Care for sequined garments depends a lot on their age. If you have a piece that has sequin work from the twenties or earlier the most important thing you need to be aware of is that many sequins from this era were made of gelatin and that means that they will literally melt if exposed to high heat or water! So before attempting to clean an older piece, carefully remove a discreet sequin and see what happens to it under water. If it changes or melts then you should not attempt any form of cleaning that involves water or heat. If you absolutely feel it needs to be touched up you can try protecting the surface with a piece of nylon mesh and then vacuuming it carefully on the low speed. Please practice this on a less valuable piece first!
If your sequins are glued onto the fabric rather then sewn, then you need to point that out to your cleaners. They may choose to take a different approach so they don't disintegrate the glues and you are left with fabric and sequins that are now separate from each other.
Delicate sequin flapper and antique dresses are best stored rolled in acid free tissue. This is the best solution for two common problems with early sequin and beaded garments:
1. it keeps the weight off the upper portion of the dress so that the fabric is not stressed and
2. it keeps the sequins and beads from catching on each other and causing potential damage.
Most post-gelatin vintage sequins are actually hardier then present day sequins and will easily stand up to proper cleaning. At Shrimpton Couture we have everything cleaned immediately upon arrival to our studios and our cleaners are vintage "specialized" after many, many years of working with us and handling even the most difficult garments. We understand that once we pass on an item to you that you will then be relying on your own cleaners, so just remember two simple things:
1. request that your vintage pieces be hand done and point out that they are vintage and
2. tell your cleaners that if they have any doubt at all about their ability to do the job and not ruin the garment to not clean them at all.
If they still charge you a small fee think of it as money well spent in that they just saved your dress from disaster. Then try somewhere else with more experience. Without giving the cleaners the "out" they will give it a try no matter what so let them know it is OK to pass on trying. This is a hard lesson learned from experience around here.
If you do decide to try washing a garment at home by hand or by machine, remember to check that the base fabric is one that can be washed. If it is, then go ahead, remembering to always use the most gentle method of the two options - hand or machine. Once wet, lay garments out to dry on a flat surface, turning and shaping if needed as they dry. We roll more delicate garments in a soft towel first to absorb moisture but be very careful with wet fabric as it can be more delicate. Never use a dryer with sequin covered pieces, since the heat may cause damage. Store heavier garments on a double hanger system where you loop the skirt over a second hanger, or store flat.