Gunn shares laundry tips to long-lasting clothes

On most Thursday evenings, Tim Gunn, the urbane co-host of TV’s “Project Runway” and chief creative officer for Liz Claiborne, takes a break from the world of fashion designers and models. He strolls to his local Manhattan fluff-and-fold for his weekly drop-off.

In one hand, the fashion arbiter carries his laundry bag packed with dirty clothes. In the other hand, he clutches bottles of Tide Total Care and Downy Total Care, new products he is being paid to pitch to a fresh audience: Fashionistas. Maker Procter & Gamble says it has developed an anti-aging formula for fabric care, borrowing components from the beauty industry that protect fibers, preserve shape and retain color in the washing machine.

“They asked me if I would be interested in being a spokesperson for this product and present the compelling message that this is for fashion, not just for clothing,” says Gunn, 55, a native Washingtonian and former chairman of the fashion design department at Parsons the New School of Design. He stars in his own fashion makeover show on Bravo, “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style,” and recently published a book on the same topic.

It was recently announced that the new season of the beleaguered “Project Runway,” which Gunn hosts, will air this summer on Lifetime.

Did you do laundry as a child?
My mother was very intense about making me and my sister very independent people, so we did laundry and cleaned the house. Our washing machine was in the basement. My most vivid memory is definitely finding a 7-inch salamander in the machine after doing the wash. I shrieked and did the laundry all over again, twice.

Do you ever do your own shirts?
No, I send them out. I actually don’t do ironing. I do own an iron, but I prefer to use a steamer.  There’s no ironing board at my place; I put a towel on the kitchen counter if I really need to.

Do you wash your jeans?
Here’s the honest-to-God truth about my black jeans versus my dark navy jeans: I don’t wash the black jeans because they’re skinny, and they’re the only skinny jeans that I own. I’m fearful that if I wash them and they shrink even by a millimeter, then they won’t fit. The truth. I do put my dark navy jeans in the wash.

How should you arrange your closet to best care for your clothes?
Don’t cram everything in your closet. That pulls and stretches fibers. Lots of people believe everything should be on a hanger. No. Sweaters should be folded or stacked; a knit may be draped over a bar. I have cedar hangers for all my suits and dress pants. I’m not a snob about these. I get them online at I hang my shirts on the wire hangers they send from the cleaners. They don’t take up a lot of space.

How should you clean out your closet and organize your wardrobe?
I ask women to extract everything they wear all the time and identify what they don’t wear very often or not at all. Let’s prioritize and give you ease of access to things you use a lot and put away things you don’t use, or give them to Goodwill or Dress for Success or throw them away. We go through the items she wears all the time, and I ask her to look at them from the standpoint of quality. What is the condition of the garment right now? Frequently that is very revealing, and there are tomato sauce stains on this and red wine on that.

Any shopping tips?
Women and men should shop with an inventory of their closet in their head, the purpose being to shop for items that will enhance what they already own. “Value for the dollar” should be in everyone’s vocabulary. Specifically, an item that may be perceived as being expensive may not be if it will last for many years, versus the less expensive item that may only last a season or two. ...

I hear you’re a fan of Tide to Go stain-remover pens.
I carry one with me in my messenger bag, I have one in my desk drawer and also a stack in my linen closet. I have to tell you, it works brilliantly. I was nervous about it, but now I use it on my ties. And once I had a guest drop a glass of red wine that splattered all over my camel-color sofa. I got out my Tide to Go pen, and it took it all out.

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