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Why is rayon making a comeback in clothing?

Pants Hanging in Tree 2As an older woman, I find buying pants lately a challenge. I don’t like low-rise pants and I’m not fond of skinny leg pants either.

For a while, I was able to go to Macy’s and get Charter brand pants that I liked. However, even most of the Charter brand pants now have skinny legs. Mostly I’ve been buying jeans in various colors.

But, since I’m almost out of nicer pants, I began shopping at Macy’s again for them. I found some that were a softer weave than the cotton I usually like, but I bought two pairs anyway.

A few days after I got them home, I set about washing them. However, I read the tags. They were rayon and needed to be dry cleaned. Since I have respiratory problems, I can’t dry clean any of my clothes. I had to return them.

Rayon may need to be dry cleaned because dyes may bleed or fade and shrinking and stretching can occur if rayon is washed in water.

Another problem with rayon is spills of alcohol and perfume as well as urine may permanently discolor it. Discoloration also may occur if you try to clean off a stain with water.

I wondered why rayon is making a comeback in clothing. I noticed two blouses I recently purchased are rayon. Fortunately, they’re machine washable, although they’re supposed to be dried flat. One wrinkles badly.

I haven’t heard much about rayon since I took a clothing and textiles course in college. Why are designers and manufacturers interested in bringing back rayon?

Rayon or viscose, made from trees, was first used in the 1940s as a cheaper, more durable replacement for silk. Although some people contend rayon is more environmentally sound because it isn’t made from petrochemicals, harsh chemicals are used to extract cellulose from wood pulp. And although it’s often made from quick-growing trees, about a third of viscose productions comes from old-growth forests.

Rayon is making a comeback because designers and manufacturers say consumers like it for its comfort and style, according to the New York Times article “New Rayon Clothing Ruffles Some Wearers.”

Also, around 2011, cotton prices went up making rayon attractive.

So watch out for rayon when you’re shopping. Read the tags carefully. It just doesn’t seem worth it to dry clean a pair of rayon pants for years that costs $25-$50 and have to put up with wrinkling and spotting, too.

Update:

I went back to Macy's and was surprised to see that about half of the clothes I looked at contained rayon. Most had rayon combined with other fibers, so the garments were washable. I was right. Rayon certainly is having a resurgence.

Comments

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azure

Unless it's organically grown (and expensive), cotton is a very high pesticide use crop, often GMO and water-consumptive. Yet it's still grown in California, despite lengthy drought. While I like cotton fabrics, the environmental costs are probably similar to those of rayon, unless it's organically grown--and then it'll be quite expensive.

Rita

Hi azure,

Well, it's certainly a dilemma. I'm allergic to wool, and I can't wear second-hand clothes because most of them are dry cleaned and/or have been doused with perfume.

I wear my clothes until they're worn out so I'm not buying new clothes all the time. However, I certainly learned my lesson about not reading the clothing tags and getting a bunch of new clothes made out of rayon.

Rita

azure

Hello,

I'm allergic to wool as well, have been since I was 18-19 years old. It's made finding certain types of clothing difficult. I've tried to avoid drycleaning for years for environmental reasons. You've probably read about less toxic forms of dry cleaning--https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Cleaning-up-the-cleaners-New-methods-offer-2507032.php unfortunately there are none in my area to try.

Through experimentation I've learned that some clothing w/some rayon can be washed (delicate cycle, cold), ditto for clothing a % of linen or silk. Have also read of a "washable silk."

Rita

Hi azure,

I didn't know about dry cleaning with carbon dioxide. I'll see if we have any of these dry cleaners where I live.

I went shopping for pants again today and noticed that most of the rayon ones were machine washable and line dry.

You might be able to get away with washing on a gentle cycle, but I don't think drying rayon in the dryer is a good idea unless the tag says so.

Rita

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