How To Maintain Your Vintage Wardrobe

Vintage is many things. On one side we love vintage because it’s unique, more flattering and of better quality than the majority of contemporary clothing on the store racks today.  However, vintage isn’t without its problems.  How many of us have suffered a stain or tear or lost a tap? Part of wearing vintage is maintaining your clothing to continue their longevity. So here are a few tips to help you keep that fantastic closet of yours looking good for years to come.

Have a Good Dry-Cleaner

Most vintage should really be dry-cleaned.  Especially 1940s crepe numbers and garments of matte satin.  But I also understand going to a dry-cleaner can be scary, after all you are handing over quite possibly some of your favorite garments to someone else to clean! To find a good dry-cleaner I recommend talking to vintage shops where you know they clean their garments prior to putting them out for sale or talking with a fellow vintage lover in your area.  I spoke to AlexSandra of AlexSandra’s Vintage Emporium about where she goes to have her garments cleaned, and she recommended Tip-Top Cleaners, which is now where I take everything.

Understand Hand-Washing

Some more delicate garments need to be hand-washed instead of washed in the machine, and a few can even be hand-washed instead of sent to the cleaners.  Depending on the amount of items I am washing, I will use either a small plastic tub or my bathtub. I put in a bit of Oxiclean, then pour in a small amount of Woolite, fill up the tub, then put in my garments, swishing them around or soak them.  Then I drain the tub, and refill it without any additives, swish the garments around a little more and leave them to soak, letting all of the soap bubbles rise out.  Then the garment is either hung up to dry or laid flat on a towel on the floor.  I hand-wash nearly all of my sweaters, my rayon blouses, vintage undergarments (including stockings), and fragile cottons (sturdy cottons can go in the machine).

Have a Good Cobbler

Most of use have lost a tap at some point in our lives. If you are unfamiliar with the term “tap” it is what the small tip is called on the heel of a shoe, often made of plastic.  Loosing a tap causes one to walk funny, ruin hardwood floors and snag fabric and carpet.  Taps can easily be replaced by a cobbler at a shoe repair shop and relatively inexpensive.  Especially since I doubt you would want to get rid of the shoe!  Often shoe repair shops can also do zipper repair, with respects to a zipper coming out of a purse or jacket and other types of purse repair.  Once again, a good way to find a reliable and well skilled cobbler is by asking vintage shop owners or fellow vintage lovers, or you can check out reviews on Yelp.

Know How to Sew or Have a Good Seamstress or Tailor

Okay, yes, we all like vintage because it is of superior quality to new garments, however, most of our garments are at least 40 years old! And they are still going to be fragile to a certain extent.  Seams pop and  buttons come off.  I know many of you already can sew up a storm, but a few of you may not even know how to thread a needle!  Knowing how to sew on a button or fix a popped seam is very important to keeping your wardrobe up to snuff.  Also, knowing how to work a sewing machine can help you along with you find a garment that you love, but it doesn’t fit quite right.  Additionally, knowing how to sew can open up a whole new world to you of sewing from vintage patterns!  Consider having knowledgeable friend come over or taking a sewing class to learn the basics.  However if you and a needle and thread simply don’t get along, look around for a good seamstress or tailor that you can take your garments to for repairs or reconstruction.  Additionally, as soon as you notice something is wrong with a garment, make sure you get it into a repair pile (for you or for your tailor or seamstress) straight away, instead of putting it back in your closet. This will prevent any further damage caused by wearing it in case you forget about the damage.  And like dry-cleaners and cobblers, you can ask around or search for someone on Yelp.

Store Your Garments Properly

The way your store your clothing can in fact have a severe impact on how long they last.  I have often gone to shops only to find that the way a garment has been hung and handled has destroyed it!  Most sweaters should be folded and stored in a dresser drawer. Hanging can cause the fabric to stretch and pull, and the sweater to lose its shape.  Fragile fabrics, such as dresses that use chiffon in the yoke area for a nude illusion, should be hung up on puffy, padded hangers such as these. These hangers help distribute the weight of the garment, causing less stress on the fabric in the shoulder area.  For the rest of my vintage, I use “velvet” hangers like these.  These non-slip hangers prevent garments from falling off and ending up in a rumpled heap at the bottom of your closet.  Also, plastic hangers can sometimes have flash on them, which can cause unwanted snags in your garments.  Additionally, the velvet hangers take up less room than plastic hangers!  Garment bags are a good idea for fragile, special and beaded garments.  But if possible, try to find or make a garment bag that is of linen instead of plastic. It will let the garment breathe better.  To those who adore the 1920s, it is often recommended that you do not hang your garments. In just a few years those garments are going to be, are you ready for it, one hundred years old! *GASP!* I know, it’s pretty scary.  So, instead of hanging, it is recommended that they should be stored as if being archived.  Use an acid free box, and line it with washed cotton muslin that is undyed.

I hope I have been of some help! And if I left anything out, don’t hesitate to ask! Or if you have anything to add, feel free to comment below and I’ll work it in!

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