How to Store Vintage Clothing

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Do You Collect Vintage Clothes?

One of the things I used to enjoy a few years back, was searching for vintage clothing at flea markets, jumble sales and car boot sales. I loved discovering silks and unusual fabrics which could be given new life by cleaning, repairing, altering and customizing. I had to curb my addiction to old clothes when I eventually ran out of space. I still have some of those precious garments and there is nothing that would make me throw them away.

You can ensure that your vintage clothes keep their condition by storing them properly. Here is a quick guide to packing and storing clothing made from various fabrics.

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Delicate Garment Storage Essentials

You'll need a good supply of the following:

  • White acid-free tissue paper
  • Suitable storage boxes: rattan is good; cardboard will do. Never use plastic as air needs to circulate around the clothing
  • Cotton-covered padded hangers
  • Acid-free cardboard tubes
  • White muslin
  • Mothballs

Keep Vintage Garments in the Dark

Your vintage clothing should be kept in a dark place; sunlight is damaging to old fabrics and can rot thread. Garments should not be squashed together. Some fabrics will require hanging while others will need to be packed flat. Make sure the place is cool and dry.

Before storing you should make sure the garments are as clean as you can get them. If they are washable, then wash them very gently in a gentle detergent. Many fabrics are unable to be washed, so air them thoroughly. You can use a hairdryer on a very low setting to blow away dust. If there is any sign of mold, don't store the garment. Either wash it thoroughly, have it cleaned by a specialist or throw it away. Check the clothing for tears and loose seams. Make repairs with the appropriate thread -- don't use polyester if the garment is sewn with cotton.

Do the Garment Wrap and Roll

Once you are satisfied that the garment is ready for storage you will have to decide whether to hang it or fold it.

Most cotton clothing can be hung on padded hangers and covered with muslin. It would be a good idea to fashion plenty of loose muslin covers by simply cutting out a square of muslin, stitching up two sides and 'shoulders', leaving a hole for the hanger to poke through. If you prefer, you can roll cotton and linen garments, wrap them in muslin and pack into boxes.

Rayon and silk should be folded flat. Each item should be wrapped in tissue paper, then wrapped in muslin. Any garments with heavy embroidery, sequins or beading must be stored flat with plenty of tissue paper in between layers of fabric. You can even push tissue paper into the sleeves. Wrap in muslin.

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Lay Down Your Woolly Jumpers & Sweaters

Woollen clothing needs to be stored flat, wrapped in tissue. Pack loosely in cardboard boxes and prevent moth infestation by adding mothballs to the storage area. Do not allow the mothballs to touch the actual fabric, and don't use them at all if you have cats.

Leather and suede should be placed on padded hangers and covered with muslin. Scarves can be stored on cardboard tubes. Cover the tubes in a sheath of muslin before wrapping several scarves around the tube. As usual cover with more muslin.

A Few Vintage Tips

Don't seal boxes, air circulation is key to keeping your collection in good condition.

You will need to check your vintage clothing every 12 months. Remove and deal with any garments which show general deterioration, mustiness or moth infestation. Air clothing, shake gently and repack.

It's a good idea, if you are serious about collecting vintage clothing, to catalog your collection in a notebook and make a list of contents to tape to the outside of boxes. Number the boxes so that you can easily locate any item of clothing when you need it.

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