Great looking top. You might be having problems not so much from rayon as from sewing a sheer fabric. The fix for that would be to sew it including some paper in the seam - it gives a little play, better stitches form, you rip it out afterwards. You can pay a lot for special paper, or use newspaper like my grandmother did :-). However you don't mention anything about pre-washing. Did you? You know you should in general, but it's indispensible with rayon, and in fact I'd recommend doing it twice. With at least one run in the dryer (not too hot), because that'll do the most good. Rayon will change a lot with washing, there's no going around that.
As to rayon's quality, yes it stank in the 50s. But it's been a long long time :-). Even in the 80s you could get a couple year's hard wear out of it. I tend to prefer silk for the same qualities because it does last longer, but there are German rayons for instance that are excellent quality, better than some silks. What matters alas is how much you pay. A good rayon feels good, looks good, holds a good print... what else would anyone want?
by: Lori V
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