Jackets: Stalking the elusive washable

Even if your work wardrobe is casual, or you have retired, an indoor-weight jacket belongs in the mix somewhere, for crisp days, for a change, for the polish.

Decades ago, I owned a washable skirt suit (an agnès b. black and white pin-dot poly that looked like heavy silk) and since knowing that such a thing is not only possible but brilliant, I have wondered, Why don't they make more washable jackets? So practical (sleeve edges seem to soil immediately), better for the environment, and terrific for travel.

You'd expect to find some at travel specialists' sites, but I do not look best in unmitigated menswear, such as the blazers sold by TravelSmith. (If you do, check the All-Seasons Blazer.) 

Even fabrics that are usually washable (cotton twill, denim, polys) are labelled Dry Clean Only; while I confidently use the delicate cycle-plus-mesh-bag method for a blouse, jackets often contain interfacing or finishes that won't withstand a bath.

Fall's crop is turning up a few possibilities.

Ponté (a poly/rayon/spandex knit) to the rescue, but not all ponté jackets are washable. Lands' End's ponté jacket comes in black or red, with nautical buttons and striped lining; price, $150:


A good ponté piece travels impeccably, looks fresh and dries overnight; low-quality ponté feels stiff as a bulletproof vest.

Neither is denim necessarily washable! From J. Crew to Victoria Beckham, I found denim jackets that demand dry-cleaning. Really, would you pay over $600 for denim and then want to re-invest? But the Amanda blue denim at Boden is machine washable, with a current cut and degradée effect, at a decent £55 (sale price), in UK sizes 6 to 22.



Denim is cotton, but cotton that traverses winter. So do some heavyweight cotton knits, but again, some will not withstand the machine. ModCloths is a favourite source of my girlfriend Marina, who alternates their pieces with thrift shop finds. She pointed me to the jaunty navy Ahoy Blazer, which has appealing feminine details and can be hand-washed; price, $70. (Also available in cream and red.)


Garnet Hill's heavyweight Colette cotton knit jacket is washable, and comes in stripe or pewter, up to size 18; price, $150.

Even more rare are jackets of washable wool or wool blends. Boden's Emilia biker jacket looks cool over a long top; they say you can hand wash the 30% wool/70% cotton fabric and that's good enough for me. Price, £89.


Eileen Fisher devotées will find this washable wool interlock is worth the $298 price tag; you could spend that much in a year or two, drycleaning its ethereal seasalt colour.  Wool interlock is a needle's breadth away from a knit; maybe I just need a sweater jacket?



I am still looking; why, on a planet awash in every synthetic known, amply-supplied with denim and at least some washable wool, are so many jackets (and other pieces) dry-clean only?






13 comments

une femme said...

One of the challenges I've had with "washable" jackets is that the facing often isn't tacked down, and the jacket never lays right after the first washing, necessitating a trip to the cleaners for pressing. Frustrating! I do love the silk-cotton interlock and the longer sweater/jacket in that fabric I own is now heading into winter #3 without any sign of wear and tear.

Peggy Anderson said...

So enjoy your posts! Thank you.
My all time favorite go-to brand of elegant washable knits is Misook (aka Exclusively Misook). The labels recommend machine wash and dry which you can do without hesitation. The pieces last many years. Black & navy dye lots are the same year after year so it's easy to add to your collection. Plus there are beautiful accent pieces in many other colors.
Misook is pricey but so worth it! Now that I am semi-retired, I find Misook on eBay at excellent prices. Also carried by Neiman Marcus or check out www.Misook.com.

Peggy Anderson said...

So enjoy your posts! Thank you.
My all time favorite go-to brand of elegant washable knits is Misook (aka Exclusively Misook). The labels recommend machine wash and dry which you can do without hesitation. The pieces last many years. Black & navy dye lots are the same year after year so it's easy to add to your collection. Plus there are beautiful accent pieces in many other colors.
Misook is pricey but so worth it! Now that I am semi-retired, I find Misook on eBay at excellent prices. Also carried by Neiman Marcus or check out www.Misook.com.

John said...

I no longer buy items that require dry-cleaning. I handwash my sweaters and bras. Everything else must be machine washable. I don't mind hanging it to dry.--Louise

Kirsten Giving said...

Interesting post! I hate paying to dryclean jackets if avoidable.
Years ago I bought an Eileen Fisher, lime green, cotton matelesse jacket at a thrift shop. It washed and dried perfectly. It was funnel necked but I cut it into a V-neck and added a pretty facing. It must have been rather old because the zipper pull broke. I added an Apple green piece of turquoise for the tab. While I do not wear it in the winter in SoCal, it is perfect for spring and fall. It never wrinkles either.
Now, why can't manufacturers figure out how to make other pieces with those traits?
Kirsten

Susan said...

I popped into Ann Taylor yesterday and did see some knit jackets/blazers. I did not check their care tags, but at least they were jackets with polish made from knit fabric.

Susan said...

Oh---I have to add--in my shopping foray with my mother yesterday, we also took a look at Misook. I have several pieces from this Korean designer. And Peggy is right--they last FOREVER! They are made from a substantial knit and take washing and drying without losing a step. Mistook CAN be a bit matronly and pricey (jackets $400+), but if you find one you love, you'll be set for a decade. I can also vouch Misook's knit pants. The knit is a bit stiff, but wears and washes like armour. I've found them great for a trip with business events.

Cherry said...

The reason most tailored pieces are not washable is because they are made of several different components, all of which react differently to water. So the face fabric may be ok, but how about where it is fused to the interfacing (stiffening)? The glue is likely to become partly unstuck, resulting in bubbling. Then the lining will probably shrink at a different rate to the rest, causing pulling. The shoulder pads and any other padding will get twisted and possibly felted. The buttons, if at all decorative, may lose their color or shine.

So you will notice that the recommendations above are basically single-layer, more akin to cardigans than tailored jackets.

Mardel said...

I don't know why anyone would make or buy a dry clean only denim jacket, unless it was heavily stylized and structured with interfacing and so forth, and that would serve a totally different purpose. Most washable jackets are unstructured, and there is a place for unstructured jackets. If they are dry clean only I tend to think it is due to laziness or cheapness, ie techniques that will not hold up to washing, like the facing problem Une Femme mentions. This does not have to happen, but I have no accounting for why it does unless expectations have just been allowed to sink to this level. I understand the difficulty however, and increasingly find even expensive clothes that fail to hold up as expected.

SewingLibrarian said...

Cherry and Mardel have said what I was going to say, so I'll just second their comments.

Duchesse said...

Cherry, Mardel and Sewing: At one point, in the mists of time, I too sewed, so am familiar with the interfacing/button etc issues. And yet, that agnès b. suit had interfacing, had buttons, and as I recall, small shoulder pads- and washed like a dream. (Of course, no dryer.) So, if they can put one suit on the moon...

As for Misook, I have seen it, but perhaps was victim of what Susan ID's as occasional- stiff, rather 'dadame' styles... should give it another look, but stay tuned for a post next month on some very well-made knitwear that is also washable.

lagatta à montréal said...

This sort of jacket is very practical for travel that also involves work or attendance at a conference; smart casual and indeed washable. The Ahoy blazer would not look nice on someone with a large bust, but the Colette jacket looks very nice, in either the stripes or the pretty grey. I have a grey boiled wool jacket I like to wear to chilly European conference halls, but indeed those are far too often "dadame" in style. And not really washable.

By the way, if Le Duc and you should happen to be planning a trip to Rome:
http://www.laduchessaaroma.it/ I'm actually familiar with that neighbourhood as my prof had a little flat there where I spent a couple of months.

Jennifer Connolly said...

I am a big fan of Ponte knit jackets. You're so right about the sleeve edges getting soiled. The collar rim as well, if not in, hide everything, black.