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Well, I have been meaning to do this for some time, since I think it would be handy for those into Lolita to have a neat guide to refer to when wondering about how to care for lolita Garments and what is best.
Since I've been sewing with all kinds of fabrics for the last 12 years or so, I want to impart some of the things I've learned about fabrics and garment care in that time, so we can all keep our dresses looking fresh for as long as possible.

So lets start with the basic thing- Hand-washing:


I know many garments will tell you to hand-wash, especially with lolita and delicate styles. In many cases this is ok, but there are a few things you should know about hand-washing.
The first thing is- Dresses that have any kind of elastic in them should be machine washed. Because of the nature of elastic, it's difficult for a hand wash to fully get the suds out of elastic, and this causes the elastic to rot much faster than it usually would. For shirring, especially, this is noteworthy. If you are concerned about it- make a simple cotton bag, or use a large pillow case, and put your garment inside this on a delicate wash setting in your machine.
*This information came from a professional lingerie designer, talking with me about people hand-washing their delicates*

The second thing about hand-washing is Wringing out the garment. This is a HUGE no-no for Lolita and delicate garments. You probably already know that, but it needs to be said. It puts a lot of strain on even ordinary fabrics to be wrung out, So if you MUST roll the fabric up and press it out gently.

Lastly; it is fine to use a washing powder on a dress; as long as you use a LOT less than the recommended dose. Two tablespoons to a ten liter bucket is PLENTY. Mix it really, really well, so that there's no grainy bits floating about in the bottom. And make sure you protect your hands; wear gloves! If you don't want to use washing powder or liquid; use a mild body soap, but nothing creamy.
Rinse thoroughly. Then rinse again, just to be sure there are no suds left. :)


Its drip dry in the shade, or bust. I don't care how desperate you are, if you put your delicate garments into a Dryer, you can kiss their lifespan goodbye. Plan ahead if you need to wash your garments before wearing, so that you can do the following:
There is no better method for drying your clothes. A breeze is nice, if its outside. Never ever leave your clothing in the sun to dry, as the sun is a natural bleacher of colour, and will leave nasty light marks on your garment.

Machine Washing.

Many girls have a deep fear of using the washing machine for delicate things. Well, I gotta say- there are times where Machine-washing is better for your garment than Hand-washing, as I've discussed above. Machine washing is a thorough method of ensuring your garment is clean and dust free; and most machines have a delicate setting you can use for items that have lace or small parts, or a delicate nature to the fabric itself. Put your garment into a pillowcase and tie it shut if you're extra worried about it- this will prevent anything catching on it in the machine, pulled threads or tangles around the middle bit (if you're using a top-loader) I use this method when washing large, delicate garments. It works.

Use at least HALF the amount of powder you usually use. Make sure you use a softener. Softeners condition the fibers and help them to stay smooth and strong for longer. Don't skimp on this, if keeping your garment nice for a long time is important to you. You should even use a softener for hand-washing. I cant stress enough how good softeners are. plus, they make your dress smell great! Bonus.

Avoid washing with harder items such as pants or jumpers. Again you probably know that, but anyway ;)

How Often to Wash.

I know a lot of people who avoid washing their garments as much as possible- Please, don't! There are many fabric types that rot with sweat, and even if you don't think you're sweating- you are!
Fabrics such as satin, lace, cheaper cottons, and so on, all rot with sweat and it shortens the lifespan of your garment if you wear too often without washing. There's a lot of salt in that there sweat; so don't let your dress sit around for weeks with it dried up in there. Wash as soon after wearing as you are able to.
But hey; don't go overboard. If you really had a dry day, didn't wear the item for long, and it smells like a bed of roses- it CAN wait. But after the second wear, definitely time to wash.

*** As a side note to this- Check what kind of fabric your garment is made from, read the care instructions (if any) carefully and follow them. The manufacturer will tell you the best way to care for your garment. That being said- in the case of any garment that is Shirred with elastic or has an elastic waistband, make sure you machine wash on delicate.


Ok, so some garments can't be ironed. If thats the case- you may want to invest in a steamer. (whole other kettle of fish, we won't go there today)
But for the Garments that CAN! Always check the care tag before you iron to see what heat the iron should be set to.
Always always ALWAYS, Iron the garment inside out, or on the inner side. Never iron on the outside where, if the iron marks it, you'd be able to see.
Some fabrics, such as Shantung, should not be ironed at all, as they melt. If your fabric has some kind of man-made element to it, PLEASE check to make sure you can iron it before going hard at it with an iron on top setting.
Avoid ironing over appliques, lace or anything that's been added like ribbon. These things can all melt very easily.

From Scandium21_45:
"One thing I would put in would be about the use of a cotton pressing cloth, something that got taught to me by my dressmaker. Pressing cloths will extend the life of any garment, even one that says it can be ironed on hot, because the iron isn't coming directly in contact with the fabric--they'll prevent shininess, burning, crap coming off the iron etc. You don't have to be ironing something delicate to use them either, but they are good for more delicate items, or when you need to iron from the right side."
This is a really handy tip! I do this too :) If you don't have a cotton pressing cloth or can't find one to buy; a cotton hand-kerchief is excellent too. Use them by putting the cloth over the fabric you are ironing while you iron it :)

Dry Cleaning.

Dry cleaning is generally good for clothing, if you can afford it; but some print fabrics cannot be dry-cleaned. Make sure yours is dry-cleanable before you hand it over the counter. Specify to the person taking your garment that it is delicate, point out where the delicate points are and ensure they take note of it.

Storing your garments.

Store hanging up, if possible for the garment, or neatly folded in a dry place off the ground. If you get moths in your house, keep the delicate garments near some mothballs or other treatments for moths; but also invest in a little bag of nice-smelling things to offset the smell of mothballs.
Avoid leaving things on your floor or heaped up. They will get damp and dusty, and after a while, they stink. Smelly Lolita is bad. ;D

Some things to note:

Unfortunately, not every brand is going to take good care of you. I've even heard of some printed dresses' having their prints run in the rain :( There is no amount of care instructions that will fix this for you, and it does significantly reduce the lifespan of your garment. I wish I had some advice for that situation, but I'm afraid I don't!

Some cheaper dresses may actually be made from sturdier materials than you think!

If in doubt; Google is your friend.

Well, that's all the handy hints I have for today, I really hope this is helpful to everyone out there :)
Feel free to ask me any questions you might have, impart your own wisdom, or correct me if something isn't right :)


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll be linking this on my country's community if you don't mind. ^^
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
That's fine! I hope it will be handy for them :)
I <3 your icon, too, Silent Hill <3!!
Apr. 7th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you for putting this together! ^_^
Apr. 7th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
You're most welcome :) I hope it will come in handy :D
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Awesome :) one thing I would put in would be about the use of a cotton pressing cloth, something that got taught to me by my dressmaker. Pressing cloths will extend the life of any garment, even one that says it can be ironed on hot, because the iron isn't coming directly in contact with the fabric--they'll prevent shininess, burning, crap coming off the iron etc. You don't have to be ironing something delicate to use them either, but they are good for more delicate items, or when you need to iron from the right side.
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
Oh, you know that's something I forgot to put in! I do that too. I'll put that in :)
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
Added! I hope its ok, but I've used your name and directly quoted you :)
Apr. 8th, 2010 12:48 am (UTC)
No problem :) if people get confused by it, they can always go look it up on google.
Apr. 8th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
I don't think its confusing. Perhaps though I will add in a note about a handkerchief being a suitable substitute; since they are cotton and many people use them at home.
Dec. 20th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for this how-to! It's a very useful checklist for all Lolitas and I thought these techniques were what I should do but was unsure. The bag and delicate wash is something I hadn't thought of and seeing it makes sense for certain clothing.

Thanks again!
Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
Sorry to be commenting on this from so long ago but I only just found this. Great guide by the way ^_^.

If the print does run and depending on the type of fabric, meaning, only 100% naturals you could add a dye fixative, like Retayne to it. I'd spot test it just to be sure because each individual item is different.

If it is 100% cotton and runs in the rain, that'd be the first thing I'd reach for, becase omgosh...ruined pettis and bloomers...0_0
Jan. 24th, 2012 12:13 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comment! That's a really good suggestion.
Mostly I think the dresses tend to be at least partially cotton, but many of them are a blend of other fibers as well.
I have to admit, it makes me angry to hear when a dress worth that much money has "run" in the wash; for that price at least the print should have been tested and made usable first!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )