Haute couture runways in Milan, New York and Paris reveal the challenges that lie ahead for drycleaners in American Drycleaner’s biggest fashion preview ever.
Once reserved for prudish Victorian and funereal fashions, lace was essential to this year’s sexy see-through styles, with peek-a-boo patterns adding to the look’s updated oomph.
“These items are relatively easy as long as you follow precautions,” says Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) garment analyst Chris Allsbrooks, such as using net bags and undersized loads. “You’ll want to minimize the potential for snagging.”
Off the runways, lace trims and layers are huge; luckily for spotters, they often come in easy-to-service cotton/nylon blends. Inset lace panels, however, may leave drycleaners screaming for something more substantial when they separate from a stronger base fabric.
“This stuff should raise a red flag immediately,” says “Clothing Doctor” Steve Boorstein.
“Lace has to be inspected for weak fibers,” adds Alan Spielvogel, garment analyst for the National Cleaners Association (NCA). “Make sure nothing snags it in the machine.”
What goes around comes around, and designers worked maniacal magic on Flashdance-era looks, attaching big bows to blouses, draping fabrics, and pairing long, hip-hugging sweaters with shimmery lamés. “If you keep your clothes long enough, they’ll come back in style,” Allsbrooks laments. Showing up in angora, wool and acrylic, long sweaters require careful steaming and blocking; avoid the Suzy. “You have to spend a little more effort helping them keep their shape—especially around the derrière,” Boorstein says. “Fortunately, the majority don’t have that many accoutrements, so cleaning is going to be easier.”
Bows can be difficult to spot, and fray in cleaning; remove and net them whenever possible. Lamé is prone to distortion, Spielvogel adds. “It can stretch, but usually, it shrinks.”
Flowery prints covered dresses this year, and not just as an accent. Bold prints feature the season’s big “berry-bright” colors such as grape and raspberry in silk and chintz, with a feminine, fashion-forward drape.
“These fabrics tend to bleed a lot,” Allsbrooks says. “They need to be tested before drycleaning and stain removal.”
Unfortunately, a floral print can often camouflage stains, Boorstein notes, and when spotting brights, “you run the risk of pulling the color or giving the customer back the stain.”
An alternative solvent might offer better control on delicates, but drycleaners should consider a short run, regardless of solvent. The garment’s serviceability ultimately “depends on how well the manufacturer stabilized the print,” Spielvogel says.
Built for wintering like the Windsors in the country or the city, this practical fall style offers lots of cozy tweeds in rich browns and neutrals, often with dashes of glamorous gold and the added warmth of leather, fur and shearling. “Texture is key to these materials,” Allsbrooks says. “Handle these garments according to the most fragile fiber.”
Mass-market clothing that emulates the luxe style may be the most challenging. “Any trickle-down of that stuff is going to be a complete headache,” Boorstein says. “People don’t want to clean this stuff every time they wear it, so you’ll have cumulative staining.”
And cleaners must decide whether to send countrified vests and jackets trimmed in leather, suede and fur to a specialist, particularly if they aren’t using an alternative. “If the care label says ‘professional leather cleaning,’ send it out to a professional leather cleaner,” Spielvogel says.
This couture-chic Bohemian style offers plenty of paisleys in windswept silks, rayons and knits. Chunky shoes, tights and gold accents add to the carefree, mix-and-match look, making it tuned-in and turned-on.
The look is “all about simplicity, texture and movement,” Boorstein says. “The good thing is that this stuff really needs to be drycleaned. Drycleaning will help keep the color [and] the shape.”
Check all-over prints for colorfastness, use net bags and try to avoid sizing rings. “Err on the side of safety,” Boorstein says. “Billowy stuff is going to need extra attention at the counter and in back.”
Fragile fabrics should be netted to avoid snags. Downmarket, cheaper flocked paisleys can fail in the heat of the cycle, Spielvogel adds. “They may not be serviceable.”
Skirts and suits on the runways this year offered architectural precision and a cool graphic palette of blacks, whites and grays. “Tech” fibers, patent leathers and satins lend shine to these refined, elegant, structured garments — what Boorstein calls this year’s “least labor-intensive” trend. “The precision is just like men’s suits, which is great for drycleaners,” he says.
One difference is that a lot of women’s garments come off the rack with a razor-sharp crease made to withstand drycleaning — and finishers must preserve the crease, not double it. Shiny satins require steam to avoid chafing and shine, while bonded urethanes masquerading as patent leather can peel or stiffen.
Spotting may be a problem due to the amount of sizing in some of the most structured items. “You’re going to get rings,” Boorstein says, “and you’re going to have to feather.”
Dye migration will be a big problem on black-and-white items, Allsbrooks adds. “Test for colorfastness, and clean them with a dummy load if you have to.”
MENSWEAR: LAYERED LUXURY
Long dissuaded from dressing up by the casual workplace, men are finally getting more choices in richer fabrics. A jewel-tone velvet sportscoat or sharkskin pant is practically de rigeur after dark, and vests are returning after a 30-year exile.
“Velvet is a handful, no matter what,” Boorstein says. “It gets crushed, and stains are hard to get out without affecting the pile.”
Acetate and silk velvets tend to be “extremely unserviceable,” Spielvogel says. “The pile can be easily damaged. Always steam with a velvet brush; never use any head pressure.” Luckily, most men are actually buying velveteen, Allsbrooks says, which offers “more control in finishing.”
Made of alternatively colored yarns, sharkskins are also particularly susceptible to damage from perspiration and water-based stains, as well as unwanted or uneven shine. And if a vest is the third piece of a three-piece suit, be sure to clean all of the ensemble’s pieces together to avoid a mismatch.