Ginger Johnson










Last month, we dove into building, caring for and feeding your main wardrobe. This month, I wanted to focus on keeping our extremities toasty: hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and footwear.

First, bear in mind the items that these items are hard workers and often experience the most and hardest use. Thrown on, torn off, tossed in a corner, left in a truck, cleaned infrequently -- special attention to these silent soldiers of our wardrobe on a periodic basis will give them a long life, serving us steadily for years. So what do we consider when we think about buying these goodies?

For example, as much as I love shoes, I've learned to only buy leather footwear. It's the longest lasting, easiest to care for and breathes with my feet. If I opt for synthetic, I invariably learn (the hard way -- through my wallet!) they don't last and my feet are less comfortable. Leather is straightforward to take care of, too. The key is to set aside a little time to care for your garments.

True or False: You can find items made of vegan leather.


Did you even know there was such a thing as vegan leather? I sure didn't, so I did some research. An article by Jody McCutcheon for ("What the heck is vegan leather?") opened my eyes:

"While a few vegan leathers are cork- or kelp-based, the vast majority of faux leather has been around for ages, and is made of scary materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane and textile-polymer composite microfibers. In other words, generally speaking, 'vegan leather' reeks, literally and figuratively, of petroleum." Figure out which one both you and our planet can live with, which will serve you best and longest and make your choice.

Common natural clothing fabrics include cotton, flax, wool, ramie, silk, denim, leather, down (feathers) and fur. Some common synthetic fabrics (chemically produced) include polyester, ozone, acrylic, nylon, rayon, acetate, spandex and Kevlar. With dozens of materials, we need to know what works for us and how to care for it.

True or False: All synthetic materials are bad.


All the elements of our life and the choices we make affect our planet. The best thing we can do is to invest time in learning what fabrics are out there, how they are made, what they are used to create, and what fits your ethics and aesthetics.

Once you buy, it's time to take good care of your goodies. Hats of all kinds need a washing once in a while. Manufacturers and merchants are often your best source for this information. Ask before you buy to help you make the best decision. If you'd rather not hand wash a snappy wool beret, opting for a machine washable knit beanie can be a great solution.

While knit mittens are pretty simple to care for, gloves can sometimes create a care conundrum: part leather, part yarn or other seemingly machine washable fabrics. Again, do your front-end homework. Find out what brands and styles require what kind of care. Learn to darn and mend holes in gloves and mittens or find a sewing business that offers repairs. How about those leather choppers with wool liners you've got? Gently machine-wash the liners and air dry; use a leather conditioner to keep the leather chopper supple. Set yourself and your hand-y servants up for years of harmonious use.

On that vein, supporting repair and maintenance businesses is a wise choice for our communities. Cobbling is a very real, smart and dollar savvy service and profession. Cobblers repair footwear, and some sell high quality new goods -- belts, shoes, and laces -- as well as products to help leather goods stay supple and last longer. You can support your local economy and learn to take better care of your belongings.

The exercise of buying and caring for our clothing items can be simple and straightforward with a basic strategy: buy the highest quality goods you can when you shop, take care of them and they'll last for years.

Ginger Johnson can often be found pairing food & drink, speaking, developing recipes and teaching all sorts of classes to flavor lovers all over. Read more at and She can also be found on Twitter (@gingerjohnson) and Facebook (Ginger Johnson LLC).