Taking Care Of Vintage Clothing [Guest Blogger Virginia Knight]

Today this post is written for you by guest blogger Virginia Knight, a vintage clothing enthusiast who’s about to undertake her graduate studies in Dress and Textiles History in Scotland. Virginia will be sharing some of her vast knowledge on how best to take care of your vintage clothing.

Hello there!

I’m Virginia, and I’m going to be sharing some tips for keeping your vintage wardrobe in great shape. A bit about me: I’m a post-graduate student at the University of Glasgow studying Dress & Textile Histories, and I have been fascinated by vintage and historic clothing for as long as I can remember. I’m from the United States but have just recently moved to Glasgow for school and love living here!

These tips are not exclusive to vintage clothing—they can be applied to your entire wardrobe to help keep your clothing and accessories in the best condition possible. However, because vintage items are often unique (and can have extreme sentimental value), there is a bit more at stake with vintage than with more contemporary items in your closet. While museums and archives go to extremes to preserve textiles in their collections, with a few basic tips you can do a lot to prolong the life of your clothing. Let’s get started!

  1. Keep everything away from sunlight. This might be the obvious one, but it is worth stating. Light bleaches color, and aside from dying your clothing there is no way to restore that color. Now, you may not have a problem with popping an old dress in some dye and voila, new dress! However, if you’re trying to keep the color vibrant, light is not your friend.
  1. Store clothing in climate-controlled settings—not in a basement or attic. The uncontrolled conditions in a basement or attic age textiles, leather, and plastics faster than more constant conditions. Storing clothing in high temperatures can lead to mold and mildew growing on fabrics and leather if moisture is present. The living space inside your home is the best place to store clothing, and closets usually have the most consistent temperatures.
  1. Which is better—hanging or boxed storage? This is a decision you’ll need to make based on the style of the garment. Anything with lots of beading (or that is generally heavy) or with thin straps should ideally be stored in a box, so that the weight doesn’t drag down the garment and cause tearing or distortion. In addition, bias-cut or knit garments should also be stored in boxes. Use padded hangers when possible.
  1. Don’t mix in accessories with clothing storage. Store non-textile accessories (such as shoes, purses, etc.) separately from garments. This will protect your clothing from chemicals given off by treated leather, plastics, and glues.
  1. Think carefully before wearing vintage. For many of us, the best part of buying vintage is being able to wear your one-of-a-kind treasure! However, if you own something that is of extreme sentimental value to you (such as a family heirloom), here are a few things to consider before you wear it:

– Is the fabric/sewing thread strong enough to withstand dressing, moving, and undressing?

– Can the size/design of the dress accommodate my body without straining the seams or fabric?

If the answer to one or both of these is “No,” think about whether wearing that particular item is worth the possible damage.

  1. What is the best way to store and protect accessories, like handbags or hats?” Though often made of different materials than clothing, many of the same rules apply to your accessories. Keep them out of sunlight, and away from dust or humid/damp areas. For handbags, you can wrap them in a t-shirt or some kind of cloth (many new bags come with a storage bag included) to protect them from dust, but don’t wrap in plastic—humidity can build up inside. I wouldn’t recommend hanging purses for extended periods of time, as this can cause damage to the handle. Hat storage can get a bit complex (as vintage hats are often quite elaborate!), but an easy way to keep them safe is to loosely wrap them in acid-free tissue paper before storing in a hat box. If you have your hats on display, make sure you’re not putting stress on any part of the hat (for example, a brim sitting on a table).

General tips:

  • Don’t leave plastic dry-cleaner bags on clothing—the chemicals will break down quickly and harm textiles and metal buttons, snaps, and hooks and eyes.
  • Always make sure you clean clothes before you store them. This helps protect against stains (that will become essentially impossible to remove with time) and insects.
  • If you have any kind of fur, professional storage really is the best option. If that is not possible, store fur in the coolest storage area in your home.

This really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to clothing storage and preservation, so if you have any questions (general or about a particular garment you might have) or want more information, feel free to e-mail me at vknight@unca.edu, and I will help as best I can!

I don’t want any of this information to scare you off buying or wearing vintage. In fact, I hope just the opposite: I think clothing is meant to be worn and lived in, and if you’re wearing something you love and something happens, then despite some initial sadness know that you gave that particular dress/top/skirt a good adventure. With that in mind, go forth and wear your vintage with pride!

A big thank you to Miss Amy May for allowing me to guest post and to all of you for reading this!

Building a Pinup Wardrobe from Bargains

Building a pinup wardrobe from scratch can be an expensive thing, not merely because replacing all your clothes with a specific style means buying a whole wardrobe of clothes is a lot of pieces to be purchasing, but also because good quality reproduction clothing costs. It’s a niche market, automatically making costs higher, but also because most repro clothing companies like to invest in good quality materials, a thorough fitting process during the design process, and ethical labour costs often based in-country rather than sent out of country to continents where labour laws cost the workers and not the companies.

There are pinup brands for every budget, but there are also ways to build your wardrobe with items you love without having to bust out coin you don’t have. Here, I’ll be laying out every trick I’ve learned over the past 3 years to get the best deal you can in your retro shopping.

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Sign up: Every company that sells their owns goods online will have a ‘sign up for our newsletter’ option on their website. Do it! Not only do a lot of companies offer you a free gift or a discount code just for signing up to their newsletter, but the newsletter itself will give you a heads up on any sales or discount codes they’re offering, delivered straight to your inbox, sometimes with codes or sales held only for newsletter recipients.

Schedule The Sales: Most repro companies will offer sales during big holiday periods, such as bank holiday weekends (UK,) St Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend, etc. You don’t have to live in the country whose national holiday is inspiring the sale in order to benefit from it, so when a national holiday or a change of season is coming up keep your eyes out for sales from your favourite brands. The biggest sales of the year come during the American Black Friday weekend, the Friday following America’s Thanksgiving. This sale can be KILLER, saving you up to 70% from some brands, so save up in the months beforehand, set an alarm on your phone according to your time zone to make sure you’re on the website ready for when the sale launches, and be prepared to have to patiently refresh repeatedly while you try to check out as the site inevitably crashes under the weight of the traffic. You can even get super organised by loading your cart up beforehand with items you most want on sites that tell you beforehand that they’re releasing a sitewide code at a certain time on that sale day, or you can prioritise a wishlist across all the brands privately so that you can make your decisions about what to buy quickly once the sales are open and you’re able to see which of your wishlist items are actually reduced. Boxing Day (26th December) is also another good sales period, particularly if you fancy a 50% off Wheels And Dollbaby Dita cardigan, so be prepared to cut into your festivities to shop if you’re a Christmas celebrator.

Repro eBay shops: Many repro brands have their own eBay shops where they sell off samples, seconds, old lines or sales goods, so it’s worth saving your favourite shops to your eBay account and even setting up an alert for when new items are listed. Just make sure to check the description on the listing of each item and to view the photos to be certain you’re happy with the condition of the particular item you’re bidding/buying, because sometimes the £40 off is because there’s a slight stain or a minor hole that needs repairing. Tara Starlet, Collectif, Bernie Dexter, Queen of heartz, Glamour Bunny (who have three shops for some reason, Retroclothinguk2015, Allthingspinup and Glamourbunny2015), What Katie Did all have eBay shops.

eBay saved listings: eBay is a great place to scour for bargains, with plenty of stores as well as private sellers looking to empty their stock rooms or their wardrobes of unwanted pieces. To save time rather than launching a fresh search for your favourite brands manually every time you want to know if there’s any new listings, it’s worth saving all your favourite searches to your account. Once you’ve searched a term and refined the search perimeters in any way you need (by clothing type, size, shipping preference, etc) on the eBay website you can save that search by clicking the ‘Follow this search’ option link found beneath the ‘All, Auction, Buy It Now’ button at the top of your search results. On the eBay app and on the website in a mobile browser, click the little + sign button located beside the search bar to save the search. You can even set that search to alert you when there are new listings.

Misc semi-permanent/permanent sales: Not every repro website has a sales section, but there are some repro brands that offer sales pages as permanent features on their websites which are regularly or fairly regularly updated. Heart of Haute Sales Rack offers seconds, which are further reduced with discount codes up to 40% off offered regularly. Pinup Girl Clothing’s Online Yard Sale (OYS) offers perfect goods reduced to $60 or less to clear stock ready for new lines, normally updated on Thursdays but not every week (you can check their Facebook page to see if anyone has asked recently if an OYS update is due that week, or ask yourself.) Glamour Bunny has recently introduced a sale page on their site offering similar items and prices to their eBay stores. Collectif, Tatyana and Unique Vintage all have a permanent Sale section, which are even included in their regular site-wide discount code sales, allowing for some incredible bargains. Stop Staring! have a sale page they offer further discount codes on sometimes.

Bargain Brands/eBay cheaper brands: The cheapest popular repro style brands out there are Lindy Bop and Hell Bunny, the latter of which only sells wholesale and is available widely from all sorts of repro clothing websites as well as widely on eBay. There are other cheap retro style brands available that are stocked online and widely on eBay, such as Viva La Rosa. The quality of these cheaper brands are lesser than more expensive brands such as PUG and Unique Vintage, but for the pinup on a budget or for worry-free daily wear, these cheaper dresses can easily help bulk out your wardrobe. Searching a generic term like ‘rockabilly dress,’ ’50s pinup dress’ or ‘vintage style dress’ produces an overwhelming number of results, but using the filters you can narrow your search and a bit of sifting through can help you discover other cheaper brands or styles available.

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Facebook Swap/Sell Pages: There are loads of Facebook groups dedicated to the swapping and selling of both true vintage clothing and repro style clothing. These are especially great when looking for hard to find discontinued pieces. They can also be wonderful for ladies lusting after more expensive brands while working with a smaller budget, as plenty of pieces listed in these groups are gently worn and reduced in price accordingly, or else simply priced cheaply for a quick sale. The only group I’m a member of is the PUG Swap/Sell Facebook group, which allows the swapping and selling of dozens of approved repro brands, not just PUG, and from which I have bought several hard to find pieces successfully as well as sold pieces I rarely wore. There are groups for Trashy Diva, Hell Bunny, Collectif, etc, and there are geographically-specific groups limited by country or continent to help ensure easier selling and shipping per country. If you like a specific brand then search out a group on Facebook, and make sure to read any rules pinned to the top of the group page before you begin to take part in the buying and selling.

Social Media Selling: It’s a fairly common thing for pinups to use their social media platforms, such as Instagram, to sell off their own never worn or gently used vintage style pieces during a closet clear out rather than going to the hassle of listing on eBay.  If there’s someone you follow on Instagram who has a selling account for said wardrobe clear outs, follow the account and set an alert to the account so that you receive a notification anytime they post a new picture, which will alert you to the start of any sales. Typically someone will post a picture of an item they’re looking to sell, list the size, price, and item condition, then request interested buyers leave their paypal email to be sent an invoice for the transaction. Paypal transactions offer good coverage to the buyer, just be sure to send your payments for ‘goods and service’ and not ‘friends and family’ so that the seller pays any transaction fee and you have full coverage from Paypal if the item isn’t as described or there’s a problem with delivery. Likewise, when writing in the comments section what you’re sending money for, specify exactly what you are buying, such as ‘Pinup Girl Clothing Olive Harley dress size L, Like new condition + $15 international tracked delivery.’

Physical Sample Sales or Big Sale Events: Many repro brands host large sale events once or twice a year to sell off samples, seconds, or end of line pieces. Stop Staring!, Steady clothing, and Pinup Girl Clothing are all California based repro companies that hold big events, with PUG’s yardsale being the biggest and most infamous. In the UK Tara starlet and Collectif host sample sales sometimes in London. If you live within attending distance of any of these large physical sales it’s worth following the brands on Facebook and on Instagram for information on when the next sale is due and all subsequent updates.

Instagram and Facebook contests: While this isn’t technically shopping, it’s worth doing. Tons of retro clothing brands, whether large companies or small 1-or-2 person businesses, as well as wholesaler websites selling those brands, host competitions on Instagram and Facebook to give away free gift cards or items of clothing/accessories to their followers. If there’s a brand, maker or website you like, be sure to follow them on all social media platforms you use and keep an eye out for their contests. Most contests don’t even require that you have bought anything from them before (though occasionally there are contests that are for customers only,) and can be as simple  to enter as reposting a graphic or leaving a comment on their competition picture. It’s worth a shot!

Make Your Own: If you know how to sew, or are willing to learn, you can already make a decent dent in revamping your wardrobe by making your own circle skirts. For a beginner sewer even these are very simple, as it takes little more than taking your own measurements, doing a bit of quick math, getting the right width material, and cutting out the appropriate waist hole before hemming the piece, attaching a waistband and adding a zip. There’s an abundance of tutorials and pictorials online showing you how to do this, so a quick visit to a search engine will give you plenty of help. For advanced sewers getting your hands on vintage patterns, or even creating your own if you’re a true whizz, means you can custom make your wardrobe not only to your exact measurements but also to your exact tastes and preferences.

Don’t Forgot The Mall: The British high street is great for offering a wide range of styles for a range of budgets, but even if you’re not from the UK a trip to your local mall can help you pack out your wardrobe. It’s possible to style an outfit with a vintage feel just by adding the right accessories, make-up and hair. Keeping your eyes peeled in your local Forever 21, New Look, Primark or even the clothing section of the supermarket for crop tops, pencil skirts, cropped pants, high waisted trousers, fitted or fluffy jumpers, cardigans, pencil dresses or flared dresses can make a huge difference to finding budget, basic pieces you can style up with a vintage twist. The vintage look is a style, not a label, so don’t let yourself believe that you have to buy a certain brand to truly achieve the look.

I know that was a huge influx of information, but hopefully there’s been some new tricks and tips in there that will help you bulk out your wardrobe without taking the bulk of the money out of your checking account. Any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Otherwise, happy shopping!