How to wear vintage clothes without destroying them

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Let’s say you bought the perfect vintage shirt at a flea market, or discovered a box of your parents’ or grandparents’ clothes in the attic and found something that really suits you. Then, after an initial evaluation of the garment, you determine that it still has life and decide to wear it. Of course, you’re (probably) not going to don that vintage silk blouse until you meet friends for a night of wing, but there are less obvious strategies for keeping it looking good when you choose to wear it.

How to wear vintage clothes without damaging them

Given how drastically clothing sizing, materials, and fit have changed over the years, finding a vintage garment that actually fits you is a small miracle. (Especially if you’re not proportioned the same as people from previous generations.) So if you find a piece that works for you, you’re going to want to make it last as long as possible. Here’s how.

Inspect and repair before wearing

Before leaving your home with the vintage garment, take the time to inspect it carefully (if you haven’t already). While some repairs are best left to the professionals, like removing stains and patching holes, others are simple enough to do at home.

First, check all the buttons on the garment to see if they are securely fastened. Otherwise, reattach them using polyester thread, which is stronger than the cotton thread that was probably used to make the clothes in the first place, and which tends to break as it ages.

And don’t forget the seams, which may have fallen off or become loose over the years. But unless you have the sewing skills to sew them back on, it may be best to take the garment to a professional for repair.

If the garment has a zipper, put a lead pencil on the teethand it should easily slide open and close, and avoid getting stuck.

Dress carefully

Wash your hands before putting on vintage clothing. Also remove rings or other jewelry who could make him cling while you are getting dressed.

Protect them from within

Much of the vintage clothing designed for women was designed on the assumption that it would be worn over the common undergarments of the day, such as camisoles and full and half slips. Then these items – which created a barrier between the clothes and the body of the wearer – would be washed more regularly.

Take the same approach when wearing your vintage clothes today. Investing in period-appropriate underwear isn’t necessary, but wearing some type of undergarment or other thin, easy-to-wash layer underneath the vintage item serves the same purpose today.

Another option is to put washable and removable sweat pads under the arms of the article. But in this case, don’t use anything with an adhesive back, like menstrual pads or liners, because they might end up damaging the inside of the garment when removed.

Accessorize wisely

When you’re wearing vintage clothing, your choice of accessories should have more to do with keeping it intact than fashion. Avoid jewelry that could get caught in clothing and which includes handbags with a clasp or a shoulder bag.

Wash sparingly

Every time you wash a vintage garment, its fibers break down a little, decreasing its lifespan. That’s why wash vintage clothes after each use is not recommended. Of course, if it got stained or you sweat a lot while wearing it, that’s a different story. But if you only wore it for a few hours and nothing happened, you’d probably be better off airing it out.

Air out clothes after wearing them

If you determine that your garment doesn’t need washing (or if it’s something like a coat, which usually isn’t washed after each use anyway), you should still ventilate.

Ideally this would mean hanging them outside in the sun on a day with a breeze. But if/when that’s not possible, hang it indoors, out in the open (as opposed to inside a closet or cabinet) in a room with natural light and a fan on does the trick.


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