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Last month, I learned a painful but important lesson: Do not hand-wash viscose clothing.
The victim of this lesson, unfortunately, was my lovely new Wren Dress from Reformation, which I’d bought on impulse back in September during a mid-Fashion Week shopping break at the brand’s Soho store. I’d fallen hard for its fluttery hemline and sleeves — and the fact that, despite its mini length and V neck, it wasn’t too scandalous to wear to work. (Also, my colleague Rebecca, who shares my ardent love of vintage-style dresses, talked me into it.)
After two or three wears, I figured it was probably time to clean my new purchase, so I consulted the care label. It read, in Reformation’s signature sassy voice: “Sometimes you feel a little delicate. Well, this garment feels that way all the time, so you’ve got to hand-wash it. Use a delicate soap and lay flat to dry to keep this baby looking its best.”
As a huge fan of hand-washing, I had zero problem with this. One less trip to the dry cleaner, and better for the environment! Win-win, right?
Not exactly. After washing it in cold water and hanging it up to dry overnight, I returned to find that my new dress had shrunken. A lot. In fact, it was now approximately three inches shorter and barely wrapped closed in the front, making it unwearable as anything other than a very fancy bed jacket.*
A quick Google search revealed that as it turns out, viscose (a synthetic rayon fabric made from biodegradable plant fibers, and the exact material my dress was made from) can often warp when wet. Curiously, for every how-to site that claims it should be hand washed, there’s another advising you to bring it to the cleaners. Message boards offered a mix of similarly conflicting stories and tips, plus a few cautionary tales that mirrored mine. Oh, and Wikipedia warns of viscose’s low elastic recovery, “especially when wet.” Oof.
Saddened, I emailed Reformation’s customer service team, making sure to include a frowny face in the subject line so as to convey the full gravity of the situation. Within an hour, a Ref rep got back to me, apologizing for the shrinkage and looping in a sales associate from the Soho store. He, in turn, told me to swing by the store the following day so I could return my shrunken dress for $198 in store credit (despite the fact that at this point, said dress was marked down by about 50%) — no questions asked, no receipt needed.
The best part? When I came in to return my dress — and, let’s be honest, find a replacement for it — Reformation’s semi-annual sale was in full swing. I wound up leaving with not one, but two new dresses, proving that even the saddest of wardrobe-washing woes can often have a happy ending.
And don’t worry: I’ll be taking them to the dry cleaners when the time comes.