Leather is one of nature’s most practical and sensual materials. Because of new techniques, skins are lighter, enabling designers to fashion garments for year-round use. Beautiful finishes, textures, and colors enhance leather’s appeal and universality. To help you fully appreciate your genuine leather garment, the Clothes Care Gazette offers the following information on how this unique natural product is made-and the proper ways to care for it, courtesy of the Leather Apparel Association and the International Fabricare Institute.

The Look and Feel
If you are like most people, the first thing you do when you look at a leather garment is touch it to feel its softness and texture. The way leather feels to the touch is called its hand and the general rule is: the softer the hand, the higher the cost.

Several factors influence the general appearance and overall quality of a leather garment. the first is the raw material, which is a product of genetics.

Every hide (a whole pelt from a cow or steer, etc.) and skin (the pelt of young or smaller animals) have sections that are inherently wrinkled, softer, or thinner than other parts. Environmental conditions including climate and food supply are also a factor. Nature’s creations are never uniform; these surface variations and imperfections impart a unique beauty to genuine leather garments.

To get the best value out of your leather goods:

• Buy from a reputable retailer that will stand behind the products he or she sells.

• Consider the cut, fit, quality of stitching, the lining, and style that suits your lifestyle.

• Choose a garment priced right for you, noting that the price of leather is greatly determined by the quality of the raw materials used and the workmanship involved.

• Notice details such as water-repellent treatments, lining, and trimmings on the garment.

• Look for close matching colors and texture between various portions of the garment or outfit.

• Some panels may not match exactly even when new. 

• Select a slightly larger size than normal, as leather is stretched during tanning and will shrink as it relaxes over time. Age and cleaning can also shrink the garment somewhat, so it is best to get a slightly larger size.

Leather Care Tips
Because leather goods typically are expensive, there is plenty of incentive to take good care of your purchase. Leather ages gracefully and can last a lifetime with the proper care right from the start.

• Always hang leather garments on wide or padded hangers to maintain their shape. Use shoetrees in footwear and stuff empty handbags with tissue to help retain their shape.

• Never store leather goods in plastic or other non-breathable covers. This will cause leather to become dry.

• Allow wet or damp leather to air-dry naturally away from any direct heat source. Leather can be treated with a conditioner to restore flexibility while suede can be brushed with a terry towel to restore its look.

• In winter, promptly remove salt deposits from garments and footwear by sponging with clear water; follow with the above treatment for wet or damp leather.

• Avoid very humid and dry environments as well as direct sunlight.

• Do not use waxes, silicone products, or other leather preparations that will impair a garment’s ability to breathe.

• Wrinkles should hang out. If ironing is desired, set iron on rayon setting, use heavy brown wrapping paper as a pressing cloth on the right side of the garment, and move quickly to prevent overheating and shine. Steam ironing will stiffen leather.

• Avoid spraying perfumes or hair sprays while wearing your garment and do not apply pins, adhesive badges, or tape. Wearing a scarf at the neckline will help keep hair and body oil away from the collar.

• Hems may be fixed with a tiny amount of rubber cement. For best results, see a leather care professional.

• All products formulated for at-home use should be tested on an inconspicuous part of the garment. It is often best to leave stain removal to the professional leather cleaner as many home remedies result in color loss or permanent damage to the leather.