Is Silk Sleepwear Only for Those That Can Afford It?

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fantasie silk nightie by pool

I am sure this is the question woman buying sleepwear everywhere are thinking but too afraid to ask! So, I thought I would give it to you straight girls. There is no short answer.

Having been in the business of designing lady’s sleepwear for nearly 7 years, in that time I have learnt a lot about fabrics but still learning about what woman want to sleep in. Rather than get into that, I thought I would share with you my experience buying and designing sleepwear in silk together with some of the reason’s clients have purchased silk – it might surprise you!

I will start with the story of my first buying trip overseas to buy silk. Compared to other textiles, silk is only 0.2% of the global fibre market but its high value is worth 20 times what cotton is for the same volume. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining its cost!

As China is the largest silk producing country in the world, (India second), this is where I started my search back in 2014. I visited Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province (known as the silk capital of China). I was interested in a visit to a silk factory but quickly learnt these are out of bounds to visitors because of the strict protocols placed on silk production by the Chinese Government. On that first trip to China, I did learn a lot about the production of silk (known as Sericulture), and what to look for when buying silk. Sericulture begins with cultivating silkworms (Bombyx Mori). The white caterpillars feed on fresh mulberry leaves and after moulting four times as they grow, they spin a naturally secreted protein, that starts as a liquid, into a cocoon, which sticks together.

woman hand holding white silk cocoon
white silk cocoon

The cocoon spinning process takes 2-3 days. However, the circle of life is interrupted when the time comes, the now moth secrets a fluid that burns a hole through the strands, damaging the silk threads, so the silkworms only live until they have cocooned themselves into their silken wrapping. The filament is unwound and combined with others to create silk thread. Then the threads are made into whatever thickness of yarn is needed to weave a piece of silk cloth.

My first silk fabric I bought in Hangzhou was 16 momme (the measure of the thickness of the thread) silk, at what I thought was a reasonable price at the time, for one of the oldest and most valuable fabrics in the world.

As history would have it the 2016 G20 summit was held in Hangzhou and the world was introduced to China Silk. In 5 years, the prices have now gone through the roof, now over 60% higher than my first silk fabric purchase in 2014.

With the COVID pandemic spread worldwide, I am more reliant now than ever on the contacts I have nurtured for the past 7 years and what I have learnt about the best silk momme to use in sleepwear. Today I design using 19 momme silk and add a small amount of spandex to my silk fabric. This allows a little stretch in the fabric for extra client sleeping comfort and better fabric durability.

So why do some women like wearing silk sleepwear only and is it only for those that can afford it?

There is a distinct difference between the feel of silk on the skin and any other fabric. This natural, biodegradable fabric breathes (does not feel hot on the skin). It is light to wear. In fact, some say it feels like you are wearing nothing. Your silk nightie or silk PJ’s will look just the same 10 years after purchasing them. That is if you look after them!! Then again if you are paying upwards of $200 for your silk nightwear, I am sure you would want to look after it.

With just a few tips the silk sleepwear will last longer than most of us!

  • Dry Clean – If you prefer to dry clean, by all means do!
  • Hand Wash – Surprise! Silk is washable (especially ours!) and technically, silk does not shrink like other fibres so it can take this type of cleaning.
  • Choose Detergent Wisely – A clear “colourless” shampoo (such as baby shampoo) works well as a detergent. It removes oil and will revitalize silk. Avoid alkaline shampoo (one with a pH higher than 8) or one with ingredients such as wax, petroleum, or their derivatives. These will leave a residue on silk and could cause spotting. (You can use any detergent specially formulated for fine washables as well).
  • Take Care of Cling – Static cling– no one likes it. To prevent it, use a tiny amount of good hair conditioner in the rinse water while hand washing. Remember to use the same caution as with detergent choice.
  • Avoid Wringing – Instead, roll washed silk in a towel to remove the excess water.
  • Do not Use Dryer – Silk dries quickly so save the dryer!

fantasie silk cami
Rather than me trying to answer this question: Why some women only like wearing silk? I am going to relay a story from a couple of customers. This customer has been with me from the time I started the business. Like many of my customers, she is a return customer either purchasing something from my new season range or a gift for a special friend or family member. She initially made her first silk purchase with me in 2017 and so thrilled with the quality of her first purchase, wrote me a lovely email following.

Thank you, Envy Nightwear. I received my beautiful gift boxed purchase today. On opening the box, I tried on my silk nightie and loved it!! I have been searching for so long to find quality well -fitting silk sleepwear in Australia. I was hesitant when placing my first order with you but now you have me as a client forever.

Another customer came to me with some health issues which resulted in her purchasing a silk nightie. This customer was going through chemotherapy for an aggressive form of cancer. For anyone going through chemo will understand. Her body was extremely sensitive as she found some fabrics irritated her skin to the stage that she was itchy and broke out in sores. She was also experiencing night sweats and hot flushes which made sleeping quite difficult. Without the sleep she needed to mend she was not coping during the day and became very depressed. The silk nightie was part of the solution to her getting the sleep she so desperately needed to get well. She also felt feminine and pretty and made her feel better about herself which is one of the most important aspects when going through chemo.

So, ladies, I hope I have been able to give you some information that will help in your decision making for your next sleepwear purchase, whatever that may be.

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