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Vintage Clothing Storage and Display TIPS by Lisa Schnapp on 01-06-2009


 - Storage and Display: - 
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To keep items in their optimum condition, do any needed repairs and any important cleaning promptly, so problems do not increase in stubbornness over time. It is best to avoid cleaning garments if you can avoid it. Light, age related soil is rarely a reason to put a one hundred year old (or more!) piece of fabric through possible cleansing damage (this can often be worse than leaving an item be.). Please do not use iron-on tape, or fray glues (it usually seeps through vintage fabrics and the fabric often will stiffen, and it won't won't drape correctly anyway...). I suggest using natural fiber thread repair, for example cotton or silk for mending, or better yet, use a piece of thread taken from the item from an area that won't make a difference to the garment (like seam edges). Some items will need to be backed. Old cotton net that has not been cleaned with any bleaches, then pressed can often be good for backing.


 - Do not place clothing inside: plastic bags, plastic storage bins (both give off fumes and acids that can eventually leach out and eventually wreck vintage garments or add off smells) or cardboard boxes, unless they're made of buffered acid free material. (I was personally told by a conservator to also avoid acid free tissue also if possible, they still have some woody acids that can create brown spots...) Do not put on hangers for any length of time, even padded hangers. Do not use thin hangers at all as they can stress fibers. The weight stress of the length makes the shoulders tear out. I particularly like wooden boxes or cedar chests with feet (so they are off the floor) lined with clean cotton batting and lining.

 The absolutely best way to store items is inside clean white cotton sheets (without using perfumed soaps, chlorine bleach or dryer sheets added to washing and drying) or soft, fine-weight, unbleached muslin. Cotton duvet covers with buttons and zippers are great. As are cotton pillowcases for smaller items. Try cutting strips of cotton sheeting or cotton muslin and wrapping so that stiff or rough areas do not rub against themselves and cause added friction wear over time. Lining dresser drawers with fabric and then wrapping your item is a good idea as long as the wood acids don't come into contact with antique dress fabric. Also, store items away from water heaters which can lose seals, and drench boxes. Air circulation's good for garments. Gently refold the item at least once a month so creases don't become permanent (I know this one from experience!). Hang garments on heavily padded white velvet hangers as seldom as possible because of gravity stressing shoulders (especially 1920's items, which I prefer to roll loosely in soft, cleaned sheets, folded loosely and carefully as not to make creases). Also avoid cold, wet basements which can cause mildew and may have mice, silverfish, or moths.
 - For vintage dress forms displayed in houses or boxed displays (like vintage or antique fans) on walls, make sure the sun's not ever touching the garment or (Victorian hat, purse or fan) at all. Avoid setting displayed item next to heaters (so it will not get dry rot.) dusty open windows, damp basements or hot, dry or humid attics. Occasionally brush the item with a scrap of silky velvet to remove dust- dust is drying to fibers and attracts more dryness to fabric fibers. Also make sure no metal on vintage mannequins touches clothes or sharp edges are pulling at shoulders. Lining a mannequin with a cotton bodysuit, clinging dress or fabric pads can be very helpful. I suggest using proper undergarments, supports like bustles and crinolines and padding shoulders with soft cotton sheeting to help relieve seam pressure especially at shoulders and waist. Antique garments are made to be supported, and to not use any can weaken shoulders, seams at the waist and trains. Stuff Victorian boots or Edwardian shoes with cotton, clean wool or soft fabric (like sheeting), then fabric wrap them and place in a gorgeous vintage hatbox. Use hatboxes when appropriate (this works great with storing some antique dresses too.) works especially well with large Edwardian hats. Stuff each crown with soft sheeting. You can also place your vintage dress in a cedar closet with lavender fragranced mothballs and lavender and cedar sachets, but don't place these too close to the vintage or antique clothing, or the item will pick up the smell.
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 - I hope these tips have been helpful! - 

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