If you wear dress shirts on at least a semi-regular basis, you know that a proper ironing job is ultimately responsible for how you look. It is very important to dedicate time and care to shirt ironing, but it is not a tedious process at all, once you know where to start and how to go about it.
Tools are important. A good iron not only saves time, but also prevents garments from wearing too quickly. The key features to look for in an iron are steam (preferably vertical), a non-stick plate, and safety shut off. Everything else is an added bonus, not a necessity.
The ironing board is also important; choose one with metal mesh that allows steam to pass through. Unless you are tight on space, do not use a tabletop board. A portable one with adjustable height is the best. Also invest in a good ironing board cover. A well-padded, heat-reflecting one will make ironing a lot easier.
Now on to the ironing process itself:
- Start with the collar and cuffs. Iron them on the reverse side, trying not to hold the iron in one place for too long, as it can cause the fabric to become shiny in places where more layers of fabric are sewn together. The easiest way to avoid this is to hover the iron an inch above your garment and use a lot of steam - a properly fused collar and cuffs will not wrinkle too much anyway. If needed, repeat this on the face side of your shirt.
- From here on, iron on the reverse side of the garment. The next step is the sleeves. Using the seam as a guide, fold the sleeve in half, and smooth out all the bunched-up fabric before putting the iron on it. Start with the back part (where the sleeve slit is). Slide the iron from the shoulder seam, putting most pressure at the seam, and less nearing the point where the sleeve is folded - you don’t want to end up having darted sleeves. Repeat on the front. If you accidentally press on the edge where the sleeve was folded, lay it as flat as possible, making sure the sleeve seam and the ironed fold are perpendicular to each other, and iron it out with the tip of your iron. Alternatively, use the hover and steam method mentioned above.
- Now comes the front. Lay the garment as flat as possible on the ironing board. Start with the side that has buttons, and iron in between them, not over. Pay close attention when working your way near the collar and armholes, these areas are a bit tricky to get right if the garment does not lay flat enough. Iron everything from the shoulder seam down, from placket to side seam. Repeat on the other side, paying close attention to the placket. If shirt has pockets, iron them from the bottom up.
- To iron the yoke (the double-layered part of the shirt that covers the shoulder line), put the shirt over the narrow end of your ironing board. Start on the shoulder part of the yoke, holding the collar away from the areas you are ironing to avoid ironing creases into the fabric. After the front part is ironed, turn the shirt, laying the back flat on the ironing board. Iron the middle part, and then repeat the steps on the other side of the yoke in the shoulder seam area.
- The last step is to iron the back. Lay it as flat as possible, and start working from side to centre, making sure the darts are facing each other. If the shirt has no darts, and a box pleat in the back, iron around it and then steam over it to avoid misshaping it.
If your iron does not have a steam function, keep a spray bottle with water handy, and spray the garment as needed.
Ironing might not be the most enjoyable activity, but when done right, it is less time consuming than one might think. Well-pressed garments always add chic to your look, so it is well worth your while!