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The Four Enemies of Vintage (and how to fight them!)

The Four Enemies of Vintage (and how to fight them!)

After 30 years of working with vintage clothing, time and time again, we come across these four things that you cannot escape as a vintage clothing buyer or seller: The Four Enemies of Vintage—Pests, improper storage, odor, and sunlight!

We have witnessed so many beautiful treasure troves at best be devalued, at worst completely ruined by one or more of these horrors. We do not want you to have the same fate!

Let's dive into the horrible four, and we'll tell you how to put your best foot forward when battling them.

1. Pests

Clothing moths are not the only pests that can damage clothing. Spiders, carpet beetles, crickets, silverfish, cockroaches, firebats, and termites are all critters that can put holes in your garments! Often, it is the tiny, almost undetectable larvae of the insect that cause the damage, so once you are seeing the adult, the damage is done.

Our Defense: Prevention!

The best way to avoid damage is to not let them into your closet in the first place. Make sure you are buying from vintage and secondhand shops that clean their clothing. Before introducing any clothing into our inventory, we deep freeze garments in sealed plastic bags for days before sending them out to the dry cleaner or laundering them. These steps ensure that the pests are not introduced into your closet in the first place!

Please, do NOT use mothballs. They are effective, but the smell is almost impossible to get out of organic fabrics like wool and cashmere. Cedar is a good alternative, but these work only as a deterrent, effective only against new infestations.

Chemical bug strips do kill pests, as well as prevent against infestations. They are a slow-release insecticide, so they should only be used in non-living areas that aren't frequented by people or pets.

Additionally, we put food-grade Diatomaceous earth on all of the baseboards and in any dark crack or cranny around our storage area. It is an effective, non-toxic way to kill pests!


2. Improper Storage

We have spent hours peeling velvet and dry cleaner padding from clothes, not to mention donating pieces that have been completely destroyed from shoulder stress! I cannot stress this enough: Dry cleaner hangers are meant to be temporary. When you get your dry cleaning back, hang things on your own hangers and return the used hangers to your dry cleaner on your next trip!

Our Defense: The right hanger for the right garment.

  • Fragile clothing does best in flat storage, or hung with a padded fabric hanger.
  • Coats need a larger, sturdy coat hanger, either wood or plastic.
  • Hangers with a smooth surface and a bit of width are great for most jackets and blouses.
  • Knits are best folded, but there are sloped hangers that will help to not stress the shoulders!


3. Odor

There are a few clothing smells we see time and time again: the smell of a strong sachet, perfume, mothballs, or just plain musty. The first odors are preventable by not letting anything with an artificial odor touch your garment and regular cleaning. If a garment has a musty smell, that is usually an issue with mold or mildew.

Our Defense: Keep your pieces dry and cool.

Keeping our storage at a consistent temperature and humidity level is key to avoiding that musty "vintage" smell. All our pieces are cleaned first to remove any smell, and we avoid new smells developing by keeping humidity levels low using a dehumidifier and Damprid.

Store your pieces in a cool, dark place like a wardrobe or closet. Avoid attics and basements that have temperature fluctuations. Give your garments room to breathe in your closet (if they are too cramped, there will be moisture build-up), and never ever store your pieces in plastic.

It is very hard to get perfume out of clothing, so think twice before spraying directly onto your garments! Spray onto your skin instead, and launder your clothing after it is worn on a heavy perfume day. Properly cleaning is the best way to preserve your clothing for years to come.


4. Sunlight

We can always tell if someone had a window in their closet. Sunlight fades and discolors fabric at an alarming rate, and can also cause a build up of heat.

Our Defense: Avoid at all costs!

We store our pieces out of the sun. We have UV filters on all of our windows, as well as blackout shades. Since we do not store our pieces in closets, we make use of garment bags to further protect from all sorts of damage, including sun fade. Garment bags can also be useful storage in your closet for more fragile pieces or pieces that should avoid rubbing on other garments (heavy beading or sequins, fine silk, velvet, fur, etc).


I hope this is a helpful guide to keep your vintage garments in pristine condition for years to come!


Lisa & Katie


The Enemies of Vintage and How to Fight Them
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