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Wrinkle Free Dress Shirts: What Are You Getting Yourself Into?

November 30, 2009

The clothing and textile industries have long been trying to solve the problem of ironing dress shirts, i.e. how to avoid it. The answer came in the form of resin finishes that were added to fabrics, which made them wrinkle-resistant. The first resin used to treat fabrics, during the 1920’s, was formaldehyde and it is still used today! Unfortunately, the molecular change that occurs from soaking the shirt in formaldehyde makes it more brittle (a wrinkle free shirt will last about 75% as long as an untreated shirt). However, a greater cause for concern is that formaldehyde is a carcinogen and  an allergen.

The latest generation of wrinkle-free fabric comes closer than ever to delivering no-iron shirts. Unlike previous versions, the use of linings affixed along the seams keeps pockets and plackets (both sleeve and front) from puckering, but adds a noticable amount of stiffness throughout the shirt. Also, there have been advances in the resin coating.  The new technology permanently attaches small particles to the cloth fibres. The particles are absorbed into the cotton and coat every thread, producing microscopic hair-like extensions that form an air cushion over the cloth, repelling water and smoothing out wrinkles. The technology is young and has progressed so quickly that health and environmental effects are still undetermined.

We remain big fans of the iron and pressed shirts, which reflect our philosophy about how we design and sew our garments: it takes a bit more effort to do it right, but the results are more than worth it.

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