Will Silk Continue to Shrink After Washing?

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Dear Home Ec 101,
I washed, but did not dry, my 4-year-old’s dress that says it’s dry clean only – who makes dry clean only clothes for 4-year-olds, anyway? I didn’t even think to check. It is 100% silk. It shrank quite a bit and while it was still wet I was able to stretch it back out a little (but not all the way).

The polyester lining of the dress now is longer than the dress. (It actually is cute that way, so we will probably still be able to use it even if I have caused irreparable damage to the dress)

Anyway, is there any way to fix it, or do I need to bust out the sewing machine and shorten the lining?

Also, now that I’ve washed it, will more damage be done if I wash it again, or should I take it to the dry cleaners in the future, in which case, it will probably never be worn again.
Shrunken in Shreveport

will silk continue to shrink?

Heather says:

Silk can be made into different fabrics depending on how it is woven. These different weaves have slightly different properties.

Chiffon, China Silk or habutai, habotai, pongee, Crepe de Chine,  Charmeuse -traditional silk-, Jacquard, Duoppioni, Noil, Raw silk, Tussah, and Shantung.

I’m betting your daughter’s dress is silk chiffon or charmeuse. From researching and you fabric junkies can feel free to correct me, these fabrics will shrink about 8%. It’s possible that gentle pressing (use a cloth between your iron and the fabric on the lowest steam setting) will reverse some of the shrinkage.

It seems as though this is a common complaint with lined silk dresses for kids, either the lining shrinks or the silk does which is why these outfits are labeled dry clean only. I’m pretty sure that you’ve done all the damage you’re going to do to the dress. If the lining is cute, as you said, just let your child wear it a few more times, and then wash it again before you decide whether or not to go to the trouble of shortening the lining.

how to launder unusual items
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And if you don’t bother to shorten the lining at all? Well, your kid is in good company, my four-year-old’s favorite dress has the exact same problem. There’s no way I’m going to go to all that trouble for something she’ll grow out of in a few short months. I just filed it under live, learn, and remember to read the label.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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8 thoughts on “Will Silk Continue to Shrink After Washing?”

    • @rainintorainbows my daughter’s dress was a gift. People love to give little girls dressy clothing, at least in my experience. I think between the relatives I’ve only needed to purchase one or two dresses for her. (I keep the kids’ wardrobes small on purpose, it means less laundry) I don’t even buy dry clean only clothing for myself. I’m way too lazy for that mess.

      • @HeatherSolos HAHA You & me both. Dry clean only = doesn’t come into our home. We don’t iron either. It took us over a year of living here to discover that somewhere between the last home and our current home, our iron was lost. Neither of us remembered seeing it at all here. Clearly it’s not a necessity.

        As for the girls’ dresses, I totally get someone buying them for a gift. I guess I’m just surprised that a children’s clothing manufacturer would think that was an appropriate material. I say make ’em wear the scratchy stuff we had to wear when we were kids. It’s a rite of passage, no? 😉

    • Maybe not a toddler, but a very young child may be part of a wedding procession, hence an elaborate silk dress.

  1. Sometimes its much easier to let down the hem of the silk, fold the raw edge to about the middle (between the raw edge and the previous hem fold,) and resew it…if that makes it long enough to cover the lining.

    If the lining is netting you can just cut it off. If the lining is acetate (or something shiny like inside a coat) then you can roll it up and tack it down by hand easily. Just pick the points at the seams and a few others to keep it up. Don’t worry about sewing it all the way around. You can also use a product like stitch-witchery which is basically a bit of webbing fabric covered in glue that activates when you iron it. There is also masking tape! 😉

    Seriously crazy to worry too much about a dress that will only get a few wearings. Definitely try pressing when its damp and gently stretching it as Heather suggested. It might work.

    • @deneicer1 I have a bridesmaid’s dress that has a masking taped lining (almost 3 years after the wedding:). I had the dress altered and discovered the morning of the wedding that while the tailor shortened the hem, she did not shorten the lining properly so when I sat down, the lining was longer than the dress. The MOB was freaking out, but my SIL went and got masking tape and we fixed it.


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