No Snags, No Spills, No Sweat: How To Wear Vintage Clothes Without Damaging Them | Fashion

Once you’ve decided you can wear vintage clothing, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help extend the life of the garment.

Since any wear and tear can damage the item, a cautious mindset is a good approach.

That means considering everything from how you style your antique piece to thinking about what you’ll be doing while wearing it: drinking on a crowded dance floor? Sitting in the garden at a child’s birthday party?

There are also a few things you can do ahead of time and between garments to prepare your vintage pieces for wear in the modern world.

Call for reinforcements

Before wearing a vintage piece, take a careful look at it. Deborah Miller, an expert apparel and fashion appraiser, says to make sure all seams are secure and buttons don’t fall off. “It can be beyond difficult to match an antique button, sometimes impossible,” she says, so it’s best not to lose the ones you have.

Antique buttons can be tricky to replace, so make sure they’re sewn on correctly. Photography: Jelena990/Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to fashion historian Eleanor Keene, it is possible that the thread of a garment broke in places because it was made of cotton and aged. To make sure it doesn’t happen again, she suggests sewing up any loose buttons or seams with polyester instead. This may be something you should hire a professional tailor to do.

“I once had a vintage skirt that I loved to wear [but] the seams kept splitting,” she says. “So I carefully unstitched the key seams and sewed them up with a modern thread.”

Beware of loose beads

Garments with lots of beads should also be approached with a keen eye. Bella Lipson-Smith, Textiles Conservator at the National Gallery of Victoria, says: “Check beads for loose threads before wearing – beads are often sewn in lines, so a loose thread can cause loss of an entire section of beads.

She says it’s also important to inspect the fabric under heavy embellishments. If it is aged and fragile, the weight of the beads or ornaments could cause its backing to tear.

Elaborate beading of pearls and crystals sewn onto a tulle backing.
A professional can sew beads onto a brand new liner to give extra strength to a vintage garment. Photography: loki_ast/Getty Images/iStockphoto

“1920s flapper dresses were often made of unlined chiffon with lots of rhinestones or beads on them,” Miller explains. “They are doomed from the start; it is the rare flapper dress that has no straps that are torn from the weight of embellishments and active party [it] may have lived. »

One way to fix this is to take the garment to a professional to have the beads sewn onto a brand new liner and the straps replaced with something more durable.

Leave age spots to experts

“The little brown specks that appear are known as ‘foxing’,” Keene explains. Despite their cute name, they can be dangerous. “On delicate fabrics [they] are very difficult to remove,” she says. “Remember that many fabrics with older colors are not always colorfast and may smear or fade with cleaning.”

Lipson-Smith cautions against trying to remove age spots yourself. She says it requires research, testing, and chemicals that can cause irreversible damage if not used correctly. “Textile conservators are trained to minimize these risks and we advise that there are few things that can be done safely by an untrained person.”

Carry it gently

Miller says it’s important when wearing vintage to “manage your expectations of wearing: less frequently, less aggressively.”

For example, she says that the pockets of old clothes should not be used for anything heavier than a handkerchief. “Don’t stick your hands or your iPhone in there. This could unnecessarily distort or pull the surrounding material.

“Think of ways to protect the garment from your sweat, natural body oils, and makeup, such as wearing a separate washable garment underneath,” Lipson-Smith says. “You can get removable sweat pads to put under the armpits of the garment.”

A removable sweat pad can help protect valuable clothing.
A removable sweat pad can help protect valuable clothing. Photography: studiomode/Alamy

Decide if the dress or blouse should go over your head and if you’re going to put on makeup before or after. If it’s before, use a scarf to protect the garment from makeup stains.

Make sure your hands are clean before you put anything on. “Wash your hands and use common sense,” she says. Then remove your rings and any other jewelry to make sure it doesn’t snag on the lace, pearls, or ornaments. “Forget necklaces and bracelets. Don’t carry a handbag with a clasp that could catch on your clothes.

Likewise, Lipson-Smith suggests avoiding layers of clothing or shoulder bags over clothes that have fragile surfaces, as these could rub and crush the garment.

Choose your time

Because washing vintage clothes can be so complicated, think about what you’re doing in the garment and the risks involved. Will you do something that gets on your nerves and upsets you, like dancing or sitting in the sun? Is it possible someone could spill a drink on you?

Also pay attention to your surroundings. “Many old pieces can fade in direct sunlight,” says Keene. Likewise, be careful where you sit or lean, as rough surfaces or outdoor environments can damage clothing by rubbing or snagging.

“Baby shower or 30th birthday? Are you hosting the party and doing the heavy lifting/cleaning/cooking? or are you a guest?” Miller asks.

When you have an occasion that requires a little more than standing, there’s a big advantage to an antique outfit, Miller says: “You don’t have to worry about… someone showing up in the same outfit. .

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