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How to Care for your Vintage Clothing

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

A comprehensive guide to caring for your precious vintage pieces.

I have been working with vintage clothing for over 18 years so I have seen all manner of horrors when it comes to condition! There is no doubt that vintage clothing was made to last and the level of craftsmanship and quality of fabrics and techniques are head and shoulders above the fashion being made today. I have some dresses that are over 100 years old and still have another hundred years of wear left in them as they have been cared for properly and their condition maintained. Buying vintage is fun, unique and stylish and it is also an investment. So if you care for these items well then you will be able to wear them for many more decades to come.

Whether you have a whole wardrobe of vintage clothing or just a couple of key pieces, caring for your vintage is super important. Let me guide you through some of my top tips for caring for your vintage clothing...

Tip #1 - Savvy Storage

It is vital to keep vintage clothing in a climate controlled environment that's dry and well ventilated. Basements/cellars are often damp environments and will encourage the production of mould and mildew on your clothing over time. In contrast, lofts/attics can be much warmer and this prolonged higher temperature can really damage things like elastic as well as set in any stains.

Tip #2 - Keep Cool

Certain fabrics like polyester and cotton are perfectly safe to machine wash no matter their age, but always keep it cool for that extra safeguard. Washing at 30ºC is still perfectly effective with modern detergents being much more sophisticated and able to work efficiently at lower temperatures. This is also great for the environment, as switching from a 40º to a 30º wash can save around 50% of energy consumption.

Never use wire hangers. These will mis-shape your clothing and can also rust.

Tip #3 - Fix Up

There will often be small issues with vintage clothing over time such as snagging zips, loose buttons or fraying threads. It is important to get repairs done as soon as you discover a problem, otherwise what starts as something very small and insignificant can turn into something much more damaging and costly to fix. If you aren't confident with a needle and thread yourself, find your nearest repair/alteration service - there is probably someone very close who will do a great job.

Tip #4 - Leather Love

From shoes to belts to coats - when it comes to leather, the correct care is particularly important. Incorrect cleaning and care of leather can lead to drying, cracking and stiffness as well as damage to embellishments and colours. Be sure to identify the leather first, from patent to nubuck or suede to nappa and use the correct products for that type. A little time learning what is best for your leather will ensure you can enjoy it for many more years to come.

Tip # 6- Zip It

It's also advisable to keep your zips lubricated quite regularly. This is easily done by a couple of different methods and no fancy products or equipment is needed. The first way is simply rubbing a pencil up and down the teeth of the zip. Alternatively you can do the same action but with a little Vaseline or soft wax on a cotton bud. Very easy and super effective.

Tip # 6- Think Fresh

My final tip is to remember that vintage clothing doesn't need to be continuously washed. Marks and stains can be spot treated with stain remover sprays and they can be easily freshened up. There are lots of fabric freshening sprays readily available for a quick mid-week spritz but you can also freshen clothes without chemicals. Simply turn your garment inside out and hang in the bathroom when you are showering or outside on a dry breezy day. There is nothing better than good old fashioned fresh air for your favourite vintage threads.

I hope you liked my simple but effective ways of keeping your vintage clothing in tip top condition. When you find vintage you love, you want to make sure you can enjoy it for as long as possible and pass it on to future generations too.

Until next time

Emma x

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