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Fabrics & Garment Care

Many of the vintage garments in our collection were fashioned by famed lingerie makers using the most luxurious and sensuous fabrics ever woven: silk charmeuse, crepe de chine, rayon crepe, rayon satin, silk georgette, silk chiffon and an array other heavenly fabrics that will caress your skin and cling to your curves in all the right places. There are no words to describe the feel of vintage silks and rayons against your naked body - or your partner's - and when you experience that feeling, you'll want to make it last forever. 

To ensure your garment is maintained in the condition in which you purchased it, it is very important that you take extra special care when laundering. Our garments are delicate and must be hand-washed rather than thrown in and left to fend for themselves in the washing machine. There are several articles available on the net which cover the general subject of textile care. Here at SSL, we will show you that the care of vintage lingerie is not as difficult and mysterious as most people think it is! Vintage clothing dealers and experienced collectors alike can often not determine the difference between "silk" and "satin". This is like comparing apples and oranges! Silk is a basic fibre, while satin is a particular weave of many basic fibres, nylon, Dacron and polyester included.

Let's say that you've just purchased a vintage 30's silk or rayon nightgown from SSL. You have received the gown in ready-to-wear condition, and you have determined that this is indeed the gown of your "silver screen" dreams! We will show you step-by-step, how to launder and iron your vintage treasure so that it may last another few decades…

Inevitably, your gown will pick up some floor dirt on the hem, or you may accidentally spill your morning coffee on it. And there are those accidents the gown may suffer from simply wearing it in bed… Unfortunately, we're all prone to these and we've included a few handy tips to help rid your gown of any unwanted blemishes. Any spots or stains should be removed as promptly as possible, although pre-existing spots in an old gown can often be removed or lessened. Lay the garment out flat on a hard, flat surface such as a kitchen or laundry countertop. Using a reputable stain remover (e.g. Sard Wonder Soap in Australia or BIZ in the USA), apply a small amount to the spot or spots. Using your fingertips, massage the stain remover into the spot repeatedly until the spot is gone, or at least lessened. Move on to any other spots, and then come back to the first one and work at it again. ALWAYS massage along the grain of the fabric - the 'grain' being the smoothest direction under your fingers. You can also massage using an old toothbrush. Leave the stain remover in the fabric while you prepare for the next step. When you're satisfied that the spot is gone or lessened, move on to the next step which is the actual laundering of the gown. You can skip this spot treatment if your gown is just mildly soiled. 

There are a few different ways to wash your loungerie. Here are our suggestions:
One of the best laundering agents is, believe-it-or-not, DAWN, a readily available, mild dishwasher detergent Give a long squirt of dishwashing liquid into a small plastic tub and mix it well with lukewarm water. Scoop off the most of the soap bubbles and feed in the gown from either the bodice or hem end. The idea here is to avoid entrapping a lot of air bubbles while the gown soaks. Swish and gently squeeze the soapy water through the garment, and let it soak for a while. Even an overnight or 24-hour soak may be necessary at times.

Alternately, dissolve a small handful of Lux Soap Flakes and in a couple of litres of hot water in a basin or bucket. Allow a few minutes to allow the soap flakes to dissolve completely before adding enough cool water to obtain the perfect tepid mix. Swish the garment around in the bucket squeezing the soap suds through the fabric. Do this continuously for about 5 minutes checking to see that any soiling has been removed.

At times you may want to use a stronger cleaning agent then a dishwasher fluid or soap flakes. Such a product is Oxiclean in the USA or in Australia, NappySan Oxy. Use these products with care, especially on silks! It's best to use the granular rather than liquid form of these products. For most lingerie items, put a little less than ˝ scoop (provided with the product) in a small tub, and cover the bottom of the tub with water as hot as you can get it from your faucet or shower hose. Let the powdered granules completely dissolve in the hot water for about ten minutes and then fill up the tub as before with lukewarm water. Wash as with Dawn or other soaps. 


The next step is rinsing and hanging out the gown to drip and damp-dry. Take the gown out of the soapy bath and place it in another tub filled with lukewarm water. Gently swish and squeeze (never wring!) the rinse water through the gown then empty the water and repeat the rinsing procedure two more times. The final rinse can be in another tub of lukewarm or cold water into which you've thrown a dash of liquid fabric softener. Lift the gown out of the tub and loosely drape it in its mid-section over the horizontal bar of a plastic coat hanger. (NEVER use a metal hanger!) Hang up the hanger on a hook in a place like a shower stall, where most of the water can drip off the gown.

While the gown is still quite wet, prepare for the next step by placing a long Turkish towel over an ironing board. Lay the gown out as smoothly as you can on the board, and place another thick towel over the gown. (What we're doing here is making a rolled-up sandwich with the gown as the "filling".) Fold up the long sides of the towels, and then roll up the gown from one end to the other. Set this roll aside for a while, even an hour or two. The towels will make the gown dry further and more evenly. When you remove the gown from the towels, you'll find that the gown is evenly damp, and almost ready for ironing. Put the gown back on the ironing board and wait until it is just barely damp and ready for ironing.

The next step - ironing - requires a bit of practice on an old gown or piece of fabric that is similar to silk or rayon. You MUST move the iron with some speed and precision. Even with silk, you can't let the iron pause even for a few seconds. Turn the gown inside out and ALWAYS iron on the "wrong" side. Start at the hem of the gown, (to your right side) and iron in smooth strokes always with the grain of the fabric. Use the toe of the iron along each seam including the diagonal "piecing" seams at the hem. You can buy a seamroll and place it under the longer side-seams. If you see the fabric puckering along the seams, gently pull the seam ahead of the point of the iron. Do the bodice last and work from the other side of the board. Gathered bust cups are best ironed with the point of the iron over the narrow end of the board. A padded ironing mitt is VERY helpful here. If the gown has waist ties or a loose sash, you can iron that last. Turn the gown back right-side out and voila - it's ready to wear.