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Should you wear Antique Clothing? TIPS by Lisa Schnapp on 01-06-2009


- To wear or not to wear? -
Victorian Clothing, vintage clothesThat's an important question, but freedom of choice is entirely up to you...

For those that do, here are practical caring tips, and fitting and wearing, for vintage antique clothing wearers to help keep those special finds in great shape for the years to come.

There are also important tips for those who choose to wear or display some of their fabulous finds.
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-Getting married soon and want to wear that strong, but gorgeous Victorian bustle dress or 1912 Edwardian wedding gown with the matching corset and that Titanic style rose laden Edwardian Gainsbourough hat? There's some things you should keep in mind first...
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Wearing antique clothing could be possible (in theory) if you carefully consider the event, and take as many precautions against as much future damage as possible. However, some fragile Victorian or Edwardian or early items should be skipped wearing entirely...such as fragile or important items made by famous Couturiers (dress makers the likes of Charles Frederick Worth, Paul Poriet, Bouie Souers, "Lucille" and others), items worn by famous people, or pre-Civil War items (1860's or earlier). Delicate, weakened fabric items I recommend to avoid wearing entirely, due to the rarity and scarcity of such precious relics becoming less everyday.

Bustledress.comIn my opinion, strong Victorian and Edwardian cottons, linens, wools and velvets are the best early investments for antique dress, or for vintage clothing wearers. I recommend saving the beautiful, but delicate silks for a very gentle special event, or to skip wearing altogether and use as a display or long term investment. A terrific Victorian or Edwardian reproduction can be more appropriate and even better for a active reenactment like a Civil War reenactment, a busy "Somewhere in time" weekend, or a Gibson Girl ice cream social, or if there is dancing, I recommend using a costume so you are less likely to have an accidental tear.
 - Most people don't realize weddings actually require pretty sturdy dresses. Even costumed weddings. You'll be hugging, pulled, and danced with and posed in artifical poses for photographs where someone might step on the train or chafe, age-weakened seams. Add in the risks of eating, champagne, flying cake and the macerana...(so if you decide to wear an antique or your grandmother's vintage dress during the ceremony, you might want to consider changing later into stronger clothing, possibly a Victorian or Edwardian styled reproduction for the reception. You can contact our seamstresses Alethea at: StatesRats@aol.com, Claudette at: cdonat@cox.net or Margaret for more details.)mudman@inreach.com

Bustledress.comAt a Civil War reenactment or Renaissance fair you'll become hot and soiled, (they usually run in Indian summer or rainy or snowy winters), so you'll be likely perspiring in the kicked up dust and dirt, and eating exotic faire and mead, not to mention many rigorous activities like fencing and Scottish dancing so sturdy materials are paramount. The Victorian Civil War era Dicken's faire runs in the winter near Christmas, so the weather can be poor weather outside, like rain or even snow as you walk into the event often with a bark or rush strewn floor. Even an event like this has many active events, like Victorian ballroom dancing or games and due to the many people attending you may find your skirt has spills and your hem has been heavily soiled.
 - A Victorian tea with an air conditioned setting might be able to accomodate a slightly more delicate Vintage or antique gown, but will there be young children there with jelly sandwiches? Hotter or humid days you may not want to wear a heavy worsted wool, or silk velvet antique dress. For spring and summer, you may want to choose something airy and breathable like natural fibers as most cottons, lawn, batiste, or woven linens can be gently soaked unless there are colored laces, colored silk inserts or edgings, laces, precious stones or glass pearls. The item in question should always be tested on an inconspicuous area before attempting to clean yourself and left to dry fully and examined before proceeding further. Silks and silk taffetas are beautiful, but unless unusually sturdy, I discourage wearing them. The best bet is to bring the item to a professional for opinions, or cleaning.

Bustledress.comSturdy wools and sateen cottons are warmer in colder winter, with brocades and velvets on cooler nights (unless indoors where it could become very warm-, like a Victorian ball with ballroom dancing.) Also, don't wear your velvet out in the rain. Pre-1930's dyes will probably run and the velvet will spot and clump, becoming a mess that can't be brushed or steamed out). Snow spotting will not usually come out in many fabrics.
 - Is smoking going to be at the event? If so, then the item will have to be well aired, or professionally cleaned before storing. Most silks or silk belnds have a hard time with the abuse of repeated cleaning and so is not recommended. Most silk taffeta (except unsalted older taffetas of the 1880's bustle dresses and older and acetate 1940's- 1950's taffetas.) are too delicate for dry cleaning, so keep that in mind. Contact a good cleaner or an excellent textile conservator who often deals with antique vintage clothing for best results.

Bustledress.comAn item can still be charming with a few character marks, but assume ALL stains are unremovable. Also assume that anything you buy with age will have a few flaws; it's the charm and also the nature of antique vintage clothing.
 -  For ironing, press with an iron without steam, using a fine cloth, such as a large batiste napkin, or use a professional steamer on items that won't get stained if a speck of water gets on them. Don't use the steamer too closely to the fabric so it dosen't spot in case water condensation builds up (and ALWAYS use distilled water so the steamer dosen't clog and spit water). Don't add additives to water such as vinegar, lavender water or anything else unless your steamer says it can handle such additives, or a particular item can handle this. Steaming's especially effective with velvet that's crushed (steam on the wrong side of the pile- right side can flatten pile) and use another piece of velvet or brush to softly raise crushed pile. Hats, bonnets, cloaks, coats, jackets and other items can usually be steamed but make sure to brush away dust and debris first, and keep steam away from feathers as it can cause them to clump and lose curl.
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 - I hope these tips have been helpful! - 

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