How I wash pinup clothes

As is the unfortunate side effect of wearing clothes, sometimes you have to wash them. What is the far more unfortunate side effect of being a pinup is that 90% of my clothes have “dry clean only” on the care instructions.

Now, unless you a) are a dry cleaner, b) know a dry cleaner very well, c) are ludicrously rich or d) budget for regular dry cleaning, this is a pretty unfeasible ask of most pinups, with dry cleaning fees sitting at anywhere from $10 – $40 per item. As I can be a messy person, I tend to wash my clothes after about one wear due to the inevitable food or pen stains, but I know some people are more comfortable (and evidently less sweaty) that they can re-wear things a couple of times before washing.

Now please note I am not a dressmaker, nor a dry cleaner, nor a fabric expert. If you wash your clothes the same way I do, you have to accept that this will potentially accelerate the natural wear and tear of these items compared to following the care instructions. Something something lawyer speak, you agree to not hold me liable should this damage your clothes. Good? Good. Now that that’s out of the way…

Step 1

Wear an item of clothing


If you’re a pinup, vintage lover or just someone who gets dressed at all, this probably will have already happened.

Step 2

Place the item in the wash

Always use a cold rinse cycle and always put it on a delicate setting if your washing machine has one. Warm water can drain the colour from fabrics faster. If your washing machine doesn’t have a preset delicates cycle, but you can alter the settings, this is the setting my washing machine has so you can copy it:


Step 3

Hang the item up to dry

Dress hung up.png

So a few dos and don’ts here:

  • Don’t hang it outside in the sun without turning the dress inside out – this slows down any sun damage
  • Do hang up the dress by the shoulders, or as close to the shoulders as you possibly can
  • Don’t hang anything with full skirts too close together, or they won’t dry properly and they get that sour not-dried-properly smell
  • Never ever for the love of God put these things in the dryer – dryers are ruthless machines and put holes in your clothes
  • Do hang it up inside if you can to protect it from the sun – but if you live somewhere that’s not well aerated or insulated, it could be worse for your clothes and your house to hang inside

Step 4

Once the item has dried, steam or iron it

Before and after steaming.png

Before and after steaming

Sorry lazy people (including myself), this is non-negotiable. Pinup clothes have a tendency to wrinkle due to how much fabric they’re made of, especially in swing skirts. Even if you prefer wiggle skirts/dresses, you need to make sure they’re impeccable as the wrinkles can be exaggerated once the item is worn.

Personally, I prefer steaming to ironing. It really cuts down on time, especially for the fuller swing skirts. Some people can hang them up in the bathroom during a shower and have it de-wrinkle their clothes, but I think it depends on your bathroom and your shower as this never works for me.

Step 5

Store as best you can

I can hardly talk as my wardrobe is groaning under the pressure of all the dresses I own, but you want to give your items room to breathe and sit properly in your wardrobe, otherwise they could wrinkle just from being hung up. Hang up on nice coat hangers, either wooden ones or rubber coated ones to prevent the dresses falling onto the floor.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Other tips and tricks:

  • Wash items of a similar colour together to save time and water
  • Wash your pinup items with things like undergarments and other things that need to go in with a delicate cycle
  • For dresses you’re especially afraid of washing (delicate fabrics/layers), try washing them in a lingerie bag for protection
  • Please note my entire wardrobe is vintage reproduction – I have no idea how washing actual vintage would be by comparison
  • There are some specialist washing liquids and soaps you can get for particular colours (black wash, bright colour wash etc.), so that might help extend the wear of your items
  • I’ve found you can soak and spot clean most fabrics for stubborn stains, but just be careful about how you go about it – the spot cleaning products I have shouldn’t be left on for longer than five minutes before washing
  • If in doubt, take it to the dry cleaners

I’ve had dresses last for years washing them this way. The darker ones tend to get the little discoloured fibres poking out fairly quickly (people who have owned certain clothes for a long time will know what I’m talking about), but as a whole, they still look great and get fairly regular wear.

So that’s how I wash my pinup clothes! What are your best tips and tricks for washing items from a pinup wardrobe?

Lots of love,
Mrs Greatnews xx


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