Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The World's Cheapest Suit

When I was offered my new job, one of the requirements was the purchase of an all-black suit.  Until now, my definition of a "suit" has been a black sport coat I purchased in 2002 for $1.50 at a thrift store with black slacks.  Finally, I needed to actually get something with matching pieces.

We don't need to go into my feelings on spending money in this post, but suffice it to say that I had certain financial hopes and expectations about my new suit before our purchase, and I was worried.  A department store in Dublin called Penney's (not J.C. Penney, despite the spelling...) offers department store fare with Wal-Mart-like quality and prices.  We could only hope that Penney's offered men's suits.  If they didn't, we would be stuck getting something nice.  We also hoped for a suit that would be machine washable.  I didn't want to be spending significant money maintaining a suit that I had just spend significant money obtaining, see?  

Our hopes were realized when we found the far back corner of Penney's, a small rack of polyester two-piece suits on offer for low-double-digit prices.  The polyester is shiny, but it fits reasonably well and is comfortable enough.  Where the suit does show its quality is in durability and care.

After the first few wearings, it was time to wash the suit.  I was certainly glad I could use the machine instead of the cleaners down the street, but I was nervous about what the machine would do to my new threads.  I had to go for it, so in it went.  

When the suit came out of the washer, it was clean BUT was thoroughly wrinkled AND the creases in the pants were gone, just gone.  "Now I have to figure out how to iron this thing?"  Turns out, it can be ironed, but very carefully.

Polyester pants with a damp T-shirt laid over them on an ironing board.
Ironing Polyester?
Using the internet, I saw some tips about ironing polyester.  A wet piece of cloth (a clean T-shirt did for me) laid over the garment protects it from the direct heat of the iron.  Using the wet cloth, I found out, requires much higher heat on the iron, but it achieves a nice, smooth result.  I was even able to get the firm creases back on my pants.  I daresay it looked better than when I bought it!

Well, now we are clean and pressed, but our suit time isn't over.  On the second wearing of the suit, both the front button and the back pocket button had popped off.  I couldn't hardly go to work with no buttons, but I wanted to make sure this wouldn't become a weekly activity.  I wanted to do it right.  Thanks again to the internet and its magical ability to teach someone anything without a teacher, I was able to get it done.

Scissors, needles, and thread ready to repair a button on black slacks
Getting materials ready
I went to the sewing kit for my materials.  We had everything we needed right at hand.  I learned quickly that the large curtain needles were not the correct tools for the job.  Luckily, I did find a smaller, sharper needle to penetrate the hard plastic fibers of these pants.

Needle nose pliers are used to pull a needle through the waist of pants to repair a button
Needlenose sewing pliers?

Penetrating the plastic fibers proved to be more difficult than I had thought, especially in the dense fabric of the waist.  I had to go to my fishing kit to collect my needlenose pliers to pull the needle through the fabric.

I was able to find a use for those chunky curtain needles in the form of a handy spacer.  The website I found recommended that I use a spacer to give my button a bit of wiggle room so as not to be too tight when buttoning fabric.  These large, blunt needles were perfect for this purpose.

A large curtain needle is used as a spacer on a button repair
Needle as a spacer
After a good number of stitches using doubled-up thread, I had a satisfying and durable button to securely hold up my pants.

A finished button repair on a pair of black slacks
Finished front button
Now for the back button.  This one proved to be a bit more challenging because the button sits inside of the back pocket.  The fabric was easier to penetrate with the needle, but I had to be careful with my positioning.

Repairing the back pocket button on black slacks
Working on the pocket button
It was tricky, but I managed it- a firm and pleasing repair.

A black back pocket button is fully repaired
There! All finished!
Experienced sewers reading this will probably laugh at my improvised methods and my excitement and pride at completing such a minor sewing task.  I am still glad that I was able to make this repair myself.  It even feels a bit "manly" and empowering to be able to properly maintain my clothing, where so many men before me passed this job on to their wives and daughters.  Men of the world!  Learn to sew!  It feels great!  And learn how to tie your own necktie while you are at it.  Don't know how?  Hit the internet, brothers!

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