This is also how I look after my vintage clothes, and the clothing that is donated to the Barnardo’s Vintage store in Cheadle.
Storing Vintage Clothing
Keep your vintage clothes in a dry, dust-free place away from direct sunlight. Humidity or damp will damage delicate fibres, and sunlight can irreversibly fade vintage prints and colours.
We have seasonal change overs and the clothing for autumn/winter is kept under wraps upstairs in the stockroom. Muslin and cotton, preferably (natural fibres), are great to drape over and protect the clothing.
For the same reason, don’t store clothes in plastic covers (like the ones dry-cleaners use). Keep vintage clothes stored where they can breathe. Long term, these are not healthy for the fabric of the clothes.
Hang your vintage clothes on wooden hangers or preferably cloth-covered padded hangers (which we sell in store; we’ve got everything covered!). Metal hangers can leave rust stains and stretch marks on your clothes that are very hard to get rid of, and plastic hangers are known to give off a toxin that can wear away thread and fibres in the garment. Gravity can cause rips to the seams over time or result in misshapenness.
Fold or roll fragile materials, such as silk, instead of hanging. Wrap in acid-free tissue to avoid bleeding of colours and store flat. Most vintage garments from before the 1960s were not intended to be washed in a machine and should be hand washed or dry-cleaned. For very delicate items, the best thing to do is to not wash at all and to just air the garments. We always steam and air garments when they come in so they go out onto the shop floor smelling fresh. I have a strict policy when it comes to the quality of the garments I sell; if I wouldn’t buy it, it doesn’t go out.
Washing Your Vintage Clothes
To keep your precious clothes in good condition, wash them less. Repeated, vigorous washing can damage the fibres of vintage clothes (and new clothes too). Washing (machine-washable) clothes at 30 instead of 60 degrees will also prolong their life, and is much more eco-friendly too. Place garments in a cotton pillowcase/sheet for extra protection and never wash embroidered silks or satins, ever!!!
Dry-cleaning your vintage clothes is recommended to remove musty smells such as cigarette smoke or mildew, but in cases where this is not possible, a mixture of white wine vinegar and water, or cheap vodka and water, sprayed onto the garment and left to air dry usually does the job. We use an industrial steamer with a combination of diluted biological washing powder and fabric softener – this along with the steam shifts nasty niffs. Alternatively, these mixtures can be added to boiling hot water in the bath or shower and the garment hung above to absorb the steam overnight.
Always dry clean silk, wool, velvet, and any garment with beading.
For the same reason, keep vintage clothes stored where they can breathe, not in plastic covers like the ones you get from the dry cleaners. Long term, these are not healthy for the fabric of the clothes. If you want to dry clean specialty vintage items that are durable enough for it, then use a reputable dry cleaner that you can build up a relationship of trust with. There’s nothing more stressful than leaving your special finds in the hands of strangers. It’s good to use someone that you trust to know what’s best for your clothes and will take as much care of them as you would.