I did not plan to do so … Nevertheless, I discovered that my newly purchased second-hand Brooks Brothers cotton seersucker sport coat (purchased on eBay for the grand total of $8.00) had a couple of stains. Because I did not pay much for this jacket, and it is cotton, why not see how it would turn out if machine washed?
Now, this is not something that I would dare do to one of my vintage wool Canali, Hickey Freeman or Samuelsohn suits or sport coats. But what about a second-hand cotton seersucker sport coat? Why not? Although the care label in this sport coat specifies dry cleaning only, I was convinced that it could be machine washed with good results. The jacket is unlined and with the exception of light shoulder padding, it is simply constructed. Besides, I paid so little for it. Let’s go!
Washing a Cotton Sport Coat
I used my favorite Dollar Tree LA’s Totally Awesome Oxygen Base Cleanser (a generic alternative to Oxyclean) as it is good at brightening white colors without causing dark colors to fade (the seersucker fabric is blue and white). Also, it is quite good at removing stains. I turned the jacket inside out and ran the washing machine on the gentle cycle, cold water setting.
The stains required two washes to remove completely. I dried the jacket on the low heat setting in the dryer. After drying, the jacket was a lumpy misshapen mass. Now comes the hard part …
Pressing My Sport Coat
Cleaning the jacket was easy. However, pressing the jacket with a steam iron does require a bit of practice to master. If you plan to do this you must have good pressing skills and the right tools. In addition to a good steam iron and ironing board, you will need a sleeve board and tailor’s ham ( also known as a dressmaker’s ham). The sleeve board is essential for the proper ironing of the sleeves and the tailor’s ham assists you in restoring the gentle curves and shaping that are pressed into the jacket at the factory. The collar and shoulders of the jacket benefit most from being gently shaped with a tailor’s ham while being pressed. Without restoring the gentle curves pressed into the jacket it will look flat and ill-fitting.
One more thing, always use a pressing cloth! This is a cotton cloth (I make mine from old shirts) that protects your suit or sport coat fabric from fabric shine and burn when pressing. Pure cotton is best as it can take high heat well. Also, be sure to use the proper heat setting for your fabric.
The video below shows a bespoke tailor ironing a suit jacket. He uses a rolled towel instead of a tailor’s ham to iron the curved sections of the sleeves (another option). It’s a good tutorial on how to iron a suit jacket or sport coat. Just be sure to always use a pressing cloth!
I pressed the jacket using a good steam iron, sleeve board and tailor’s ham. It took about a half-hour to complete the process. I think it has turned out very well. There was no shrinkage and the results are crisp and professional looking. The end result is featured in the photo above. Of course, you do this at your own risk. I also did some (self-taught) alterations to make the jacket fit better. I am delighted both with the cost savings and professional looking results I achieved. SplurgeFrugal!