Let’s get into the quick and dirty of it: people are afraid to buy silk. And I get it. I, too, was once afraid of this luxurious fabric that I saw my mom wear on special occasions, and other than that seemed to belong exclusively to the likes of princesses and characters on Gossip Girl.
I was of the opinion that silk was for fancy people, that I was not a fancy person, and therefore, silk was not for me.
But I was wrong. Oh, I was so wrong.
My very first piece of 100% silk was a striped sleeveless shell from the online retailer Everlane.
Buttery. Drapey. Perfect.
I paid $70 for it, which, at the time, was more than I’d ever paid for a top in my life. I was so excited when it came in that I put it on immediately, paraded around my apartment for a little while, and then pulled it off over my head… smearing bright red lipstick all along the collar.
I was devastated. I thought to myself that I wasn’t ready for silk. That I was right all along – I, a fumbling lipsticked monstrosity, was not meant to own silk.
But after a minute of self-pity, I took to the internet and started googling for answers to my problem. “How to get red lipstick out of silk?” (Bobbi Brown’s Burnt Red, in case you were wondering – my signature shade).
Turns Out There Wasn’t a Reason to Be Afraid
I shouldn’t really be surprised by this, but the internet was full of recommendations for how to get the stain out, and while I don’t remember which one I tried, I do remember being amazed that it worked. I hadn’t ruined my silk shell, after all.
And I didn’t need to be afraid of it anymore.
I think the main thing that holds people back from purchasing “fancy” fabrics, like silk, cashmere, etc., is a deep fear of ruining it.
Salad dressing is the nemesis of a luxury blouse. One wrong laundry move, and poof!, you’re out $200. I get it. But at the same time, I want to push back on it, because I think that fabrics like silk are worth saving your money for and are an essential part of an intentional, minimal wardrobe.
1. It’s Usually Better for the Environment
Silk might not be the most vegan-friendly fabric (RIP, worms), but it doesn’t take nearly the toll on the environment or on human health as many of the synthetic fabrics meant to imitate it.
One day, three thousand years from now, some space alien is going to dig up all of our polyester Forever21 dresses and wonder why in heck our species needed to make so much nuclear-war-proof party-wear, but that same space alien will never know how beautiful our silk dresses and cashmere sweaters were because those fabrics were reclaimed by the earth long ago.
Throw your destroyed silk into your compost pile and maybe one day it will be a tree or a flower. That’s basically how gardening works, right?
The point is, natural fabrics like silk aren’t meant to last forever, and that’s a good thing.
2. It Wears Better
Silk has a reputation for being fancy for a reason: it looks and feels incredible. Put on a silk top over its polyester imitation cousin and you will feel the difference immediately. The softness and buttery feel of silk is inimitable.
And, if you’ll allow me to be indelicate for a moment, you’ll find that it provides a much more pleasurable armpit experience. While polyester is known for being stuffy and stinky in the heat, silk is breezy and breathable, and it doesn’t trap bacteria in the same way that synthetic fabrics do.
For this reason, I only need to clean my silk pieces after 5-6 wears, and, barring any mac & cheese incidents, a simple steam is all they need in between to keep them looking and smelling fresh.
3. You Will Take Better Care of It
After the lipstick incident with my first silk top, I learned to take good care of my clothes.
I don’t wear my silk pieces if I know there’s going to be a downpour that day. I follow the care instructions. I do what I can to make the items last.
Historically, people have always been taking care of their clothing this way, and it’s only in the last century that cheap, mass-produced clothing has been available.
While this has meant that people can buy clothing at a more affordable price, it also means that people have begun to think of their clothing as disposable.
People buy polyester instead of silk because they think they’ll probably spill on it, and it’s easier to justify throwing away a ruined top if you only paid $10 for it. But I urge you to buy the silk shirt instead of the disposable one, and to see how it makes you more thoughtful as you go through your day.
And, if you do wreck it, there’s more incentive for you to figure out how to fix it, whether that means cleaning, sewing, patching, dying, or what.
Obviously, silk isn’t for every person all the time. If you’re a parent of young children, you probably aren’t rocking silk on the daily – same goes if you work outdoors or in food service or in a laboratory or an art studio.
But that said, silk is still a much stronger and more versatile fabric than people give it credit for. If we choose quality fabrics over cheap ones, we’re doing better by the planet and, in the long run, by our wallets. I am proud to say that post-lipstick, I am now the proud owner of four 100% silk garments, and because of their classic styles and their high-quality, they’ll be in regular rotation in my small wardrobe for years to come.