I love introducing people to latex fashion, I love that more people are starting to recognise it and I also love that more celebrities, stylists and fashion photographers are actively seeking it out and featuring it more in their work.
Though a lot more people now seem to know about the existence of latex fashion and the striking look it can produce, it seems that not everyone is aware of the delicate nature of the fabric, or sometimes even basic latex-care rules.
I’ve been working with latex for a while now and wearing it for even longer so I thought it would be useful to write a summary of basic rules and some tips based on my own experiences. Obviously different people have different preferences and I’d love to hear what works for you too!
First of all, here’s a list of things to avoid coming into contact with your latex:
- Direct sunlight (discolours and degrades)
- Smoke (discolours)
- Oil/wax (degrades)
- Perfume and scented products (degrades)
- Metal, particularly copper and nickel (stains)
- Sweat (degrades)
- Water/humidity (rots)
- Heat (melts/degrades)
- Sharp objects/long nails (tears/damages)
- Sun-cream (discolours)
- Leather (production oils can degrade)
- Greasy food (degrades)
If you would like to wear your latex during the day, purchasing some Fade stop is definitely worth it.
With regards to staining, the effects can sometimes be reversed if the garment is washed, talced and placed in a dark, airtight container for several months. I’m not exactly sure why this works but I have heard it from a couple of regular latex wearers and have also experienced it myself with a white garment from my first collection that suffered metal staining at a photoshoot.
Pull on latex items require dressing aid. Talc and waterbased lube are most commonly used and best. Lube is usually easier to distribute so it will probably give the best results with very tight garments, though I prefer not to use it with stockings or leggings if I am wearing them for long periods of time as it can cause the latex to stick to the back of the knee and form painful creases.
Latex can be worn as is but is more commonly shined to give the distinctive wet-look appearance we all love. New items will absorb more lube and can take a few applications to build up their shine. Silicone lube or spray is most commonly used, you can get products like Pjur cult that doubles up as dressing aid and shiner and vivshine which is recommended to be used while washing the latex but can also be applied by hand.
Wash your latex as soon after wearing as possible. If you come back from a night out where you have been sweating, it’s probably easiest to just get in the shower with (make sure the water isn’t too hot though). If you can’t wash it straight away, make sure you cover it in talc or corn starch to absorb any liquid on the surface.
As a general rule, wash your latex in a bowl or bath tub of lukewarm water using a mild detergent or soap. This can range from unscented soap to mild/baby shampoo to washing up liquid. Just run the lather or bar of soap lightly across the surface of the latex and rub with your hands. Afterwards rinse it properly, making sure no suds remain. At this stage, if you would like to add silicone oil (pjur/vivishine) to your wash and save yourself having to shine it later on, you can fill the bowl/tub up again with fresh water and add a few drops of your selected oil, along with the latex. Swoosh the latex around the bowl/tub with your hand make sure all areas come into contact with the oil to ensure an even shine.
When you have finished your final rinse, dab the latex with a towel to get rid of excess water and hang on a plastic hanger to drip dry. Try to avoid metal clothes maidens as they can become rusty and stain your garments. Also anything that causes your garment to be doubled over is not advisable as it can stop it from drying properly. As latex is a natural product and can rot, it is preferable that it is allowed to dry as quickly as possible. When areas of the latex have retained excess water you may notice discoloration, commonly referred to as “water marks”. These are usually temporary but could develop into something more serious if the latex isn’t allowed to dry.
When your latex appears dry it is time to wrap it up and store it safely in a dark, dry place.
First of all, make sure you dust your newly washed garment with talc/corn starch to absorb any excess moisture. The powder should also stop it from sticking to its self but I also wrap it in tissue paper at this point. This stops the latex from sticking to its self as well as the outer packaging and also minimises creasing and offers some protection from the sun in the event of transportation. I recommend buying the white/natural tissue paper so you don’t have to worry about it staining lighter coloured items.
Most people pack their latex in clear, grip lock bags. You can squeeze the air out of them which makes your garments easy to store and carry. They also usually make it easy to guess which garment is in each bag but you can also add labels to them if you have multiple items that look similar.
Large items can also be placed on hangers and in garment bags or wrapped in plastic bags.
Be especially careful with items containing metal components and make sure the metal doesn’t come into contact with the latex (particularly for light colours). You can wrap tissue paper round them or stock masking tape over them (particularly useful for press-studs)
Some people have a latex closet, others prefer to store theirs in plastic boxes/bins but I prefer drawers for the majority of my items. I only store large, mixed media or structured items in the wardrobe and I wrap these up properly to stop them coming into contact with other items that might stain them. I have heard the IKEA SVAJS garment bags are good but I have yet to try them myself. I wouldn’t recommend storing Items of clothing made in standard grade latex on hangers for extended periods of time as they may stretch.
Obviously light and transparent colours requite extra care as they discolour easily. Black and dark coloured latex will probably be fine, even if you don’t take all the measures listed here, but as a general rule, the better you look after your latex, the longer it will last.
I hope you find this guide useful! If I have any more information to add or I take relevant pictures in the future I might update the post.