. We can only touch a “Spot Clean Only” item with your complete understanding and acknowledgment that there is no guarantee how the garment will turn out and you may be asked to sign a waiver of liability.

So What Can You Do?

Before you purchase a garment with a “Spot Clean Only” tag, ask a salesperson what their suggestion is for cleaning the garment. Find out if the garment can be returned if there is no way to clean it satisfactorily. It’s also important when wearing a “Spot Clean Only” item that you’re careful not to get the item heavily soiled or spotted since it cannot be dry cleaned or laundered.

Get your Winter Rewards with our Seasonal specials!

Receive Westbank's Special Offers!

Sign-up now