The first thing I do coming home from a vintage hunt is carefully inspect my new treasures. I look at the fabric of the item and at the tags if there are any. I inspect the buttons and the seams and if they feel loose I give the item to Gilberte, my seamstress of 75 that’s been sewing since she was 7 ( I know it’s craaaaazy), to reinforce them. I also give her other items to alter that are in good condition but don’t have a good fit or are too outdated. I call these “items with potential”. This can be a super cute blouse from the eighties for instance, with shoulders that are too broad. I love broad shoulders but we don’t have exaggerate and make our clients look like robocops either. Sometimes Gilberte replaces zippers or she putts zippers into a dress that originally didn’t have one. I have the feeling that people where much tinier or slimmer back in the days. But hey, I can also just be me thinking this because I have broad shoulders and big boobs & having a hard time to fit in to most dresses.
After the whole inspection is done, I will look at the remaining items and decide if they can be washed, or dry cleaned. Of course I also wash the other ones that needed to be altered but only after the alterations. I don’t want a dress falling apart in my washing machine or having to buy new twelve new matching buttons because one flew off in the washing machine. Oh, yes that happend, but we became much wiser now. On rare occasions I find items that are super old, like 100 years or older but mostly the items are at the max fifty or sixty years old and they can be hand washed. I hand wash the all items separately using mild, non toxic ecological hand wash powder or liquid. I usually just leave them to soak, unless if there are some really nasty stains on the item. If the fabric is silk, I take it to the dry cleaners. Most items in the shop are natural fibers like silk, wool or cotton. I had few difficulties with hand washing these materials. I also keep a stash of stain removal products by my side. I will write a post on the products that I use and my cleaning methods later on.
After the clothes are washed. I hang them to dry in a cool dry place. I don’t dry them in the sun as white clothing can turn yellow through sun exposure. I hang them on wooden hangers or plastic ones, iron hangers can leave rust stains. Woolen sweaters are dried flat on a towel on the table so they don’t get stretched out. When they clothes are dry I steam them. I almost never iron them. I don’t own a steaming machine, I’m still saving up for a good one, but I have a really good & powerful steaming iron that I use like it’s the real deal. I do recommend wearing oven mittens for this procedure. Even if it’s really hot out in the summer and I’m in the garage in my shorts and tank top looking super lame with these gloves on it do it because steaming burns can hurt like hell. Then I store the clothes in 3 big wooden closets that are in our garage that leads on to the sewing room & the office. We (me and Gilberte) call this whole “our atelier”. It makes me laugh every time because it’s just the downstair area of our house, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Et voila, I hope my procedure helps you take care of your precious beautiful vintage clothes. I have a lot more tips on how to handle vintage so tune in once and a while. If you have some tips on how to care for vintage, I’d love to hear about them.