When you buy clothes (brand new or thrifted), do you wash them first before wearing them, or do you wear them first before washing them? And, when you wash those, do you check the “care label” before pouring water over them? Chances are, many of us don’t care about the “care label.” In this age of mass production, we can buy clothes at cheaper prices and many of us wouldn’t mind destroying a piece of clothing due to careless washing because we can easily buy another piece. That mindset changes when you are a thrifty and practical person, or when you love vintage clothes. Being thrifty and practical means you don’t just buy select pieces of clothing, you also care for them so that they’ll last you many seasons. Loving vintage clothes is the same thing: you buy rare pieces of clothing and you care for them because you know that these pieces are rare.
For clothes to last many years, they have to be well taken cared of. And, to take care of them well, we have to inspect and read the care labels first before we wash the clothes. Care labels are usually found at the back of clothes (in the nape for tops and dresses and in the waist for bottoms) or at the sides. They are either printed or stitched on paper or fabric.
The first photo above showed a care label that was found at the tag of the dress. The care label though has slightly faded, but if you read further below in this blog post, we will talk about how to care for specific fabrics so even if there is no care label or it has faded, we still know how to wash the clothes. The second photo’s care label was stitched, which means it won’t fade. A stitched care label is often a sign that an item is vintage. Also, instructions may come in written form or in symbols. Written instructions should be easy to understand. An easy and good general guide on interpreting care symbols is found below from Textile Affairs:
On to specific fabrics: there are fabrics, such as cotton, that are easy to wash and care for, they can take any kind of detergent or any kind of washing. The first photo above — a thrited Levi’s shorts, which is 100% cotton — calls for machine wash. There are also fabrics that are very sensitive and are not durable enough to withstand all kinds of laundry methods. Linen, for example, for either be washed or dry-cleaned. Silk is more sensitive and needs utmost care — they are often dry-cleaned. Spandex, often found in our undergarments, are best washed by hands. The second photo — a thrifted Morgan de Toi top which is made of nylon — also calls for machine wash. The Clothing Dictionary has an extensive guide on how to wash, dry, and iron clothes according to the fabric.
The care label is important so that those precious fabrics are not wasted. And I should have known this before I washed this precious top I’m wearing in the photos. To my excitement, as soon as I was done with my thrifting adventure, I immediately placed the top in a palanggana (washbasin) and poured water over it. After leaving it soaked in the water to remove dirt, washing it gently with detergent and fabric conditioner, and letting it dry under the sun, I got a ruined top (see the white area where the buttons are). When I checked the care label, it said “dry clean only.” Often, instead of dry-clean, I hand wash clothes, but I did not realize that this particular top “bleeds” so the dry-clean method was the best way to care for it. There, because I did not pay attention to the care label, I wasted what was once a good buy.
* wearing vintage top, thrifted Levi’s shorts, Aldo sunnies, and Human Nature canvas tote *
Photos by Joel Lopez