How a clothes steamer changed my life, and other gadgets your wardrobe needs now

I am a very creased person.

No, I really am. Despite caring a fair bit about my clothes when it comes to buying them, I’m totally slack when it comes to looking after them, ironing them and making sure I don’t look like I fell asleep under a hedge.

I don’t dare count the number of times a week I look down during the day and notice that my clothes have food on them. Or mud on them. Or a thread unraveling wildly from a not-unimportant seam. Despite doing enough washes each week that my flat perpetually looks like a wet polyester farm, I still haven’t grasped the knack of presenting myself like a clean, tidy grown-up.

And the creases – oh, the creases are the worst. Any time someone compliments me on a garment, it’s my tradition to bleat out ‘thanks but it’s very creased!’, just in case they’re thinking ‘shame it’s so creased’ and assumed I hadn’t realised.

I feel guilty about not doing my clothes justice too. It’s not their fault, they don’t deserve this ill treatment. It changes the fit, too; without proper pressing, a cotton skirt or dress can magically shrink about two inches and show your arse to the world. Trouser roll-ups can turn to crinkle-ups, which have yet to enter even the most forward-thinking fashion vernacular.

So why, you might ask, don’t I just iron things? Well, mainly because it’s a colossal faff. It involves getting the ironing board in from the landing, where it lives due to lack of room inside the flat, and setting it up without trapping my fingers in the sliding leg thing. Then it involves getting the iron out, which is enormously heavy because it comes attached to a huge mountain of a base, the purpose of which I’ve never discovered. Then I have to plug it in and watch it without blinking for 10 minutes, in case I turn away and it accidentally burns the building down.

Then, finally, I am ready to iron – which involves trying to dress the ironing board in each leg of my trousers, getting flustered around flies and cuffs, and ultimately ironing in more creases that weren’t there to begin with. This is why I do not iron.

Like many other lazy urbanites, for years I only ironed using my hair straighteners. This was ok, but had the tendency to stretch things out of shape and leave odd, shiny marks on my clothes (which come to think of it was probably serum). Then I stopped using hair straighteners on my hair, and getting them out solely to iron with seemed like more of the aforementioned faff.

So it was that I soldiered on, creased but defiant, until last week. Last week, reader, I bought a garment steamer.

It was inspired by my equally iron-phobic friend Jo, who in turn had been inspired by @TheVagenda’s steamer endorsement on Twitter. ‘I steamed 12 tops in 20 minutes!’ she evangelised. ‘Tops that I haven’t been able to wear for AGES.’ It only took me 20 minutes to race to my laptop, locate and buy a Quest portable garment steamer for £14.49 from eBay – and with it, change my destiny as a creased person forever.

Now my clothes are wrinkle-free (and sanitised too, apparently) while the only downside I’ve discovered is constantly humming Steam Heat from The Pyjama Game. I’ve steamed cotton, I’ve steamed denim, and I even got the stubborn crease out of a dress that irons had failed to smooth. And it’s lead me to begin a sort of wardrobe odyssey, in search of all the other gadgets that can make me look more like a groomed grown-up and less like a crumpled pile of fabric someone has left outside a charity shop.

Shout stain removal wipes

Stain removal wipes, for example. As a person who drops food down herself at least once a day, carrying a little packet of stain removal wipes in my handbag has saved me from ruining many a pale blouse (or, let’s face it, wearing it anyway but covered with stains). There are plenty of brands on the market, but word among the perpetual spillers is that Shout Wipes work the best.

There are smart hangers, to minimise the amount of time I spend frantically rummaging through in search of dresses that I can’t see but KNOW ARE IN THERE SOMEWHERE. These Hangindicators by designer Adityaraj Dev turn from green to red to show when a hanger is free or occupied, while at C&A in Brazil (yes, that C&A) ‘Facebook hangers’ promote popular items by displaying the number of likes each garment has earned on the shop’s page. There are even hangers that use ion technology to remove smells from your clothes, and ‘bump-be-gone hangers’ that promise not to leave shoulder lumps in your tops.

John Lewis mini sewing machineThen there are the many, many things in my wardrobe that I don’t wear because they are too long, have a hole in or need a button replacing. Now that crafting is suddenly everyone’s favourite thing, learning a few basic sewing skills might not be a bad way to while away an autumn evening. John Lewis’ mini sewing machine has just the right ‘make do and mend’ vibe and comes in a fetching array of colours, while the Sew U Know app is full of instructional videos, and it won’t laugh when you accidentally stitch yourself to the sofa.

I may never become the kind of woman who keeps all her shoes in boxes with a polaroid on the front, and that’s ok because those women generally have their own issues. But I can at least try to do my clothes justice by wearing them smoothly steamed, neatly mended and without hummus stains down the front. I think Grace Kelly once said something similar.

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Lauren Bravo

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