Your Cleaner Is Your Clothes’ Best Friend

It’s not the heat… It’s the humidity?

I recently ran across a small collection of consumer brochures from the National Institute of Drycleaning, each dating between 1949 and 1959.  They are interesting because of the information about 1950s fabrics that is contained in them.

Today’s fabrics are often blends of natural and man-made fibers and are designed to control issues such as humidity and wrinkling.  But in the 1950s synthetic fibers were still new, and were often unpredictable.  Enter the local dry cleaner, there to solve all the problems of modern textiles.

You’ll prize your bright red clothing more “because colors do not fade in drycleaning!”  And you’ll be “happy and gay with your bias cut… until a shower or cleaning brings your skirt up!”  Luckily, “your drycleaner may be able to stretch it back to shape.”

“Drycleaning results in the least degree of change in the original size and measurement.”  *This change depends upon fabric construction, naturally.

Chiffon may be for the soft look, but the brochure got very technical in its explanation of how the fabric was made.  And contrary to what some people might have believed, chiffon was explained to be a weave, not a fiber.

By the 1950s metallic fabrics had been around for a very long time, but their care must have still been confusing to consumers.  The brochure suggests that one play it safe and take metallic fabrics to a drycleaner.

Before care instructions were sewn into clothing, many garments came with hang tags that contained care directions.  This brochure on jersey knits reminded consumers to save the hang tags.

And finally, consumers were reminded not to take chances with pigment printed fabrics.

Because the brochures were numbered, I know there were at least sixty-three of them written and published.  Most are credited to Dr. Dorothy Siegert Lyle of the Consumer Education Division. Dr. Lyle had been a professor of home economics at Ohio State.  In 1947 she was employed by the National Institute of Drycleaning, where she developed this series of pamphlets which were distributed to home ec students and to consumers by way of department stores.  Dr. Lyle also wrote several books on textiles and clothing.


Filed under Proper Clothing

11 responses to “Your Cleaner Is Your Clothes’ Best Friend

  1. What interesting brochures…I only wish dry cleaners today still new how to handle these great fabrics. A dry cleaner who knows how to care and handle vintage is sure hard to run across these days!


  2. I love the graphics in these pamphlets!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great information, Lizzie – thank you! Never knew shrinkage might be reversible. (Only on bias cut?)


  4. More treasures rescued from the trash heap! I must admit that I tend to ignore the washing/cleaning instructions on clothes, thinking them some kind of conspiracy from the dry cleaning industry. But the educational tone of these inspire more confidence.


  5. This is great info, and the graphics are glorious!


  6. “…chiffon was explained to be a weave, not a fiber.”

    Not sure what this means. I know that felt, for example, is a non-woven kind of textile. So chiffon is actually woven, even though it appears more like a nonwoven material?


    • Dee

      It would be analogous to saying satin is a weave, not a fiber. It refers to the construction of the textile. The fiber content might be, silk, rayon, polyester, etc.

      Chiffon is a woven (as opposed to a knit, or non-woven) textile.


  7. Those graphics and illustrations are to die for…I love finding these because they help me figure out how to properly launder my vintage!


  8. Carla Jane Pommert-Cherry

    I’m curious where you found the brochures because Dr. Dorothy Siegert Lyle was my grandmother. She worked hard at her job as Director of Consumer Information and translated the technical information of the chemists in the drycleaning lab into information that “mom and pop” drycleaner owners, and consumers could understand and utilize.

    I would love to have copies of the brochures if you could scan them and email them to me, or copy them and mail them to me.

    ~ Carla Cherry
    Phone: (434) 996-4548


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