by Nicole Crews
Me: Ugh. I can’t seem to get a rug or a fur or anything leather cleaned in this town.
Mother: They don’t have the right equipment or they don’t want the responsibility. You need to be in a big city to get those things taken care of properly.
Me: What the hell does everyone else do?
Mother: They keep it dirty.
In honor of the upcoming Greensboro Fashion Week (Sept. 16-19) and a recent costly visit to the fancy dry cleaners, I offer you a primer on fabric care — more specifically, Facts About Trim. The pamphlet I procured at said dry cleaners is published by the International Fabricare Institute in Silver Spring, Md. and sanctioned by the Association of Professional Drycleaners and Launderers. It was published in 1992, but I feel that its contents withstand the test of time and document numerous errors that I have personally encountered while caring for trim. Here is what I’ve learned — and a paraphrase:
Color loss on trim
“Dyes on trim don’t perform the same as other parts. Dry-cleaning may cause a general fading, dulling or even entire color loss. Even worse, trim dye can transfer to other parts. Red dyes are a particular problem.” (Gingers just can’t seem to get a break.)
It fell off!
“Sometimes trim is just glued on so it can dissolve. This can happen to buttons, glitter, suede, snakeskin, beads, sequins or fur trim.” (The fancier the trim, the harder to clean.)
“If it’s plastic, it might disintegrate.”
“Some buttons that look like a pearl are fragile and can chip, break or crack during a cleaning. The service of the button is often determined by how it is made as well as how it is attached.”
Looks like leather but is not
“Imitation leather and suede is often vinyl these days. When treated it may separate, peel or blister. Some finished fabrics are made to give the appearance of leather and may wear off in both use and care.” (Trust me on this one. I left a square foot of faux leather trim on an airplane seat once and it looked like Danica Patrick had just peeled out.)
“Fur is often used as an intricate detail and in some cases may be composed of older or thinner fur. Shedding during cleaning may occur. Much fur trim does not have the same wear and cleaning characteristics as other materials and are generally not colorfast if dyed.”
“Crocking” is not a new dance move. It is the literal rub off of colors. If you are not careful you can leave a trim mark on upholstery, garments worn under or over trim or even you!
“No matter how attractive your trim may be, it may have very limited serviceablity to washing and cleaning. Steam is used in finishing to remove wrinkles and restore shape but should never be used on leather or fur trim.”
There is often risk when cleaning your trim. And by my gathering, the more bedazzled and blinged out it is, the more dangerous the procedure. Leather, suede and fur complicate things and then there is the conundrum of the button. As utilitarian and beautiful as they might be, buttons are easily damaged, each one is different and should, above all, be handled with care.