How to Care for Metallic and Lamé Clothes

Lame dress
George Pimentel / WireImage

What Is Lamé?

Lamé is a type of fabric woven or knit with thin metallic yarns. It evokes the look of old Hollywood glamour and is still worn by stars today when they want to shimmer. As the price of metallic fabrics have dropped in price, lamé is now readily available in the mass fashion off-the-rack market.

Lamé fabric is produced in many designs, depending on the composition of the other threads in the fabric.

Vintage lamé was gold or silver in color but today you can find a range of colors from emerald to fuchsia to turquoise are available. Lamé fabrics can be found on handbags, accessories, home decor and even furniture upholstery.

Vintage lamé was made with true metallic threads of gold, silver or copper that could tarnish with age. Today's lamé fabrics can be a woven or knit textile with a combination of metallic coated fibers and polyester or nylon yarns. The use of these mainly synthetic fibers makes the fabric much more lightweight, easier to handle during construction of a garment and easier to care for.

Buyers should be aware that even with the improvements to the production of lamé, the fabric is not durable or easy to care for. It is not a good choice for garments or items that will be worn or used often. Metallic yarn fabrics are attractive but not very serviceable. Friction and mechanical action in wear may cause the fragile metallic yarn to snap.

When wearing lamé, avoid brushing against rough surfaces to reduce snags and tears.

The same care instructions recommended for lamé should be followed with all fashion fabrics that have metallic threads woven into or embroidered onto fabrics. This will keep the finish of the threads pristine and prevent excessive breakage.

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How to Care for Lamé Clothes and Accessories

Some clothes that have metallic threads running through the fabric are machine washable. It is important to always check the care labels and follow those recommendations.

However, most lamé clothes are dry clean only. Even if the fabric is washable, lamé is often lined to give the garment structure and shape. Many of those linings and interfacings are not machine washable and must be dry cleaned. If the label states "Dry Clean Only" you should follow the instructions. Look for a cleaner that has worked with lamé because some dry cleaning chemicals can ruin the fabric.

On handbags and shoes, loose dirt and dust should be wiped away with a soft damp cloth in the direction of the fabric after every use. Because alcohol can harm the fabric by dulling the finish, blot away any stains as soon as possible with a dry, white cloth. Then, blot the area with a cloth dipped in plain water and blot to dry.

To handle surface stains from food spills, carefully lift away any solid residue with a blunt knife or the edge of a spoon. Do not rub the stain because that only pushes the problem deeper into fibers. Instead, blot away the stain with a clean white cloth while it is fresh.

Then apply a bit of clean water with a clean white cloth and blot some more. Follow care label directions and get to a professional dry cleaner as soon as possible. Always point out the stain and identify it to the cleaner to make the removal easier.

Stains and perspiration may cause the metallic yarn to tarnish. A bit of lemon juice and salt can remove tarnish from metallic yarns. Mix the lemon juice and salt and apply with a cotton swab. Let work for several minutes and then blot away tarnish with a clean white cloth dipped in cool water (wring until almost dry). Allow to air dry away from direct heat or sunlight.

Metallic threads should never be exposed to high heat in a clothes dryer or when ironing. Use a clothes steamer to remove wrinkles and be sure to keep the steamer nozzle at least 12 inches away from the fabric surface.

If you must use an iron to remove wrinkles, use a low heat setting and ALWAYS press from the wrong side while using a pressing cloth between the iron's surface and the fabric.