How to Wear Vintage Clothing Without Destroying It

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Let’s say you’ve bought the perfect vintage shirt at the flea market, or spotted a box of your parents’ or grandparents’ clothes in the attic and found something that fits. Then, after an initial appraisal of the garment, you realize that it still has some life left in it and you decide to wear it. Of course, you’re not (probably) going to put that vintage silk blouse on before catching up with friends for grand piano night, but there are some less obvious strategies to keep it in good condition on occasions when you choose to wear it keep.

How to wear vintage clothes without ruining them

With clothing sizes, materials, and fits all changing drastically over the years, it’s a small miracle to find a piece of vintage clothing that really fits you. (Especially if you don’t have the same proportions as people of previous generations.) So when you find a piece that works for you, you want it to last as long as possible. Here’s how.

Inspect and repair before wearing

Before you leave home with the vintage garment, take your time inspect thoroughly (if not already done). While some repairs are best left to professionals — like stain removal and puncture repairs — others are so simple you might be able to do them at home.

First check all the buttons on the garment to see if they are securely fastened. If not, reattach them with polyester thread – which is stronger than the cotton thread likely used to make the clothes originally and tends to tear with age.

And don’t forget the stitching that may have unraveled or come undone over the years. However, if you do not have the sewing skills required, it may be best to take the garment to a professional to have it repaired.

If the garment has a zipper, Run a pencil over the teethand it should open and close easily and not get stuck.

Dress carefully

Wash your hands before putting on any vintage clothing item. Also remove any rings or other jewelry that could cause it to get stuck while you get dressed.

Protect them from the inside

Much of vintage women’s clothing was designed with the assumption that it would be worn over the undergarments that were common at the time, such as girdles and panties and briefs. Then these items, which formed a barrier between the clothing and the wearer’s body, would be washed more regularly.

Do the same when wearing your vintage clothes today. There’s no need to invest in period underwear, but wearing some kind of undershirt or other easy-to-wash thin layer underneath the vintage item serves the same purpose today.

Another option is putting washable, removable sweat pads in the armpits of the article. In this case, however, do not use anything with an adhesive backing, such as pads or pads, as these could damage the inside of the garment when removed.

Accessorize wisely

If you’re wearing a vintage piece of clothing, your choice of accessories should have more to do with keeping it intact than with fashion. Avoid jewelry that could snag on clothing—and including handbags with a clasp or a shoulder bag.

Wash sparingly

Every time you wash a vintage garment, its fibers degrade a little, shortening its lifespan. Therefore, wash vintage clothing after each wear is not recommended. Of course, if it was stained or you sweat profusely while wearing it, that’s another story. But if you’ve only worn it for a few hours and nothing happened to it, it’s probably better to air it out.

Air the clothes after wearing

If you find that your garment doesn’t need to be washed (or it’s something like a coat that isn’t usually washed after every wear anyway), you should do it anyway air it out.

Ideally, that would mean hanging them outside in the sun with a breeze on a day. But if/when that’s not possible, it can be hung indoors or outdoors (as opposed to a cupboard or wardrobe) in a room with natural light and the fan on.

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