First, a disclaimer: Long Post Alert!
A Few Tips for Keeping Your Wardrobe in Tip Top Shape
USE NICE HANGERS: They keep your clothes from stretching out. I have beautiful monogrammed wood hangers that were a wedding gift, and I love them. I have also read that soft, padded hangers are best for jersey and silk to prevent stretching.
REMOVE DRY CLEANING BAGS: Your clothes can't breath if they are covered in plastic. To keep your clothes in good condition, they need ventilation. I have also read that clothes can get discolored if left in those bags. I am not sure if this is true, but I always take them off.
YOU HAVE A FEW ALTERNATIVES TO DRY-CLEANING: If you have a lot of clothes that need to be dry cleaned, I recommend two things: a steamer and Dryel. If you wear lots of Dry Clean Only items to work, when you get home steam and hang them immediately. You can purchase a steamer for a reasonable price at many department stores or on online. I also swear by Dryel. The kit comes with a bag, sheets, and a spray. You spray your Dry Clean Only items, toss them in the bag, throw in a sheet, and pop the bag in the dryer for 30 minutes. Your clothes come out smelling and looking fresh. I do it for all my winter sweaters that have been lightly worn to ward off huge dry cleaning bills. Dryel is not recommended for silk, so those items will probably still have to do to the dry cleaners.
STORE SEASONAL ITEMS: While SF doesn't have "seasons" per se, I pack up all of my winter sweaters around this time of year as I will not wear them no matter the temperature in this land of the fake summer. Clean all clothes before putting them away for the seaons. Wash them, dry clean them, or Dryel them. I store my sweaters in a Tupperware bin, and, though I don't do it, I have read that it is advisable to wrap each sweater in acid-free tissue to separate the sweaters from one another and to absorb any moisture. I actually put my clean sweaters in Ziploc bags and leave the bags open. I've read conflictings things about storing in plastic in this way, but Martha Stewart says it's okay, so I'm sticking with it.
TREAT STAINS IMMEDIATELY: If you have a stain on an item that you can launder at home, treat it immediately. I am a fan of Shout and Spray 'N Wash, which seem to take stains out most of the time. If a stained item needs to be dry cleaned, take it to the dry cleaner as soon as you can. Last year, I wore a white blouse and white skirt to an event and poured a cup of coffee down the front of my outfit. I literally changed that minute and ran down the street to the dry cleaners. It all came out!
CHECK YOUR TAGS: This is key. I bought a shirt in Paris, thought it could go in the dryer, and ruined it on its first wash. Check your tags, and believe what they say! That being said, some sweaters that say "Dry Clean Only" can be cleaned with a gentle hand wash. However, I am not big on hand washing. Sometimes I think the shape of the item gets funny. But, items like lingerie benefit from being hand washed instead of bumped and stretched in the machine.
To supplement my anecdotal advice, I've located some experts for you to consult:
If you buy things you love, you should care for them accordingly. Well cared for clothes can last for ages.