Often, when I recommend something made with silk fabric, I get one of three responses:
- What? I thought I was wearing silk!
- It’s too luxurious and expensive.
- Oh, I don’t want to take it to a dry cleaner.
Most people that I have asked (including the sales staff at various stores) don’t know the difference between a silk fabric and one that feels “silky”. In this post, I’ll explain what silk is, where to buy it, and how to care for it at home.
Silk Is Natural
Silk is a natural fiber that is made from the cocoon of the silkworm. It is biodegradable, a renewable resource, and requires less water and chemicals to produce than many other fabrics.
Often, it is confused with polyester which is essentially plastic. Both silk and polyester can be woven into soft velvet, sheer chiffon, or shiny satin. So how do you know if something is made from silk fabric rather than polyester? The best way is to look at the fabric care label, which is usually on the inside.
Silk is naturally hypoallergenic and resists mold and dust mites. It is also breathable, unlike polyester which traps heat and air. Silk keeps you cool when you are hot and warm when you are cold. It absorbs moisture and dries quickly.
If you are concerned for the silkworms (which are usually killed in the process of making silk), you can buy ethically sourced silk (often called Peace Silk). The Ethical Silk Company uses silk made from cocoons that the silkworms have discarded.
Taking it a step further, designer Stella McCartney is working with innovative companies that are making vegan “silk” from yeast, sugar, and spider DNA!
Affordable Silk Pieces
Because silk is labor-intensive and produced in smaller batches, it is more usually expensive than a similar item in polyester. However, there are many ways that you can add silk to your home and closet, without breaking the bank.
Because scarves use a relatively small amount of fabric, you can find beautiful pieces for under $50.
$ Ann Taylor’s Hope Skinny Scarf is 100% silk, and until October 31st, 90% of its purchase price will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Camisoles And Tanks
If you don’t want to invest in a blouse or dress, try a silk camisole or tank top.
$$ Anthropologie’s Collette Silk Camisole comes in three basic colors. (See how I style mine in an upcoming post!)
$$ If you prefer something without lace, try Club Monaco’s Silk Camisole With Stitching Detail.
$$ I’m wearing the TankTop With Zip Neckline In Silk from the Kooples. (It is currently regular-priced, but I bought it for much less from Bloomingdales, so look out for a sale.)
All of these styles look beautiful under a textured sweater or fitted blazer.
Silk sheets are the epitome of luxury, but also come with a hefty price tag. If you ‘d like to try sleeping on silk, start with a pillowcase. It is supposedly more gentle on your skin compared to cotton which can draw the moisture from your face.
I have to admit, after using one for three years, I haven’t noticed any difference in my skin, but I do know that I don’t wake up with tangled, unruly hair, anymore! My pillowcase is no longer available on Amazon, but this J Jimoo one is similar and receives 5-start reviews.
You Can Wash Silk At Home
Most silk items will come with a “dry clean only” tag, but often you’ll find that you can wash silk by hand using a gentle detergent. Obviously, there is a risk of damage, and I can’t guarantee that your silk piece will not be affected, so please use your judgment when going against the instructions on the label.
This video from The Laundress outlines how to wash silk: Easy Steps For Washing Silk At Home. If you’re on Instagram, this video is also helpful. Even if you don’t use their products, there are several washing tips that I’ve found to be really valuable.
You can also buy silk pieces that are labeled washable. Everlane has created a washable silk fabric that is less sheer and delicate than traditional silks. They have a beautiful Clean Silk Cami and a Washable Silk Wrap that are under $100 each.
I also own a few of Banana Republic’s washable silk pieces and have even thrown them in the machine on a delicate cycle. Their latest Washable Silk Cowl Neck Camisole comes in some really cute “animal prints.”.
I hope this post has helped clear up some of the myths about silk fabric. Leave me a comment to let me know if you have any silk items that you love!