When it comes to finding ways to keep your vintage clothes pristine, I’ve tried just about every trick in the book, and for good reason. I believe in the power of clothes to tell a story and detail a life.
Four years ago, a precious neighbor came to me with a question. Her grandmother had passed away, and she wanted to know if I was interested in buying a majority of her wardrobe. At the time, I was running my Etsy reseller shop and was knee-deep in my adoration for everything pre-loved. I had a home full of embroidered artwork from the seventies and a basement full of thrifted shift dresses, floral blouses, knee-length skirts and rockabilly headbands. I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.
Though I sold a few of her items, I kept a majority for myself. I did so because they were my exact size and style, but also because they were impeccably preserved. I’ve seen photos of the gloriously stylish former owner, so I know she wore and loved these pieces. Yet, there wasn’t a single button loose or a thread out of place. They were pressed, stain-free and odorless and just begging to be worn by a girl with a heart for vintage and a love of all things cinched at the waist and floral.
Since I acquired her wardrobe, I’ve tried my best to maintain the quality of each piece. With two kids under the age of four who love to throw food and make messes, I can’t say that every single item is completely pristine. However, these tips have helped me to make the most of each piece and preserve it for years to come. Without further adieu, here are five ways to keep your vintage clothes as top-quality as possible.
1. Dry it out first.
You might think your clothes feel dry to the touch, but if you’ve worn them for an extended period of time, you’ve likely perspired in them. The same goes if you’ve been caught in a downpour and they’re a little damp from the rain.
Before you wash any of your vintage pieces, lie them flat and dry them out completely, preferably inside out. Alternatively, you can hang them from your clothesline to get them even drier. This is also a great way to eliminate odors (think cigarette smoke, body odor, perfume, etc.) from your clothes before you throw them into the hamper.
2. Take caution when washing.
Before I wash any of my vintage pieces, I turn them inside out first. Not only does this prevent fading (especially important when it comes to my favorite high-waisted jeans), it also keeps any intricate beadwork or embroidery from being tossed about too much in the machine.
3. Inspect consistently.
When it comes to buying and taking care of anything used, from clothes to cars and everything in between, it’s critical to do your due diligence and make sure there’s nothing loose, broken, or in need of repair.
To this end, inspect all of your vintage items periodically to make sure there’s nothing that needs darning or mending. A loose thread is fixable. A loose thread that’s pulled over time can unravel your favorite vintage sweater. Other common pain points include zippers, seams, buttons and decorative elements such as patches or appliques.
4. Zip and clasp your vintage clothes.
Any time your dresses aren’t on your body, it’s important to keep them zipped up and clasped at the top. Why? You’ll help them keep their shape in your closet, and prevent wrinkles. In the washing machine, this step helps you prevent a clasp hook from getting snagged on another piece of clothing.
5. Make sure you can wash it.
Sure, it’s easy to throw everything in the wash and call it a day. However, there are plenty of vintage items that aren’t meant to be washed. If your pre-loved treasure is made of a specialty fabric like velvet, fur, leather, pleather, or wool, it will likely need special attention and could become damaged in a standard cycle.
If it’s a synthetic fiber, put it on the warm water cycle. If it’s natural, use cold. Either way, opt for liquid detergent over the powder variety. It washes out cleaner and is less likely to leave a reside on your clothes.
There you have it! These five simple tips are key to making sure your vintage pieces maintain their beauty and quality throughout their lifetime. Oh, and one more tip! I never put my vintage items in the dryer. Not only can the heat shrink, potentially fade or damage the worn fabric, it can actually serve to “set in” any stains or odors that you’d rather not keep. Just lie them flat to dry or hang them (inside out) on the clothesline.
Then, wear your vintage lovelies with pride and rest assured that you’re taking great care of them and showing them the love they deserve!
P.S. Shout out to my girl Meghan for bringing back the messy, middle-part bun. Mama has been waiting a long time for this moment!