Ask a Stylist: Your Questions Answered

Issue #1. Now on Thursdays you can expect answers to your burning style questions. Want help from an expert? Send your fashion conundrums my way!

Q: When do you actually have to listen to “dry clean only” labels, and when can you ignore them and home wash instead?  Courtney in Seattle.

A: Dear Courtney, excellent question. So many brands put the dreaded “dry clean only” label on clothes just because they don’t want to be at fault if something happens in the wash. You really want to be aware of fabrics that shrink when exposed to water. That’s why dry cleaning works, it’s “washed” in a solution that doesn’t contain water. Dry cleaning clothes is mostly bad for the planet using harsh chemicals that are also bad for you and your garment.

I try to avoid dry cleaning everything I can, but not everything can be gently washed and line dried. Most Rayon, Tencel, Viscose, polyester, cotton, wool, and linen is OK to wash.  Silks, mixed wovens or knits are where it can be tricky. Silk Chiffon cannot be washed. If a fabric contains say 30% silk 30% linen 30% cotton and 10% rayon, all of these separate materials shrink up at different rates in water, so sometimes you end up with a warbled item that doesn’t lie flat, or the seams aren’t lying where they are supposed to. If you can test a small corner  in water, try that. I prefer washing my whites, otherwise they come back looking a little dingy in my experience. And if I have a stain, OxyClean is my miracle soaking solution. Anything with intricate lining or structure, like jackets and suiting are best cleaned by a professional. But sometimes wool slacks are ok to be washed.

Knits are usually OK as long as they aren’t silk. I love DVF silk knit dresses. I might have them professionally cleaned for the first 5 wears, then I’ll try a gentle wash. As long as the colors don’t run, you’re ok. But the problem is you don’t know if the colors will run. The nice silk sheen is usually gone, but sometimes that’s ok. In my experience a lot of knits that call for “dry cleaning only” are fine in the wash. Just protect each garment from each other, wash in cold water, super gentle cycle, and line dry. Good Luck!

Q: How do i downplay broad shoulders? is that an obnoxious question? i feel like delicate feminine things always look silly on my linebacker shoulders. Liz in New York.

A: Dear Liz, I seriously doubt your shoulders resemble a line-backer, but there are several ways to appear less broad and more feminine. First off you want to choose clothing that doesn’t accentuate your shoulders. Just how do you do that?

  • Create volume on the bottom to even out the width up top, creating the hourglass illusion.
  • Draw the eye down with a light colored bottom and a dark top.
  • The same illusion can be created with a full skirt and a slim top.
  • Avoid high neck and narrow neck tops. Spaghetti straps also accentuate broadness and should be avoided.
  • Halter tops can be very flattering and accentuate your gorgeous shoulders as long as it also has an open V-neck.
  • And stay far far away from anything that adds width like cap sleeves, or details on the shoulders like embellishments or lace.
  • Strapless tops look surprising great because it mimics the line of your shoulders, and like an equals (=) sign, parallel lines cancel each other out, eliminating emphasis. Emphasizing cleavage helps too.
  • V-neck and U-neck tops are best. Creating a V with the eye using a long necklace also works.
  • Stay away from boat-necks and wide necklines, as they only accentuate. So do turtle-necks, and anything with a high neck.
  • Also avoid tops and jackets with seams above the bust-line, adding width.
  • Look for tops with rounded shoulders. Raglan and dolman sleeves soften without adding bulk. Just make sure a dolman cut top or dress isn’t also bulky.

I hope you learn to love your shoulders with a few of these styling tricks!

What to Wear:

What to Avoid: 

Want more? Post your feedback in the comments section.

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