• Chris

Basic Instructions for Ironing a Shirt or Blouse. All Buttoned Up

Shortly after I began working as a Footman at Buckingham Palace I had a conversation about my uniform with a senior staff member. I thought I looked smart, but I wanted to improve my appearance and was looking for some advice. He said the two most important items were shirt collars and shoes (I will get to shoes another time).

If you think about it, when a man wears a jacket and tie the collar is the only part of the shirt you really see. And when someone is talking to you, they will notice if your tie is neatly knotted and whether your shirt’s collar is clean, well ironed and fits.

As far as fit is concerned, you should be able to comfortably place your index and middle fingers between your neck and the collar with the top button fastened; more than that and you look a little underweight.

Appearance matters for most of us and not just for work. It’s often a good idea, if not mandatory, to “dress to impress” for job interviews, weddings and other formal events. If you don’t believe me just ask Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He runs a multiple billion-dollar company by typically wearing jeans and a nicely-ironed tee shirt, but he respectfully (and appropriately) dons a suit and tie to give testimony before the United States Senate.

While working, I try to always look smart and put together. Fortunately, I like ironing clothes, and over the years (make that decades!) I have ironed a lot of shirts both professionally and for myself. I’ve ironed countless “designer” clothes and all sorts of different fabrics whether I’m on land, at sea, or at thirty thousand feet on a private aircraft. I think ironing a shirt (or blouse) proficiently is an essential home skill to learn, especially for anyone who takes pride in their appearance. And it takes a lot of practice to achieve perfect results. If you normally send your laundry out for cleaning and ironing, it’s still a useful skill to have, even if it’s only to freshen or touch up an item that has been crushed in a suitcase or closet before wearing.

If you can iron a shirt well, you can iron almost any garment. You will find the many elements of a shirt (collar, cuffs, buttons, as well as single and multiple layers of cloth) in most items of clothing. For example, dresses are often like long shirts (I’ve ironed those too!).

I have written some basic instructions on how to iron a shirt and filmed a short video to accompany them. Since many people live in small spaces, I have omitted using a sleeve iron board (which is useful if you don’t like creases down the arms) and simply used a traditional ironing board, a steam iron, a towel, and a water spray bottle.

The shirt was washed as normal and placed in a clothes dryer for a few minutes to relax the cloth. While warm and damp, I hang the shirt, flatten the placket (front with the button holes), straighten all the seams by gently pulling them into shape along the arms and sides, and leaving the shirt to dry (or, better still, iron when the collar and other multiple layered parts are slightly damp). This way the shirt won’t shrink and ironing is faster because the shirt is in shape.

As always, make sure the bottom of the iron is clean before heating it, read the shirt’s care label, and set the iron to the correct temperature to prevent scorching the fabric. Finally, go ahead and put on some of your favorite music and enjoy ironing!

Please feel free to send me any comments, questions or some of your own ironing tips. I would love to hear from you.

© 2018 Christopher Ely. All rights reserved.

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