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How to care for a shirt

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Taking care of your tailored shirts can be a daunting task. Given proper care, a good tailored shirt can actually last for several years. Hence, it is worth learning how to do so, starting with washing.

How to wash a dress shirt

Do you know that whilst retaining its look as though it was newly bought? Well all you need to do is to provide proper care for it! The followings show the most popular washing methods to care for your dress shirts.

Method 1: Laundry Services

Do note that unless you expressly asked for dry cleaning of your dress shirts, a dry cleaner will most likely wash and iron your dress shirts the “normal” way.

The “normal” way consist of washing your dress shirts in a normal washing machine using detergent and soap, removing most of the water from your dress shirt with the spin cycle in the washing machine and then pull the damp shirts onto an industrial shirt press that closes over the shirts and simultaneously irons the shirts while removing all of the moisture.

Going to a laundry service is relatively convenient as it removes the hassle of washing it on your own and can be relatively inexpensive.

However, some laundry services can be too rough for your dress shirts. For example, the slamming of the press over the front of your dress shirts may cause the buttons to chip or shatter. Furthermore, if your dress shirts are stretched over the press when steam-drying, it may cause some areas to grow wider. And lastly, you are still likely required to do some form of ironing prior wearing.

Method 2: Washing Your Dress Shirts at Home

This method ensures that you will have a little more control over how your dress shirts are washed and handed. However, it does require a little bit more time and attention.

To provide a good wash at home, kindly follow the steps described:

Step 1: Prepare your dress shirts for cleaning by unbuttoning all the buttons, including the cuff buttons and any collar buttons. Remove any collar stays too.

Step 2: Pre-treat any stains on your dress shirts by carefully working a little detergent into them. For better results, you may spot-clean the stains with a stain remover pen.

Step 3: Set up your washing machine for an optimised wash. To minimise wear on a fine or lightweight dress shirt, use the Delicate cycle. For heavier duty fabrics or if your dress shirts are particularly dirty, you may select the Normal cycle.

You may use hot water for whites and light coloured dress shirts but use cold water for dark coloured dress shirts to prevent the colour from fading. Ensure that your laundry load does not contain any bold colours items that may bleed into your dress shirts.

Step 4: Use high quality detergents. Avoid detergents or cleaners that are chlorine-based as they will likely cause discolouration to dress shirt fabrics.

Step 5: Wash your dress shirts in the machine and let the spin cycle remove most of the water out of the garments.

Step 6: Remove your dress shirts immediately once the spin cycle has been completed, as they will be crumpled from the wash in the washing machine. . Removing them immediately will help to prevent the intense wrinkles from drying into your dress shirts. Hang your dress shirts up or lay them out to be air-dried. Try to avoid the sharp hangers or tight clothespins as they can distort the fabrics or leave marks on your dress shirts.

Step 7: Iron your dress shirts. Your dress shirts need not be completely dry to begin ironing but they should be mostly dry.

How to remove stains from your shirt?

You have probably at some point in your life, stained your dress shirt before and felt rather clueless on how to remove the stain effectively.  Fret not; we’ve listed several methods below on how to effectively remove the different types of stains. Do keep in mind that the longer a stain remains, the tougher it is to remove it! Hence, treat a stain as soon as possible! Also, always treat a stain before laundering and never ever stain your neckties as they are made of delicate fabrics that make them impossible to clean!

Lipstick

Blot the lipstick mark with a baby wipe or a washcloth moistened by rubbing alcohol on it.

Blood

If the blood is fresh, blot the spot repeatedly with cold water, an ice cube, or club soda.

If the blood has dried up, use a 3% hydrogen-peroxide solution to treat the stain.

Oil

Cover the spot with talcum or baby powder immediately and allow it to sit at least half an hour. Subsequently, brush it off and apply a stain remover. Thereafter, wash your stained dress shirt in the hottest water the fabric can withstand.

Red Wine

Douse the spot with salt immediately and dunk your stained dress shirt in cold water. Blot the spot until the stain disappears, and wash it as soon as possible! If you are unable to remove your stained dress shirt immediately, soak the spot with club soda and get your stained dress shirt into a washing machine in the soonest time possible.

Coffee Stains

If the stain is fresh, rinse the spot immediately with cold water. If possible, remove your dress shirt immediately and apply laundry detergent directly to the spot and rub together with cold water. Soak your stained dress shirt for 30 minutes, and rub it with laundry detergent every 5 – 10 minutes. After which, wash your stained dress shirt in the hottest water the fabric can withstand. If the stain is not removed after the wash, try repeating the steps. Do ensure that the stain is out of your dress shirt prior to placing in a dryer.

For older stains, apply white vinegar directly to the spot and soak your stained dress shirt in cold water. Rub the stain with a sponge until it is removed. Alternatively, you may apply baking soda with a wet cloth to scrub away the stain.

Barbeque Sauce & Other Tomato-based Sauce Stains

Soak your stained dress shirt in cool water added with ½ a teaspoon of liquid hand dishwashing detergent and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for 30 minutes. Give your stained dress shirt a rinse after soaking. If the stain remains, pre-treat the spot with a pre-wash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or a paste of powdered detergent and water. Wash your stained dress shirt in warm water after pre-treating and air-dry it thereafter.

If the stain remains after washing, soak your stained dress shirt in an enzyme product (some detergents contain enzymes) for at least an hour to overnight. After which, launder your stained dress shirt in warm water. Be mindful not to use hot water, hot air drying or to iron the garment until the stain is gone as heat will set it in.

Removing Stains from Whites

It is important is to remove the stain from white dress shirts immediately. Remove any food items on your dress shirt while blotting up liquid spills from the outside in. Apply a liquid dishwashing soap directly to the stain and gently rub the spot with a light-coloured cloth or your fingernail. Do not use a dark coloured cloth or terry towel as this may darken the stain. Soak your stained dress shirt in cold water for 10 – 15minutes prior to washing.

New and older stains may also be removed with the use of cornstarch or baking soda. Gently scrub the powder into the stain with a cold wet cloth to remove the stain. White vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are also great pre-treatment solutions in helping to remove the stain. For any stains on white fabrics, it is recommended that you wash them separately and pre-soak them in ½ cup of bleach and cold water.

How to remove lint from your shirt?

Lint is a common name for visible accumulations of textile fibres and other materials, usually found on and around garments. This happens when numerous very short fibres like cotton, linen and wools are bundled together to manufacture the fabric. During the course of normal wear, these fibres may either detach or be jostled out of the weave. The occurrence of lint is extremely normal and it does not mean that a dress shirt is of an inferior quality.

How to Remove Lint

Visible lint can easily be removed with a lint roller or clothes brush. To reduce the accumulation of lint during laundering, you may use a fabric softener that reduces the amount of static electricity on clothing surfaces and thus prevents the lint from sticking to your dress shirts.

How much will a dress shirt shrink?

Generally, dress shirts are made from woven cotton that shrinks with an average of 2%. As all fabrics are different, a good gauge would be a shrinkage of about 1-3%. Dry cleaning does not necessary prevent shrinkage as the frequency of visiting the dry-cleaner plays a part too. Unless you rarely wear the dress shirt and you visit the dry-cleaner for spot-cleaning occasionally. Otherwise, your dress shirt will still shrink as much as if it is washed regularly in water. The optimal method to wash a dress shirt is actually washing it in water.  Thus, we suggest sizing the dress shirt in such a way that it takes into account the normal amount of shrinkage.

A dress shirt is expected to shrink more over its life. It is common for a dress shirt to be slightly smaller after fifty washes than it was after its first wash.

Typically a dress shirt tends to shrink more in the length than in the width as its fabric shrink more in the warp than in the weft. Sleeve length, shirt length and collar are areas where you can expect relatively the most shrinkage to occur.

At Ethan, we ensure all our dress shirt fabrics are pre-washed for shrinkage before handcrafting a dress shirt. This will help to minimise the shrinkage during your first wash.

In some cases, you may find that instead of shrinking, your dress shirt becomes looser around the chest, midsection and around the biceps.  This is a result of the shirt being stretched out. In most cases, washing the dress shirt and then drying it on low-heat in a tumble-dry mode will return it to its original size.

How to iron a dress shirt?

To look your best, you need to keep your dress shirts looking their best! In order to achieve that, you would have to iron them. To do this effectively, you may consider our recommendations as follow:

 

1: Getting The Right Equipment

An iron is the most important equipment here. Preferably, your iron allows you to pour water into it to produce steam.  It would be even better if your iron has a Teflon coated bottom. If your iron does not spray water out the front, you may want to prepare a spray bottle so that you can spray a fine mist while ironing. Of course, an ironing board is the other equipment you would need.

2: Setting Up

Setup your ironing board in a comfortable place and height where you are able to spread your dress shirt out without wrinkling it all over again. Plug the iron in and adjust the temperature setting to about a 3 or 5 (148oC to 204oC).

3: Ironing The Back of Your Dress Shirt

Unbutton your dress shirt completely and spread it out over the ironing board with the back of the shoulder going into the narrow end of the ironing board and the side of your dress shirt along the edge of the board. After which, slide the iron down your dress shirt from the top to the bottom with moderate pressure. While ironing, be mindful that you keep your dress shirt flat to ensure that you do not actually iron wrinkles into the garment. For wrinkles that do not go away easily, you may use a little steam or spray some water on them. Slide your dress shirt over to the other side and do the same once you are done with this side.

4: Ironing The Sleeves

Lay one of the sleeves on the ironing board and carefully flatten the sleeve in such a way that it folds along the hem on the bottom of the sleeve. Start ironing from the region around the armpit, towards the cuff and away from the bottom hem. Repeat the ironing on the other sleeve.

5: Ironing The Top Part of Your Dress Shirt Front and Yoke

Pull one shoulder of your dress shirt over the narrow, pointed side of the ironing board. The optimal position is where you have a clear view of one side of the yoke and having the front of your dress shirt just below it. The collar should be sticking straight and curving around in a circle. Spray this area damp and iron carefully around the curve of the collar.

6: Ironing The Collar

Firstly, take out any removable collar stays (if any). Next, unfold the collar and lay it flat on the ironing board with its back facing up. Spray the collar to make it damp and give it about 30 seconds for the water to soak in. Start ironing from the middle of the collar outwards to the tips of the collar points. You may need to exert slightly more pressure than before as the collar is thicker and stiffer. After ironing the back of the collar, fold the collar back down and iron the front of the collar to make your collar look more angled and sharper. Insert back the collar stays if you had removed them earlier on.

7: Ironing The Shirt Front

Iron the sides of the shirt front, one at a time. Make sure the front placket is not folded over in a way that it should not be folded. Be mindful of the buttons and iron away from them. For the areas around the front of the collar, use the pointed part of your iron to help you. While ironing, pull your dress shirt gently to keep it tight and straight to ensure smooth ironing and to prevent any wrinkles from forming.

Truths behind the business of tailored suits in Singapore

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When you first search for the best place to get suits made in Singapore, Far East Plaza or Peninsula Plaza will come to your mind. Only after plenty of trial and error did I realize that even though there are hundreds of shops selling tailored suits in Singapore, none were the people making my clothes

Unfortunately, the high costs of labor and rental has led to the frenzy of outsourcing of both fabric procurement and sewing.

Fabric

Each time a suit is purchased, what’s next? I’m sure you will be thinking that some staff from the tailor shop will be in THEIR fabric warehouse finding and cutting the fabric that you selected from the swatch book.

For most tailor shops, it does not make economical sense. Just go to ACRA and you will find thousands of tailor shops, but only a handful of garment factories.

Today, there are the few ways the fabric reaches the clothes factory. The method used is influenced heavily by where the clothes are produced:

1. Local fabric suppliers

Today there are very few remaining reliable fabric suppliers. These are mostly importers and do not manage the fabric mill. Of these suppliers, 3 of these dominate or own at least 90% of the market share.

One notable supplier is RSK Singapore. Once you order a fabric from their swatch book, the tailor shop will then inform the fabric supplier the fabric code and how much fabric they need.

The fabric company will then find and cut the exact amount of fabric ordered in their warehouse. Then, they will send the fabric to the tailor shop using their dispatch (or motorbike) rider to the shop.

RSK old store at textile centre (credits: shirt.guru)

There are several disadvantages using this method.

One, you are selling the same fabrics as many other tailors in Singapore. Many shops change the swatch cover to look different but it is still the same fabric after all. Singaporeans are pretty sharp and see through such trick fast.

Two, there is double mark-up on the fabric costs.  Outsourcing the fabric warehouse management and staff and buying only when you receive an order is both convenient and with low up-front risks. With such convenience, all the foreign worker stamp duty, high labor costs and inventory risks are at a cost which is in turn passed on to consumers.

2. Bangkok Fabric suppliers

Bangkok fabric companies uses the same method. The tailor shop uses the swatch book to sell and call the fabric supplier. Then, the fabric suppliers find and cut the fabric and dispatches the order to the tailor store.

Like Singapore, there are only 3-4 notable brands. The biggest brand is Giovani or Wooltex. Of course, there are other reliable fabric mills in Thailand like Thai Textiles for iron free fabrics. However, they do not usually cater to tailor shops as their Minimum Order Quantity is high (at least 100m per color per fabric).

Quality wise, the fabrics in Singapore are a lot better. Fabrics in Thailand tend to look thicker but with the same thread-count. What this means is that the fabric look luxurious at first sight but after less than 5 washes, the fabric will start to fray. Do comment if you have faced this!

Giovani Wooltex new building (credits: Giovani facebook page)

3. China mega factories

Industrialization in China is at a whole new level. Many state owned Chinese or privately owned Hongkong tailor factories do stock fabrics within their factory premises. In most cases, they are located very close to fabric mills or warehouses of fabrics they stock up.

So if you choose a Chinese production factory, you have to choose THEIR fabrics. While fabrics from these factories are generally reliable, they offer very limited range of affordable fabrics and there are several production issues due to high turnover (as Chinese demands better jobs today).

Commonly, tailor shops that outsource to China tend to outsource to 2-3 different factories to increase their fabric range.  This leads to inconsistent results as different factories have different measurement standards.

Shanghai intertextile trade show 2016

4. Keeping inventory

Every tailor store claims they buy in bulk, hand select the best materials etc. In reality, it is tough to do so. You have to attend trade shows, then visit their factories to check their capability, then there is the paperwork and logistics import to your warehouse.

Of course, this is recommended because you skip unnecessary middlemen and unnecessary logistics costs. Then these savings can be passed on to consumers. But of course, the risks is obvious which is why less than 10 tailors in Singapore keep a sizable fabric inventory. When business is bad, your cash flow are severely affected.

At Ethan men, we buy more than 70% of our fabrics direct from fabric mills. This includes plain colours, checkered or linen fabrics which customers like and order often so we can meet the MOQ(minimum order quantity) of the fabric mill.

For other fabrics (i.e. pattern fabrics for shirt contrast, unpopular colors like green or yellow), we will order in larger quantities rather than order when we receive the order. This will allow us to negotiate a better deal and save unnecessary logistics cost and time.

Ethanmen’s fabric storeroom where suit fabrics are cut

Production

Now this  is the part where it is almost impossible to attain any proper information online. Generally, there are several categories of production routes shops take:

1. Outsourcing to sweatshops in Batam & Johor

For stores that promise 1 or 2 days, this is usually the production method used. A representative from the factory will collect the fabric and does all the logistics arrangements for the fabric to reach the factory, then back to the shop.

Due to the abundance of workers in these Johor and Batam, this is the fastest and most convenient method of production. In fact, most tailored suits are made in Batam or Johor Bahru whereas most tailored shirts are made in Singapore.

Interestingly, most shirt tailor factories in UBI also outsource their suit production to Batam! Today, with all the tightening of foreign labour, many of these factories earn from their suit sales (which they do not manufacture) rather than the shirts which they produce in-house.

 

A typical Batam sweatshop

2. Outsourcing to sweatshops in Bangkok

Today, many tailor startups today outsource to sweatshops in Bangkok.  Prices are significantly cheaper due to intense competition between sweatshop tailors in Bangkok. Unlike sweatshop owners in Batam and Johor that speak only Bahasa Indonesia or Malay, many Thais have a basic command of English.

By managing the logistics well, the cost of production can be significantly cheaper than other methods. However, conditions of sweatshops in Thailand are terrible and there is a large difference in the number of clothes orders between peak tourist seasons and off-peak seasons.

This lead to high turnover of staff, which leads to, in my opinion, the most unreliable products among all production methods. To make things worse, there are plenty of better jobs opportunities for Thais. So, the labor force of sweatshops are also mostly illegal migrant staff from mostly Myanmar and some Vietnamese. With economies of these countries getting better, many are choosing to return, leaving Thai sweatshop owners with difficulties coping with hiring quality staff.

A typical factory in Bangkok

4. Partial Outsource

This applies to 2 groups. One, local jacket tailors. Two, shirt tailor factories usually in Ubi or Paya Lebar area.

Many famous tailor shop owners are actually only jacket tailors. As tailoring requires specialized craft skills, it is not possible to be good and fast in all 3 items jackets, trousers and shirts. So it makes sense that most of the time, if you do see them cutting, they usually cut only the jacket.

While it helps that they have strong tailoring basics, they are a lot more expensive. So, if you are not looking for a perfect suit, it makes sense to seek other options especially if you are looking for only shirts or trousers.

5. In-house tailoring

Many tailor shops claim or act like they have In-house tailors. In reality, not many Singaporean are willing to undertake such manual labor anymore. Most local seamstresses are also not comparable in terms of price, speed and sewing quality as compared to neighboring countries.

In fact, most seamstresses today are work permit holders from Malaysia and China. Even these seamstresses are short in supply and are either slowly moving to “easier” retail or hospitality jobs or returning to their countries (like China) where salaries are getting competitive. The recent changes to foreign worker levy and quota also accelerate this trend.

For a balance between quality and value, it is inevitable for us to move our production overseas.

Our suit cutter at work

Other than some suit jacket tailors or local shirt factories that partially outsource, we understand that we are the only shop with our production line. There are several key reasons we do not wish to outsource at all.

One, outsource factories pay their staff for every item made. So for busy days, their seamstress rush through and produce unacceptable work.

Two, we are insistent on using components (i.e. zips, canvas, waistband etc) we want to use. When we outsource, most factories do not wish to disrupt their operational flow and clients are forced to only use their components. However, as they charge a competitive price per item, they are not incentivized to use better components.

Three, there is also the inconsistent cutting. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of work between management and cutter. We also ensure for every return customer that reorders, the shirt or suit is cut by the same tailor. If we had outsourced, many times the cutting is different and there is wastage of unnecessary time.

Ethan men was hence set up, to provide affordable tailored suits in Singapore for the modern man.

How a shirt should fit

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There will never be a perfect answer to how a perfect fitting shirt should look. But in general, the following are some standards of how a shirt should fit.

1. Shoulder

There should be zero or little crease near the collar or shoulder area. However, for gym fanatics with very big back, the chances of have crease near your neck is inevitable but it can be minimized.

Common fault: If the pull lines are running from the armpits up towards your collar, you should increase the shoulder slope of your dress shirt.

Solution: You should decrease the slope of the shoulders. This is highly skilled alteration which requires redrafting and detaching sleeve. Hence, we will recommend going to a highly reputable alteration specialist for this.

2. Length

If you intend to wear your dress shirt tucked-in, the shirt should come to the bottom of your buttock or slightly below it. Generally, the longer a dress shirt is, the more securely it will tuck into your pants and the straighter it will stay aligned at the front.

If your intention is to wear your dress shirt tucked-out, your dress shirt will look better being slightly shorter. It should come to the center or bottom of your buttock with the front bottom shirt tail slightly aligned with the ends of your sleeves when you stand straight.

3. Hips area

For tucked-out dress shirts, your dress shirt bottom width fit should be loose enough on the hips of your pants, but not too loose that it flares out at the bottom excessively.

4. Belly area

At all times, your shirt should never be so tight till it pulls at your stomach area.

5. Sleeve Length

Your sleeves should end off at the first knuckle of your thumb, when both your arms are hanging relaxed at your sides. This is the optimal length as when the cuffs are buttoned, they would be prevented from sliding too far over your hand or sliding up over your forearm when you bend or raise your arms.

6. Collar

Your dress shirt collar should fit comfortably without being too loose, while still remaining as  snug as possible. An optimal allowance of 1-2 fingers should be allowed between your neck and your collar when it is buttoned.

Here are just some of our inputs. Do feel free to comment or email us any questions to further improve the content of this article.