Taking care of vintage + a giveaway

I am by no means an expert on taking care of vintage, but I have made some terrible mistakes in my time which make me want to stop others from doing the same thing. Here is a non-exhaustive non-authoritative list of tips on how to look after vintage garments and make sure you can get the best out of them:

1. Handwash pretty much everything
 I know it is a horrible chore and the washing powder makes your hands super sore, but it is really the best way to ensure your garments last for a long time and stay in good condition. The rough washing machine can cause tears, pills and fading and generally bash your clothes around in an unpleasant way.

I hand-wash almost everything. I know a lot of other vintage wearers put their cotton garments in the washing machine on delicate, but I don't trust my crappy old machine enough to do that. I wash in cold water with a tiny bit of gentle detergent dissolved into it, in the laundry tub, and gently swirl the garments through the water to ensure the detergent gets distributed through the fabric. I leave them for a wee soak as I wander off and do something else. If you haven't washed a garment before and are unsure how it will cope, do a spot test to ensure wetting the garment and exposing it to detergent won't damage the fabric. Dip an un-exposed part of the fabric into the solution and wait to see how it reacts before going ahead with a wash. 

With my hardy cotton dresses, after hand washing I run them through a spin cycle to get rid of any excess moisture. I hang things out to dry in the sun to make them all crisp and lovely, but not for too long as direct sunlight will cause fading. If there is no sun - which there pretty much never is in Wellington - I hang them carefully across a clothes airer in our room with the dehumidifier on until they're well and truly dry.

If you do need to put things in the wash, because hand-washing is time consuming, ensure they are colourfast first. Use a gentle detergent or powder and allllllways cold wash.

2. You don't need to wash everything all the time.
 Idk, I'm sure some people will think this is gross but I definitely don't wash my vintage dresses every time I wear them. Most of them get a lot of wears out of them until they actually need a wash. I am just not that dirty/sweaty a person and I don't think they need it a lot of the time. I do, however, take other measures to ensure my dresses stay nice and fresh even if they've been worn four times. Hanging them out to air can breathe a bit of new life into them. I hang them by some open windows or peg them out on the line to let the breeze do its thing. The sun is also great at killing bacteria and keeping clothes smelling fresh and lovely.

Also, it upsets me to waste good vodka on clothing but it really does the trick on freshening up clothes that have been worn once or have been in storage and smell a bit musty. A fine spritz from a spray bottle on any potentially malodorous areas will go a long way.

Some vintage nightwear and lingerie I opshopped that I am yet to soak.

3. Store carefully
Very few clothes will take kindly to being hung on a plastic hanger on a rail. Most of my clothes are on granny-ish crocheted padded hangers I've picked up from opshops, but I don't have quite enough of them so some are still on wooden hangers and a few non-delicate non-vintage things on old wire or plastic ones. Knits and delicate or heavy fabrics can become stretched and damaged through the shoulders through being hung for a long time, so feel free to keep them carefully folded instead. Also, direct sunlight will fade fabrics quickly, so keep your wardrobe door closed.

Heat and moisture will also damage garments. I had a horrible moment when I first moved into my damp Aro Valley flat where after a week I realised there was black mold all over a favourite novelty-print cotton dress that I'd left hanging against a wall. I tried everything to get it off but there are still a few faint black specks. Don't make the same mistake I did! Dehumidify as needed, or use moisture absorbing sachets and a lot of them. I also have little lavender sachets through my drawers and wardrobe, which not only make things smell lovely but keep insects pests away.

4. Repair as needed
I need to take a little more of my own advice, as my sewing pile is a great untameable beast.  However, it's definitely the best idea to get onto repairs while you are motivated and before you lose one of the big buttons to your favourite little 60s jacket and can't find another similar one anywhere and now you just can't do it up ever again wahhhh. SO YEAH, don't be like me! I find that if I buy something with the intent to alter it, I'd best do it within 24-48 hours or it will never. Get. Done. If a metal zipper is catching the surrounding fabric, replace or it get it done at a tailor before you get stuck in a dress or it rips while you're trying to pull it on or off (also something I've done. I hate myself).

A good way to keep your clothes non-smelly is for you also to be non-smelly. The really lovely Jenna at Oh Natural sent me some of the Soapwalla deodorant cream to try, and it's pretty lovely. There is something about rubbing on this mix of essential oils and natural clays that seems a lot nicer than slapping on a bit of old Dove from a plastic tube. Also the smell is amazing, although very lavender-y and I know some people are sensitive to that odour.

Jenna has also given me one to give to you guys, so leave a comment including some way to get in contact with you if you'd like to try one for yourself. This giveaway is for NZ and Aussie pals only, but I have a US-based one coming soon!


  1. I handwash pretty much all my vintage. People think it's really arduous but I find it's quicker than using the washing machine. Old padded coat hangers are the best and even better when they have them in the free bins at the op shop. I'd love to try some Soapwalla deodorant cream. My email is cameliasandcrinolines [at] gmail dot com.

  2. I must admit I'm guilty of using wire hangers to hang my clothing, but I do have the odd crochet-covered one from my nana. I wish I could wash things like dresses less, but alas I sweat at an unprecedented level. So I would be really interested in trying this new deodorant - my email is meghanmactavish30@gmail.com

  3. Thanks for all the tips! I really need to follow your advice here. Our house is right by the beach, so I can't even have leather in my wardrobe or it will be destroyed by mold. I'm going to buy a few moisture absorbing satchets to place in drawers & closets to protect my vintage clothing from mold.

  4. I totally agree about not washing all the time. My friend accidentally washed one of my dresses after one wear and it faded really bad EEEEK! Just keep the closet clean as bugs are attrached to dust (usually from human skin and hair). (k.electrique at gmail dot com)

  5. i wish i had more vintage to look after. I keep telling myself that now that I have money I can buy somethings of etsy (Korea doesn't really offer real vintage, though there are loads of "vintage" stores haha), but I've been a saver for too long!
    count me in on the competition, my boyfs cousin is coming to visit at christmas so should I win she can bring it! my email is begovich.jessica at gmail

  6. This is a very cool post, lovey!
    Yeah, I don;t wash my vintage frocks hardly ever....a good airing does the trick, and I don't wear my most precious ones if it is extremely hot, as I don't want to sweat all over them. the vodka tip is a winner! I am so going to do that, although I hate to waste good voddy! I did wash an old crimplene coat I've had for 15 years or more that I never washed-it was looking pretty grubby-and the bloody thing shrank. But, with steam, I think I may have got it almost back to normal. And it doesn't look any cleaner! Bastard!
    Get your arse down, girly, lets drink some voddy! XXX

  7. Have you haven't drawn the competition yet? I really want to try Soapwalla, I have been searching for a natural one but they are all too full of tea tree and it makes my skin lumpy and horrid. My email is julietpetal (at) gmail.com !

    Also here is a genius way (scroll down to the end) of hanging knits!

    1. Haha I forgot to put the link in that comment! http://www.xojane.com/clothes/sweater-folding-youre-doing-it-wrong

  8. I can't wait until I can earn my own cash and buy loads of vintage dresses! I'd love to have these deodorant soaps :) theteacupchild.blogpost.com


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