Fashion: It's time to come to the aid of the party frock

You've spent a small fortune on a pair of must-have spindly sandals and a fabulous beaded cocktail dress - so why be a Scrooge when it comes to caring for them?
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The Independent Culture
WHITE IS this year's chic winter shade, and luxury fabrics are key, but who can you trust when it comes to laundering that pounds 800 Ralph Lauren silk shirt to ensure it keeps its celestial brightness? Or, come to that, repair your beloved handbag, mend those adored strappy sandals or make sure your soft leather jacket doesn't return from the cleaners looking like a prune?

"When you're giving someone your favourite, not to mention most expensive, items of clothing you want to know they'll be treated with respect," explained Peter Sidell of The Library. "That's why for the past 10 years I've used the Howard Stone Valet Services. I know I can give Howard an expensive suit or a prized cashmere sweater, and it will come back looking as good as new."

"If something comes to us and we're not sure about it," says Howard Stone, "our philosophy is not to clean it before we've spoken to the customer. Saying that, we rarely turn anything away. We're experienced in cleaning everything from hand-beaded dresses by Gucci to ties from Marks & Spencer, so we're not afraid of the odd stain."

Another complete valet service is offered by Jeeves of Belgravia. "We clean and repair virtually any fashion item. We'll also make sure your Manolo Blahniks are resoled to exactly match the shoe, or re-fashion a heel to bring it a little more up to date. We can also repair the linings, clasps and zips on most handbags."

Rejuvenation needn't cost the earth. Jeeves will completely clean and attend to minor repairs on a bespoke suit for under pounds 20. If you really want to ensure your favourite items retain their good looks, Jeeves and Stone offer a few invaluable tips. Remember to brush overcoats - it keeps the pile up and removes damaging surface dirt. Help shoes keep their shape by stuffing them with tissue paper; polish leather regularly or it will lose its moisture and crack; try not to wear the same pair of shoes every day, as the inside needs time to dry naturally.

Always cover your favourite items with cloth bags, not plastic - that way they can breathe. And of course, never put anything away for the winter without giving it a good clean. If there is one thing moths love more than a woollen sweater, it's a dirty woollen sweater.

Howard Stone Valet Services

A full and comprehensive dry cleaning and repair service. Can also see to heels that have fallen off and re-stitch bags. Free delivery and collection from most areas of London. (01843 833347 for full details.)

Jeeves of Belgravia

Full dry-cleaning service including suede, leather and household linen, also minor and extensive alterations as well as repairs to all fashion accessories (0181-909 3232). Free delivery and collection in London. Postal service available.

Suede Services

Specialist suede, sheepskin; and leather cleaners, based in North London. (0181-455 0052)

Sketchley

More than 350 branches across the UK, with 100 outlets in Sainsbury stores. (01628 671444 for services and branches, cashmere clinic.) Postal service available. (0171-584 6657)

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