Fancy wool-blend formalwear: dry-clean after every wearing?
April 26, 2014 11:58 AM   Subscribe

I recently acquired a beautiful, brand new designer dress that's much nicer than anything I've had in my wardrobe before. I've worn it once and have been hanging it up to air out. Is it better to get it dry cleaned before storing it, or will it be easier on the fabric to put it away in its worn-once state? I don't want to put unnecessary stress on the fabric from the dry cleaning process, but I really, really don't want to find moth holes in the dress several months from now, either.

The dress is 18% wool, 82% synthetic with a 100% silk liner. The outer fabric has a delicate chiffon-like texture. The dress has elaborate drapes and gathers, and I would be hesitant to try hand-washing it. The label says "specialist dry clean only."

If it weren't for the wool component of the fabric I think I would hang the dress up in my closet after a good airing, but I am worried that the traces of skin oils or sweat will attract moths.
posted by Orinda to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can always hang it in a dress bag with mothballs thrown into the bottom.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:13 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I worked at a dry cleaning place once, an "upscale" one where we charged an obscene amount of money to clean the fancy clothes of rich folks.

You would not believe how easily and how often things get destroyed while being dry cleaned. Or lost

If the dress is wearable and clean, DO NOT dry clean it until you must.
posted by quincunx at 12:40 PM on April 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Either way it will need dry cleaning eventually, and you might want to take less valuable pieces to different cleaners in your area to find one you like. I'm lucky enough to have a local place that does "organic" dry cleaning, so things don't come back all chemical stinky. They are more expensive than the other places in town, but they have never damaged anything I've taken them. From silk sweaters to wool comforters, all done right.

But if you aren't going to dry clean it right now, do take DarlingBri's advice about moth protection. It may not smell great, but moths are EVIL and love to eat your favorite things.
posted by monopas at 1:11 PM on April 26, 2014

Were you wearing a slip/camisole or a dress shield at the armpit? Did you get warm enough to perspire? Were you wearing body lotion?

I spot clean my St John wools, fold them in tissue, and store them in drawers with moth sachets. I've had no problems yet, but I have no proof beyond personal experience that this is good for the clothes, so take it with a grain of salt. Also, I always wear some sort of slip/cami/tights under them.

To spot clean the armpits, I take a clean dry white washcloth and hold it on the outside of the armpit. I take a slightly damp clean white washcloth and place it against the inside of the armpit. Then I very firmly squeeze my hands together, moving the hand on the damp cloth along the armpit. Then I get a two fresh clean dry white washcloth and put it in place of the damp ones (the one that was dry will now have some dampness) and repeat the squeezing until everything is dry. It's just water that I use, not any soap or solvent.

When I had the one dress last dry-cleaned, I called the St. John store in town and asked them which cleaner they recommended. I'd call your highest-end local shop and ask them the same question when it's time to have your garment cleaned.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:18 AM on April 27, 2014

I rarely dry clean anything. I wear appropriate undergarments (slips) and let things air in my closet, on robust, wooden hangers. Rather than mothballs (YUK!) I'd use cedar balls.

Cedar smells great and is natural. Mothballs, are neither of those things.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:36 AM on April 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I think I'll go with the dress bag + moth balls idea. The dress is effectively sleeveless (though with draping over the shoulders) so the armpit area is probably not as much of a concern as it would be in a garment with sleeves.

I have not had good results from using small pieces of cedar with my woolens. I've stored my wool sweaters with cedar blocks and they still came out with holes. I have some classic moth balls on hand, though, and although it's true that the active ingredient is not very nice, I'm not worried about transient exposure and will air out the dress before wearing.
posted by Orinda at 5:30 PM on April 27, 2014

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