Will Silk Continue to Shrink After Washing?

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.

Signed,
Shrunken in Shreveport

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) to 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 labelled 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.

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.

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