testing testing

I Tested Out 7 New Machine Washable Silk Brands

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer.

Quality silk often comes with a high price tag — which increases exponentially when you factor in the repeated dry-cleaning bills. In the past year or so, though, a handful of brands have been advertising “machine washable” silk, which, in theory, repositions the luxe material as something you can wear every day. If it’s hard to believe that delicate silk can go through the wash, it’s worth considering the textile’s history. According to the Smithsonian, silk was used to make parachutes before World War II. And, as Beth Wolloch, president of Go Silk — a company that bills itself as the first washable silk brand — told me, “A filament of silk is as strong as a filament of steel.”

As someone who loves silk but hates paying for the dry cleaner, I wanted to give these machine washable silks a try. Plus, it seems like they’ve been having a moment (we trace it back to about 2017, when the Slip, a celebrity-beloved machine washable anti-aging silk pillowcase came across our radar). I set out to test the latest offerings of silken pieces — including some made of shiny, sateen silk and others that were more matte — that revive the material from its fusty bedroom or boardroom reputation into something easy to wear. I tried loungewear from Lunya, Nileta, and Kim + Ono, as well as pieces to wear out and about, from Everlane, Ravella, the Sourcery, and Go Silk — many of which would make fine holiday picks for everyone from the girlfriend to the mother-in-law in your life.

The test

I wore each piece and then washed it in the laundry room of my building in a standard (noncommercial) washing machine, on the delicates cycle, with Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin detergent, and then hung each piece to let it air-dry. (While the care label on the pieces from the Sourcery says that the items can go in the dryer, I generally hang-dry most blouses and delicate pieces, so did the same with all of the silk pieces.) After the pieces were fully dry, I returned to each and considered how it looked post–machine wash.

Daywear

The silk before washing: Everlane describes the material of these shirts as “less sheer and more durable than traditional silk.” Durable is an accurate word for these. The material of the shirts almost reminded me of flannel: It’s thick, hangs in a slightly heavy way on the body, and was actually kind of cozy, which is not a term I would usually associate with a silk blouse. The silk itself is matte, and completely opaque.

The look: Fairly simple and clean-cut in design, both tops felt appropriate for a business-casual dress code. Of the two styles, I preferred the button-down shirt, which, with its two breast pockets, is reminiscent of Equipment’s cult-y silk shirt. The pink top has a wannabe-ballerina vibe to it, thanks to the light-pink wrap-top style, but maybe would look more elegant in a different color. I don’t know that I would call either top particularly “expensive-looking,” but both — and especially the button-down — felt extremely practical, and knowing that they could go in the wash made them even more so.

The verdict after washing: Both tops were a little stiff when they came out of the wash, and the matte silk had almost a sporty nylon feeling to it. That said, the stiffness actually made the shirts look crisp and not wrinkled, and since the fabric is so thick, I wouldn’t hesitate to toss these in the dryer on low for five minutes after washing next time, just to soften them up a bit. These shirts don’t look quite as “silky” (or dressy) as your traditional silk button-down, but you might get more wear out of these, making the $110 and $98 price tags worth it.

The silk before washing: The material on all the pieces that I tried hit a nice balance between silky sheen and matteness, and was definitely lighter than the Everlane shirts. The silk almost has some stretch to it, which added to the comfort level.

The look: The styles of the pieces was somewhat dated for my taste. I tried a pair of cargo/army pants, which aesthetically were closer to what you might see worn with stiletto pumps and a leather-sleeved blazer to Serafina in the Meatpacking District than looser, more contemporary iterations of cargo style. The fit of all of the pieces I tried was flattering, though, even if the aesthetic wasn’t quite one I see myself wearing.

The verdict after washing: After air-drying, the material on these felt pretty much exactly the same as it did before they went into the wash, which I found impressive. It’s clear that the “original washable silk” brand knows what they’re doing. I wasn’t crazy about the styles, but for someone else they might work well, and you can definitely throw them in the laundry without fear that they’ll emerge looking any less pristine than before.

Photo: Courtesy the vendor
Photo: Courtesy the vendor
Photo: Courtesy the vendor

The silk before washing: The material of these shirts was truly a silky silk — they reminded me a little of what I’d imagine a 1980s businesswoman would wear under a blazer with shoulder pads, or the silk shirts that Shiv wears on Succession. The shirts were a much finer silk than the Everlane shirt, and the material is shiny enough that it would catch the light when you’re wearing it, giving it a dressier vibe.

The look: The cuts and colors of these were really flattering. Normally, anything pale pink or beige like the Champagne blouse makes me look dead, but this one was actually very lovely and feminine. They’re not chill silks — when I put them on, I felt put-together, like I was ready to get down to business in a boardroom or go out for a fancy dinner on the Upper East Side.

The verdict after washing: I wore one of these out to lunch, where I splattered French onion soup on myself — and was impressed to find that it came out in the wash! The fabric emerged from the laundry looking a little less shiny than before, though, and even after hang-drying there was some wrinkling and pulling going on around the seams and buttons. These seem like they’d hold up well through many washes, but would just take some extra steaming to get them back in good shape. I liked how elegant these tops were, but if you’re going to spend $248 on the button-down blouse or $175, please just treat yourself to dry-cleaning, too.

Photo: Courtesy the vendor

The silk before washing: The prewash silk was somewhat rough to the touch compared to the other silks I tried. I wouldn’t call the material scratchy, exactly, but it did have a starchier texture, and didn’t feel quite as soft or smooth on the body. The way the fabric lies when worn is still flattering, but the actual material just didn’t feel quite as luxe as one might want when wearing silk.

The look: I liked the cut of the Byron top, although I could have done without the slit at the bottom of the shirt that exists so you can knot it. The Elliot Silk blouse was a silk V-neck long-sleeve shirt, which was something I could imagine wearing for a lot of occasions.

The verdict after washing: I hoped these might come out of the laundry feeling softer — maybe the roughness to the silk prewash was something that would change with water? — but that wasn’t the case. I wanted to like these, but the quality of the material didn’t quite live up to the price. The simple cut of each piece was appealing, and if the fabric was a little softer they could become pieces I’d imagine adding to my regular rotation.

Nightwear

Photo: Courtesy the vendor

The silk before washing: The silk of this set felt very luxurious, in part because the texture of the material falls somewhere between matte and shiny. It feels thick but not too heavy to the touch.

The look: The cut of this set felt particularly conducive to sleeping and lounging. The shorts have high-cut, tap-short-style sides that don’t bunch up when you’re lying in bed, and the oversize T-shirt top has a wide neck and sleeves that don’t feel restrictive. The shorts are short enough that they barely show under the oversize T-shirt, which makes the set feel more feminine than a longer length of short might.

The verdict after washing: After hang-drying, these looked pretty much exactly how they did before I washed them. They were impressively smooth and unwrinkled, and when I wore them to sleep again that night they felt as lovely as they did prewash. They kept me cool when my bedroom was warm and warm when my bedroom was cool. I actually found the temperature-regulating quality of these to be pretty surprising, and realized later that Lunya advertises “thermoregulating” as one of the benefits of silk. The only downside I can see about these is the $198 price tag for the set. I feel a little embarrassed to admit that a $198 pair of pajamas from a start-up brand is absolutely worth it — but honestly, if I could replace all of my pajamas with these I would.