Sunday, November 11

How-To- Vintage Garment Care Tutorial

Whether you're new to vintage or an experienced vintage lover, all vintage clothing deserves special love and attention.

But that doesn't mean that storing and caring for vintage clothing is any harder than looking after modern clothing. In fact, most of the tips below as just as applicable to your modern clothing, but vintage clothing is more delicate simply due to its age.

First of all, once you've worn a garment, close all zippers, buttons and snaps, and make sure any shoulder pads are correctly in place. Hang any belts vertically from the top of the hanger. This ensures that the garment hangs properly, and won't lose its shape or wear unevenly.

Padded hangers are best. They help to maintain the structure of the shoulder area, and provide softness. This is especially important for sheer fabrics, and when storing clothing for long periods of time. Wooden hangers can eventually cause a chemical reaction and plastic hangers can be so thin as to leave permanent stretches. For clothing that is particularly old or delicate, such as 1920s beaded silks, storage in a trunk (perhaps a camphor chest), carefully layered with acid-free tissue paper, is strongly recommended.

My favourite brushes: for hats, clothing AND hair

Always air your clothing after wearing it. This is best done in a breezy, light-filled area, but away from any dust and out of direct sunlight. Invest in a good clothes brush, (an old natural bristle brush is best, easily sourced from any antique centre) and gently brush each item before storing. This lessens any dust which may have settled during use.

Why is all this important? Because dust, dirt, and moisture particles from perspiration, deodorant and perfumes are all food for the insects that feed on, and destroy, our precious vintage! It is equally important to keep your bedroom and storage areas clean, and for this the trusty vacuum cleaner is your best friend. 

Dust bunnies in your wardrobe, under furniture and on skirting boards are your worst enemy, they are like piles of food for all sorts of bugs, so it is super-important to be rid of them.

We all know Australia has a harsh and warm climate, so living here we have to take many more precautions to preserve our vintage than those in cold climates.

Don't wash your vintage clothing any more than necessary. Many fabrics, such as printed silks and both rayon and wool crepes, will require dry cleaning. Make sure you go to an experienced, professional dry cleaner. 

One who you can speak to personally and who does their own on-site work. You need to make sure they understand the nature and delicacy of vintage fabrics, and to feel confident that they will act accordingly. If not, go elsewhere!

If your garment can be hand-washed, do it! Detailed handwashing instructions can be found on my blog, at

Most cottons, polyesters, nylons, blends and crimplenes are easily handwashed, follow the above instructions, but do each garment one by one, just because your clothing is vintage doesn't mean it won't run. In fact the opposite is true, vintage dyes are less stable than modern ones because they are vegetable-based.

Now that your clothing is clean, and ready to store, how best to do it?? Never store clothing in plastic. If you've had dry cleaning done, remove the bags immediately, as plastic smothers fabric, causing oxidation (which gives those brown 'age spots' you may have seen). If you can't store clothing in a wardrobe, make sure it is covered with cotton sheets to keep dust away. Regardless of where you hang it, don't overcrowd the rail; allow enough room for air to circulate freely.

 Mothballs, although effective when concentrated, are a poison which is dangerous to children and pets. Other more natural treatments are less effective, but still provide some protection. Lavender bags and cedar balls, just to name a couple, are recommended. 

The other thing to mention is that in order to keep clothing in perfect, wearable condition, is to air everything regularly, and continually check for moth/silverfish infestation. This is ideally done every 6 weeks.

Originally written for Vintage Shops Australia.


delia hornbook said...

Thank you for the informative post i didn't know that about the plastic bags well i found it out a couple of weeks ago when i picked up my vintage wedding dress from the lady that had taken it out slightly she had made me a white cotton bag to cover it with bless her for no charge. dee x

delia hornbook said...

Thank you for the informative post i didn't know that about the plastic bags well i found it out a couple of weeks ago when i picked up my vintage wedding dress from the lady that had taken it out slightly she had made me a white cotton bag to cover it with bless her for no charge. dee x

Vix said...

What a great read, Kitty! I don't store stuff in plastic but I didn't know that was the reason for those horrible age spots, I just hate plastic bags. x

Comrade Von Pussycat said...

Great tips! Do you have any advice on which vintage items are worth buying to restore, or how to mend holes on vintage items? Thank you so much!

pastcaring said...

Top tips, Kitty! xxx

Helga! said...

Invaluable advice,lovey!
I'm guitly of being lazy in the past,but am improving!

Trudie said...

Great post. At the end of the day I guess it's wise to invest as much time an energy in the love of vintage in looking after it. I certainly don't use plastic either. I hate moth balls they are incidious things. I have little organza bags filled with lavender sprigs with drops of lavender oil added for good measure to the bag and it smells so much better.

Vintage Coconut said...

Great tips!

Melanie said...

I think you had a similar post in the past that I referenced recently about vintage garment care. Extremely valuable info. Thank you! Is that your closet? Awesome.

I have just restocked my closet with a moth product by SpringStar Inc (in Washington USA) and it has a pheromone pack inside that attracts males. When they fly in they get stuck in sticky paper to prevent further procreation. It works great! Non toxic. Cheap.

Kelly Wayne said...

Thanks Kitty! I had no idea that wooden hangers could cause chemical reactions! I steered clear of them cause of the possibility the splinters would rip my delicate fabrics, so that adds another reason to banish them from the closet. Also, thanks for the tip on airing clothes out after wearing, it makes so much sense!! Kel xx