Monday, February 21, 2011

How to Keep Your Vintage Clothes Looking Great

Vintage clothes can look just as nice today as they did back in the day, but only if you take care of them.

Vintage Clothes

Image of 1920's sunbather courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

How to Care for Vintage Clothes

By Laure Justice

Gently cleaning and storing your vintage clothes will have them ready to wear when you are all set to head out for a fun night with your friends (or for a romantic evening.) Before you know it your friends will be asking you to tell them your secret for keeping your vintage clothes looking so great.

Some Things You Will Need when Caring for Vintage Clothes

  • Hand sewing thread
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Delicate detergent or cold water wash
  • Washbasin
  • Luke warm water
  • Soft bristled scrub brush (optional)
  • Hanger
  • Sweater dryer (optional)
  • Iron
  • Garment bag

How-to Steps for Caring for Vintage Garments

  • Check the garment's seams really well, looking for damaged areas. If you see any weak spots in the seams, mend them before you wash the garment. Thread the hand sewing needle and mend the area using a back stitch. Make a 1/8 inch long forward stitch followed by a 1/16 inch backward stitch. Repeat the stitching until you reach the end of the damaged seam; then anchor the thread by making three stitches over the same spot and cut the thread.
  • Check the garment's care label to see how the manufacturer recommends you clean it. If it requires dry cleaning, you should really take it to the cleaner.
  • If it is safe to wash, according to the label, check the garment for stains. If you see any soiled spots, cover the stain with a layer of liquid laundry detergent. Let the detergent soak in for about fifteen minutes. 
  • Put the garment in the washbasin, add a cap of detergent, and cover the garment with lukewarm water. Let it soak for at least half an hour, so the detergent and water can do the hard part. Gently scrub heavily soiled areas of the garment, such as the underarm area and any stains, using the scrub brush. If the garment is only lightly soiled you won't need to scrub it. Rinse the clothes with clear water. Squeeze out the excess water but do not wring, or twist, because it can stretch and even break some vintage fabric fibers. Either drape the garment over a hanger or spread it on the sweater dryer to air dry.
  • Check the garment's label to see if it can safely be ironed. If it can, iron it according to the label directions after it dries. Keep the iron moving continuously to make sure you don't scorch your clothes.
  • Store the clothes hanging up in a garment bag in a dry closet, so they won't mildew or pick up a layer of dust between wearings.

Vintage Clothing Care Tips

It is quite possible some vintage garments will not have care labels, or that the labels will be too blurred to read. If this is the case taking the garment to a dry cleaner can reduce the likelihood of your vintage clothes becoming damaged when cleaned. 

As a general recommendation: avoid using fabric softener on vintage garments. Some textiles can be damaged by fabric softener, so when in doubt, err on the side of caution.

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Updated August 12, 2018


  1. Thanks for these tips on how to take care of my vintage clothes! I am such a vintage buff and I also collect mens jewelry in NYC. I will follow all your advice so I could preserve my antique collection.

  2. I like your post. It is good to see you verbalize from the heart and clarity on this important subject can be easily observed. This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you.


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