5 Things I Learned About Latex in My First Week At William Wilde
Oh hey! My name is Anushka and I’m the new Studio and Content Manager at William Wilde!
I’ve worked in fashion for a number of years in a variety of different roles, and ten years into my career, it still warms my heart and re-ignites the fire in my belly for fashion when I happen to chance upon something new that I haven’t had a chance to work with before. And in this case, it was latex.
I took my first few block-heeled baby steps into the magical world of latex this year, and to say it has been eye-opening would be underplaying it. I learned so much about this fascinating fabric (since that’s how we use it at William Wilde), in just the first week, that it was just the wake-up call my lockdown brain needed to get in gear again!
Here are a few of the things I learned about latex that I can honestly say I had absolutely no idea about a couple of months ago, and now that I know them, I can never un-know them again!
(1) What is Latex?
Simply put, latex is rubber. Or, if you want to get wordy with it, latex is a naturally occurring substance that is a derivative of the mature bark of the Hevea Brasiliensis (rubber tree). It is chemically processed and used for a variety of purposes in modern life, from tyres to gloves, tennis shoes and even condoms.
People often mistake Latex with PVC because they both appear to be shiny and stretchy, however PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is plastic and completely synthetic, whereas natural rubber latex is “vegan, sustainable, fragile and difficult to work with”, to quote the BBC Since latex is natural, it also feels softer, smoother and more luxurious to the touch than PVC. PVC coated fabric is commonly used for clothing, this is a woven fabric though, and does not behave or perform in the same way as latex. The techniques used for construction are completely different, latex clothing is glued, and not sewed!
Latex first started being used in clothing over 300 years ago. Its unique sturdiness and water-repellent qualities made it ideal for warfare and protective medicinal use. It rose to popularity in the world of fashion in the 1820’s with the invention of the Mackintosh raincoat, which originally used to be made out of rubber, before fabric.
Since then, its smooth and sensual texture and consistency has made it popular with fetishists. However, the resurgence of latex on the runways of Gucci, Vivienne Westwood, Balmain, Thierry Mugler, Raf Simons, and most recently, YSL, has made it more mainstream in high fashion, blurring the line between both worlds.
(2) Thickness and stretch
Latex comes in a variety of thicknesses, and so different items (or sometimes, even the same garment), require use of latex in a variety of weights. For example, most of our items are made in 0.45mm latex. However, trench coats and jackets are usually made from 0.92mm latex, as a thicker latex gives the jackets a bit more structure. Most bras, (and all narrow straps), are made from 0.65mm latex to provide additional support.
The stretchiness of latex also depends on its thickness / weight. Latex stretches like a balloon, and the thinner the latex, the more likely it is to stretch. However, this also effects the overall look, feel and quality of the garment, which is why, at William Wilde, we never go lower than 0.45mm in thickness for our clothing, (with the exception of stockings and mittens, as they benefit from the extra stretch of 0.33mm).
(3) It isn’t naturally shiny!
Most people love latex because of its high-shine appearance, but shiny latex is polished latex. It is not possible for us to post out polished latex, because it sticks to itself and is difficult to separate on arrival. Which is why our clothing is sent out coated in talcum powder, to protect and seal the garment
Some people prefer to wear the items in their matte state, and the talc even makes slipping into the garment a little smoother. However, if one is after the high-shine effect they see on our website, they’d have to give it a once over with a soft cloth and latex polish. Luckily, this is super easy to do and only takes seconds, and we also happen to stock the polish you need on our website.
(4) Colours and staining
Latex is available in a variety of colours, many of which we stock on our website. However, did you know that light-coloured latex can stain? Even brighter colours like red, jade & hot pink can be stained, if not cared for correctly, the most common trigger being metal.
When polished latex is in contact with metal for longer periods, metal can discolour the latex. This is why we don’t offer certain styles with significant metal detailing in light colours, and why we always wrap press-studs and zips on coloured items in tissue when packing. This is also why we advise removing all body piercings and jewellery that could come into contact with light-coloured latex when worn.
Don’t worry, black latex is almost impossible to stain, and darker colours are generally less vulnerable. (All latex can discolour left out in sunlight though).
You can find more detailed info on how to care for your latex, and on how to avoid any issues with staining, on the site here.
(5) Washing and storage
Latex is meant to look tight and fit snugly when worn, which sometimes makes it tricky to get into. This is easily assisted by using a Latex Lubricant inside the garment.
Polishing latex, and using a lubricant, can leave your clothing a little ‘wet’, and slippery, so latex does need to be laundered, in its own specific way.
We recommend washing your latex pieces in lukewarm water with a little gentle soap, then rinsing thoroughly with clean lukewarm water. Then hanging it to drip dry (ideally over a bath), in a manner where it doesn’t come into contact with any metal surfaces, and is not in direct sunlight.
Never put your latex in the washing machine, tumble dryer or leave to dry on a radiator, as its will most likely melt!. And as for storage, this is best done on a hanger, covered with a garment bag, in a cool, dark place, (like a wardrobe!), with any metal bits of the hanger covered in tissue or plastic.
You can find fully comprehensive info on how to care for your latex here on the site.
Information overload? Perhaps, but it soon becomes second nature when you know the basics. If, like me, you’ve never experimented with wearing latex before and are only just dipping your toes into the world of latex fashion, some of the pieces I’m looking to invest in over the next few months include items I can easily wear matte or shiny, depending on my mood. I can easily mix pieces like the leggings and studded cropped jacket in with my daily wardrobe and when I’ve worked my way up, I plan to invest in the Trench Coat, which I could wear year-round with everything, especially since I live in rainy England!
Thank you for coming to my TED talk! I’d love to hear your thoughts on latex and if you’re learned something new here today you didn’t already know. You can hit me up in the comments below or chat to me about all things latex and fashion by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. See you there!