The most attention that I used to pay to fabric was to check the tag to see if an item needed to be dry cleaned or could be washed (by hand or in the washer). Obvious fabrics like suede I paid special attention to since I didn't want to wear them on days when it might rain. Otherwise, I never thought about the composition of my garments.
Now, I try to understand the composition and care for every one of the garments that I sell at Zoe. I find that my customers will often ask me questions and I want to make sure that I can answer them without having to look at the label. One way that I try to learn the make-up is to include it as part of the information that I enter into the point of sale system when I set up a new item. Somehow, by looking at it and typing it, it helps me remember the content.
Trivia Time - Did you know that in the United States, the generic name of fibers that comprise 5% or more of the total fiber weight of the garment must be included on the label? Where you see a lot of this is in sweaters that are cashmere blends - quite frequently, a small (maybe 10%) is cashmere and the rest is a combination of other fibers. I had a couple of sweaters at Zoe last Fall that had 5 different fibers in the make-up! (No, I could not remember all of them - I was normally able to tell the customers the percentage of cashmere).
When I first started receiving items at Zoe, I had to look up a lot of the fabric types. I had never heard of fabrics like Viscose! And I wanted to understand if they were man-made or natural fibers and their purpose (to make garments less wrinkly, to make them softer, to help make them less expensive). I'm sure that in fashion design schools, there are number classes just on these topics.
By unpacking and steaming out the items, I can also tell a lot about how they will hold up to wrinkles. One of my favorite new uses for fabrics is the use of linen. Don't we all love the initial crisp look of linen and then hate the fact that it looks terrible after we sit down in it for 2 minutes? Fashion designers are starting to do a lot of linen/rayon blends that give the coolness of linen but help fight the wrinkle factor. And I have some sweaters at Zoe right now that are made of linen but feel like a knit material. I tell everyone "It's not your grandmother's linen!"
Fabric care instructions are also something that I make sure to study. People are always happy to have things they don't have to dry clean! And I love it when I own a piece and can relay first hand experience to my customers on how to care for the garment. I get a LOT of requests for non-dry clean items. It is tough but I definitely try to look for it when it makes sense for the store.
Trivia Time - Did you know that clothing manufacturers and importers (under the Care Labeling Rule) have to provide at least one satisfactory method of care necessary for the ordinary use of the garment? I think that may be one reason that many put "dry clean only" on the label - they don't have to think too hard about it and it takes any risk away from anything that may happen with washing the garment.
I owe a special thanks to the website FabricLink. I have learned so much from reading the information contained there (and the two Trivia Time items come directly from their website). Want to know more about fabrics? Don't hesitate to ask your local boutique owner!
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