Canadian Fashion Connection – Laundry symbols

Textile care used to be straightforward when everything was made of natural fibres. However, as rayon, nylon and, when a long list of polyester fibres were introduced into textile production in the 1950s, care instructions became more complex. There were also new finishes and manufacturing techniques, such as bonding, used for the production of garments that required special consideration when cleaning.

Publication outlining the July 1, 1973 Textile labelling act

Internationalism, the movement of the post-war period that affected everything from trade relations to architectural styles, was promoted by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) in textile industry symposiums in the late 1950s. As a result, the international textile care labelling group GINETEX (Groupement Internationale d’Etiquetage pour l’Entretien des Textiles) was founded in 1962 for the express purpose of creating international textile care labels. This organization, located in Paris, was formed from representatives of the textile, garment, chemical (dye) and detergent industries. From here the story gets muddy as to who was doing what and when. Britain, Canada, and Japan were testing their own systems of pictographic care symbols while the ISO was moving to standardise pictographic symbols as early as 1970.

The red, green, and amber Canadian care symbols, 1973

The Canadian care symbol system used green (go ahead), amber (caution), and red (don’t try) with the five symbols (wash tub, bleach triangle, square dryer, iron, and dry cleaning circle.) When the Canadian Textile Labelling Act required all garments sold in Canada to be accurately identified for content as of July 1, 1973, care symbols were not legally required, although they were widely used by Canadian manufacturers. In 2003 the Canadian system was updated to harmonize with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and (ISO) standards, and the colour code was dropped.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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1 Response to Canadian Fashion Connection – Laundry symbols

  1. Carla Rey says:

    Thank you, this was so informative! It helped me pinpoint at date on a label that has been confounding me!


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