unshrinking fabrics with hair conditioner?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion Q & A' started by vintagebaubles, May 3, 2009.

  1. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Trade Member

    Has anyone here ever done, or heard of, this? I have a rayon satin 1930's wedding gown that, gasp!, I shrunk when I laundered it. I "knew" I was taking a risk washing it, but I've had rayon lingerie before that was washable, and this looked like the same grade or type of rayon... Nonetheless it has shrunk (not a lot, but enough!).

    In researching a way to "fix" this, I read several items that said if you re-wash a fabric that has shrunk (wool, rayon, etc.), using hair conditioner, you may be able to unshrink it. I assume the hair conditioner relaxes the fibers? You're supposed to then dry it flat and gently stretch it as it's drying.

    The fabric on this gown is sturdy and seemed to not have suffered any ill effects other than the shrinkage from washing. I'm wondering if I should give it a try? It's cut on the bias, so I don't think it would need a lot of stretching to restore it to its original dimensions. Or just sell the dress as a tinier size--LOL.... But the shrinkage altered the lovely, drapey intention of the bodice, and I'd really like to get it back as closely as possible to its original lines.

    If anyone has any other tip for unshrinking a shrunken garment, I'd welcome them! Thanks much in advance!
  2. hatfeathers

    hatfeathers Trade Member

    Well, rayon has some of the same properties as a natural fiber would, so I suppose in theory it could work on the fibers somehow.

    I dunno...I suppose if a dress was pretty well ruined, I'd be willing to try. Lord knows it will take me forever to go through my existing conditioner stash, since I wacked off 15" of hair, so I wouldn't be out much. :lol:
  3. laughingmagpie

    laughingmagpie Registered Guest

    Have you tried just pressing it?

    When I sew silk dresses I usually launder the silk first. On subsequent washings it often seems shrunken afterwards until pressing. I've washed a rayon crepe vintage dress I thought I'd ruined but with gentle pressing (on the wrong side) it rebounded quite a bit, and I also dried it while on a dress form which seemed to help.

    I've used hair conditioner in a cold hand-wash with wool and silk fabrics as well as nylon stockings. It seems to restore the silky "hand" of silks and reduce the itchiness of wool. My hope with the vintage stockings is that it strengthens them, sort of re-moisturizing them, and makes them less likely to run. But, I've never tried to unshrink something with it.
  4. The Vintage Merchant

    The Vintage Merchant Administrator Staff Member

    pretty much my thought, too. Good luck, Anne
  5. Circa Vintage

    Circa Vintage Trade Member

    Rayon has very little elasticity, so I'd be surprised if it would work. Just because it's already shrunk, doesn't mean that it won't shrink more too (hmm, I'm wondering if this is partly why there are so many nice but small vintage dresses?).

    I'd try gentle ironing or steaming to see if you can get it back into shape a bit that way.

  6. vintagepretties

    vintagepretties Trade Member

    Anne, it just may work.

    150 years ago, when i had to wear panty hose to work every day, one of my co-workers "turned me on" to hair conditioner.. i washed my hose and rinsed them with conditioner, and like laughingmagpie said, it seemed to strengthen them, and they didnt run.

    on my personal lingerie, i rinse it in cream rinse, but am very hesitant to do it to lingerie i sell or to recomend it to others as i dont know the long term results, just in case it does something to the fibers after a while.

    but, if after you try steaming and ironing you really have nothing to loose.

    let us know if you try it, it will be interesting to see if it works on rayon. i know its a miracle on hose!

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