Beyond Retro

Vintage, thrift, second-hand, retro, upcycling – whatever you call it, older clothing keeps coming back in style. Plus, it is affordable, eco-friendly, and quite fashionable when the trend comes around. However, the materials that these clothes are made from have changed considerably over the years, and modern day detergents and stain removers don’t work well with them. Because of this, it isn’t advisable to just throw them in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry, and some of them may require special care. We’re going to take a look at some of the most common fabrics used in past clothing that might require special care when removing food, dirt and sweat stains.


This is a fabric that was first produced in the early 1900s, and whilst still commonly used as a blend, it has fallen somewhat out of favour as a primary material. The fibres are made from cellulose, taken from wood pulp, and it was the preferred cloth for the Hawaiian shirts popularized in the 1940s and 1950s America. It’s important to check the care label before attempting any stain removal, as rayon can be quite sensitive. Do not rub vigorously when washing, and always use cold water.


These are fabrics of a loose cotton weave, with muslin being finer and cheese cloth being much heavier. These are both still used to make clothes today, but they were at the peak of their popularity in the 1960s and 70s. Because of the way they are made, these garments can become very delicate over time, so extra care has to be taken while washing them. It’s recommended that you wash muslin by hand in warm water, with a scoop of Vanish added to the water, being sure not to wring it as it can stretch and lose its shape.


Crimplene is a man-made fabric made from polyester yarn, which results in a heavy cloth that is wrinkle resistant and retains its shape. Because of this, it was popular as a ready-to-wear material in the 1950s and 1960s. It fell out of popularity in later decades, with people favouring lighter polyesters, or natural fabrics like cotton. Crimplene is easy to clean, as that was its design, and can be washed below forty degrees and drip dried. Synthetics are heat sensitive, so it’s important to follow the instructions on the care label.