Fashion Q & A:
Pilling Fabrics

Q: I recently updated my work wardrobe for winter with several knit pieces in bright colors from Banana Republic. They label says Italian merino (my all-time favorite sweater fabric!) but upon more carefully reading the label, I see that the merino wool is blended with rayon and polyester as well. I have noticed that after a few wearings, the fabric is starting to pill under the arms and where my bag rubs on it. Since I have had not very much success with sweater stones and pill remover devices, I'm wondering what your advice is on pilling fabrics? Many thanks in advance for your reply.

A: There definitely has been a drop in quality of fabric over the past few years so you are wise to read the fabric care label carefully. For instance, there is a reason why 100% cashmere is usually more expensive. It has not been mixed with less expensive fibers and therefore holds up better when properly cared for. Less expensive wools (ie merino) are not as luxurious. When you add synthetic blends (like polyester), they tend to be softer and actually hold their color better, attracting many consumers to them. They often are less durable with synthetic additions to them. I think this is what you are experiencing with the Banana brand.

No matter where they get their wool sweaters, we tell our clients to dry clean these pieces for at least the first year, even if the tag says hand and machine washing is okay. After that, if they want to hand wash an item, we suggest they turn the items inside out, place them in a zippered lingerie bag, wash on the gentle cycle and then lay flat to dry.

Be sure to properly understand your clothing labels. "Dry Clean Only" means just that, but "Dry Clean" often means you can hand wash too. For the record, I only dry clean my sweaters. If I have questions about any garment, I consult with my good friends at Anton's Cleaners before I do anything! As a professional, I suggest you establish a two-way dialog with your cleaners too!