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Can “Washable Silk” Really Withstand The Washing Machine?

Irina Grechko wearing the Cuyana charmeuse cami and pant.
Welcome to Refinery29’s So, How Is It Really? where we take a look at all of the topics that have the internet talking. In studying them up close, we answer the question of what it’s really like to try out a trend, a viral product, or an unexpected TikTok hack.
To me, silk is one of those fabrics worth the splurge and effort; the smooth and luxurious feel warrants the constant steaming and a heftier price point. Until I have to get to the dry cleaners, that is.
We’ve all been there, days before an event, making it to the shop just minutes after it closed. And if we do manage to drop our favourite silk dress off in time, there’s always a chance that, much like in episode 8 in Season 3 of Sex And The City, the dry cleaners might be closed ahead of a fabulous boat party for some magazine we haven’t even read.
Enter, washable silk. 
For the past few years, brands like Lunya, Go Silk, Cuyana, and Everlane have flaunted their machine-safe silk clothing, from pajamas to going-out sets and dresses. Not only do they claim to be washable, but they also go for similar — if not cheaper — prices as regular silk. Take, for example, a slip dress from Silk Maison — only safe to wash by hand — retailing for $239 (£178), while a machine-washable slip dress from Lunya sells for £195. (Washable silk pajamas typically sell for £100 to £300 a set, comparable to normal silk sets at brands like Intimissimi.)
While sleeping in £200 pajamas is a luxury, there is an added bonus of saving on dry cleaning bills over time. But can washable silk really withstand a New York City laundromat? Despite having the urge to shove my silk pieces into a washing machine on numerous occasions in the past, I have never actually dared risk ruining them. Ahead of the holiday season, which we plan on spending in loungewear at home, we set out to try it out. 
Like me, Refinery29 Fashion Director Irina Grechko doesn’t have a washing machine in her apartment and has, likewise, struggled to make it to the dry cleaners in time to get her delicate outfits ready. “Most of my silk blouses end up sitting in a pile in the corner of my bedroom for weeks until I finally take them to get cleaned professionally or decide to dedicate a Sunday night to individually hand-wash them,” she says. While she put Cuyana’s charmeuse cami and pants set to the test, as someone who’s obsessed with sleep sets, I was eager to give Eberjey’s washable silk pajamas a try. 
Frances Solá-Santiago wearing the Eberjey silk pajama set.
After wearing the matching set to a holiday dinner earlier this month, Grechko took the time to read Cuyana's care instructions that advised washing the set separately in cold water and on a delicate washing machine cycle. Instead, she placed the two pieces in a mesh laundry bag, washing them with the rest of the laundry on a cold-water cycle. “I couldn’t justify washing the pieces on their own, nor using the delicate cycle,” she says. Then, she left the pieces hanging on the shower rod. Even after following the instructions, she was still a bit concerned about the pieces losing their “silky smoothness and sheen.” But after completely drying them out and steaming out the wrinkles, the pieces felt just like they did prior to washing. “I am currently packing this set to wear while visiting my family over the holidays,” she says. 
The Eberjey top-and-pant combo had a soft and light feel to it from the moment I opened the package. A few minutes later, I was already wearing it. As someone who works from home four days a week and continuously tests the boundaries between pajamas and loungewear, this set felt like both an at-home outfit and a going-out number. 
So much so that I was nervous to put it to the test. What if my bad laundry skills ruined it so much I couldn’t wear it again? Eberjey’s website says the set should be washed by hand or machine in cold water with similar-coloured clothes, and later laid flat to dry. I decided to wash it with my dark-coloured pile, which included jeans and knitwear, in a cold-water cycle. Afterwards, I used a towel on the floor to air dry the set. While it did come out wrinkled, I was able to get it back to its original smooth, luxe feel with a few spritzes of Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray. 
As another pandemic holiday season nears, it’s looking like silk sets may be your best friends to go from the couch to the dinner table and back to bed. Fabulous party or not, washable silk is a way to minimise your bill at the dry cleaners — or at least not having your clothes stuck there.
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