Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Quick Fixes for 4 Wardrobe Malfunctions at Work

We all want to look our best on the job. But no matter how much time you spend choosing your sharpest blouse or your lucky tie, we’ve all had those days—a button falls off, a hem rips, a few drips of coffee escape onto your shirt—where a small wardrobe malfunction has us hiding in our cube or clutching a laptop in front of our shirts for the rest of the afternoon.

These sorts of mishaps are small in the long run, but it can be a major blow to your confidence when it’s the day of an important meeting with your boss, a big presentation, or a job interview, and your winning outfit feels suddenly unwearable.

Luckily, there are some quick, easy fixes to your biggest wardrobe woes. And you don’t have to be a professional tailor to make them happen! We recommend keeping an emergency kit on hand, but even if you’re just surrounded by office supplies, we’ll show you how to get yourself looking freshly pressed (again) in no time.

The Emergency Kit

Sure, you can buy small sewing kits (or snag them from hotel rooms), but those often come with day-glo thread and are missing key elements. So I recommend quickly customizing your own with the following essentials:

  • A couple small needles
  • 2-3 spools of thread in neutral colors (think black, brown, tan, navy, or whatever color you find dominates your work wardrobe)
  • Buttons (several small, clear buttons for shirts, and one or two large ones for pants or blazers)
  • Safety pins
  • Wrinkle release spray (and small spray bottle to put it in)
  • Tide To-Go pen
  • Stash your kit in your bag or at your desk, and you’ll find it can do miracles for you on a bad day. Now, learn how to use it to salvage any wardrobe situation.

    Problem #1: A Button Pops Off

    Losing a button during the day can make you look anywhere from a little sloppy to a little revealing, neither of which is particularly good for your professional reputation.

    Emergency Kit Solution

    If you have an extra button, needle, and thread on you, you’re just a few quick stitches away from being all fixed up. Sewing on a button is probably one of the most foolproof sewing skills, but if you’ve never done it before, watch the short video below to learn how.


    Office Supply Hack

    In the absence of an emergency kit, you have a few different solutions depending on how load-bearing the button in question was. If it was toward the bottom of a shirt made of a lighter fabric, grab some double-sided tape or packing tape and stick it between the overlapping pieces of fabric—as long as you’re not putting too much strain on it, that should be enough to keep them in place for the day.

    If the missing button was toward the top of your shirt or on your pants, grab a sturdy paperclip, hook it through any thread loops left from the button or the surrounding fabric of the shirt, and then slide it through the button hole! It might look a little funny, but it’s better than shocking executives when your bra peeks out from your unbuttoned shirt.


    Problem #2: A Ripped Hem

    Whether the stitches on your hemline have fallen out or you realize on your big morning that you forgot to get your new pants tailored, a loose hem can leave your outfit lopsided—or just plain get in the way.


    Emergency Kit Solution

    If you have a needle and thread with you, you can craft a sturdy solution in no time. Head to the bathroom and take off the skirt or pants in question so you can more easily work with them. Fold the hem under like you want it, then use the loose basting stitch shown in the video below to secure it in place. Choose a thread as close as possible to the fabric color and make sure to do your stitching near the top of the folded-under fabric (or else it will fold back over itself and reveal the loose hem). You can also safety pin the hem up if you don’t feel like sewing, but it will likely look a tad less polished.

    Office Supply Hack

    If you don’t have needle and thread handy, run to the mailroom and grab some hefty packing tape, or even duct tape for thicker fabrics. Roll the tape around itself—sticky side out—and press between the two layers of fabric. Voila! A temporary solution until you can get to your favorite tailor.

    Problem #3: Coffee Stain on Your White Shirt

    Enough said.

    Emergency Kit Solution

    If you get yourself nothing else in the emergency kit, get some Tide To-Go pens. They’re cheap, they’re compact, and I’ve seen them work some serious magic—including getting a sizable strawberry juice stain out of white pants. I buy them in packs so I can keep one at home, one in my bag, and one at the office (which co-workers are constantly asking me to borrow). Simply pop the top off, push the tip into the stain to release the liquid inside the pen, and then use the tip to rub the solution into the stain.


    Office Supply Hack

    When dealing with a stain at the office, get yourself the vending machine ASAP and buy some seltzer water or club soda. Place a dry paper towel underneath the stain to soak it up and then wet another paper towel with the bubbly water and dab at the stain. While this may not get the stain completely out, it will lighten it and make it easier to salvage your clothes later on.

    And then seriously, go buy yourself a Tide pen.

    Problem #4: Last-Minute Wrinkles

    You proudly ironed your outfit this morning (or took the lazier route and steamed it while you showered), but then you got squished up next to someone on the subway or sat on your skirt wrong on your way into work—and now you have some major wrinkles.

    Emergency Kit Solution

    If Tide To-Go had a partner in crime, wrinkle release spray would be it. One of my co-workers introduced me to this recently, and I have to say it’s pretty impressive. You simply spray it on your clothes and use your hands to smooth out the wrinkles. Word on the internet streets has it that you can make a quick home solution with just fabric softener, water, and vinegar.


    Office Supply Hack

    This is tricky one, but water alone will help undo some of the damage. With one hand, pull the wrinkled fabric tight while you wet your other hand in the sink. Shake off most of the excess water, then run your slightly damp hand over the taut fabric. Keep the fabric tight as it dries a bit more, or hold it under a hand dryer if your office has one.

    Now, armed with your emergency kit and these tips, you’re ready to keep any wardrobe mishap from ruining your day.

    Tell us! How have you fixed wardrobe malfunctions in a bind?

    Photo of sewing button courtesy of Mark Guim.