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A Down & Dirty Guide to Care & Cleaning

Discussion in 'Care and Cleaning 2004 By Pastperfectvintage' started by pastperfect2, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Onward and Upward to Documentation and Invenory!

    Yes, we are finally progressing out of the world of sewing and cleaning. It's time to stop being a laundress and get on your computer.

    Part 4
    Documentation and Inventory

    You found it , you’ve cleaned it, you’ve repaired it.

    Now is a good time to document and photograph your new acquisition, before you pack it away. Once packed away, the less you disturb it the better.

    If you are a seller or store owner, odds are you already entered that great new Ceil Chapman dress in your inventory. If not, now is the time. You know what you have in it and what you have done to it.

    Note the date purchased, the vendor, the cost, and assign your inventory number. Note repair or cleaning costs.

    If you do know the provenance, please make a note of it in your inventory. Its is so easy to lose this information, and it will add to the monetary value of the piece. And it can be substantial amount.

    I sold an 1837 wedding dress several years ago that would normally have brought in the $400 range that went for over $1000 because I knew whose it was and was fortunate that a local museum saw it and wanted it.

    If you are a collector, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you keep an inventory record of your collection. Make a record and keep a copy with your insurance agent , in a safe deposit box box or in a fire proof box. The value of vintage clothing and accessories has really skyrocketed in the last 20 years. It would be a shame to lose a collection to fire or flood, and be unable to collect on a claim. Because when yo collect, you get to start shopping again.

    Thorough documentation will help with the common misconception that’s all just old clothes and doodads

    And should the day come you wish to sell your collection, you will already have photo and an inventory prepared that you can show prospective brokers or purchasers.

    An addd bonus is that you wil have on hand photos for PR purposes.

    For your personal records, I suggest you have a form that is easy to access on your computer. You want to record a fair amount of information:

    Inventory Number - Assign a number. Any system will do really, as long as you understand it and are consistent. I have a very simple D = dress, SH = shoes, H = at, etc. I assign a number when I purchase.

    What is the item

    Current storage location of the item

    Who owned it

    When did they own it

    Approximate era

    Description of the garment, including color, materials, trims

    Any Labels

    Condition, including any cleaning or restoration that has been done

    Where did you acquire it

    Who did you purchase it from

    If you have the original owner information and any pertinent details, enter those

    If you have documents or photos pertaining to it, note those as well

    Take a clear photo and paste it onto the form you have devised

    You should keep a paper copy as well as separate disk or CD. It’s a bit easier to refer to. And you definitely want a copy that is separate form your hard drive should your computer collapse!

    Lets talk about the photo.

    This is no time to get fancy and doll up a background or do borders. You want, simple well lit photo against a clean background. A white sheet will do. You want to be able to see the garment and its details. You may want to take a detail shot of complex trimmings. You may also want to take a shot of the labels.

    Here’ s sample page from my book:


    I do note the number of the floppy disk I have stored the photo on. I haven't filled in the locations yet because I am reoganizing my area. Whn I have got it straight, I iwll be entering something along the lines of:

    Box # 2, Studio.
    Hanging storage, Studio.

    Before we moved, these lines read :

    Box #3, under bed in master bedroom
    Box # 4, Guest bedroom closet, upper shelf
  2. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    I can hear the groans now. How anal is this!

    But, please believe me, I speak from experience here.

    Once you have it all packed away in blue acid free boxes (which all look exactly a like) you will be so happy to be able to put your finger on an item without having to open very single box.

    Or having to wander room to room ,asking yourself - where did I put that beaded cloche that matches this dress?

    Or the sad moment when you say:

    I know that dealer said who this 18th Century gown belonged to. Now as I enter my declining years and my memory is shot, I sure wish I had written all information down.
  3. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Thanks for pointing this out Hollis. I own a vintage handbag that I would have liked anyways, but finding out who or what manner of person owned it made it more interesting to me when I purchased it. It feels like a piece of history vs just another pretty purse. I am glad the seller took the time to record its history for me.
  4. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    As part of your documentation, you may want to file research along with your inventory sheets.

    I have started to print out any auction results, internet store lisitngs or reserach photos from the web that are extremely similar to an item in my collection.

    Should the day come that you need to assign a hard value to that Adrian suit, this could be very helpful.

    As to assigning value. This can be tough on your own treasures. It is hard to be objective. You know what you paid for it. But is that the actual value?

    For insurance, you want to assign a replacement value, or what it would cost to replace the item at this time.

    For resale, you want to establish a fair market value.

    At one time, I did actually pay a museum appraiser to come and do formal appraisals on my collection. It was very. very helpful .That was before Internet, though.

    I think you can do a fair amount of research on going prices yourself these days. Be sure to check out various sources. Ebay is only one venue. There are several auction houses who have online auctions that can be informative, as well as brick and mortar shop prices and web site values.

    If you do hire an appraiser, get a specialist who knows textiles. A general line antiques appraiser will not necessarily know any more than you do. And appraisers are not cheap. You will pay an hourly rate ( last I heard $35 and up) inlcuding travel time and their expenses.
  5. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Chris, I think it's important to remember that whether sellers or collectors, we are custodians of historical artifacts.

    And as more and more items move around the country, and lose their local connection, it's really imperative we hold onto whatever information we can.

    So many items loose their identity that it is quite sad.
  6. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Part 5

    Storage - or What do With All This Stuff Now!

    Storage. The bane of everyone’s existence with vintage clothing is having enough space to store it properly. I can’t help you add a room onto your shop or home, but I can tell you organization will make a huge difference.

    A few thoughts about the storage area:

    Be sure your storage area has good air circulation and keep it swept up and clean. This will help enormously with mold and insects. Never store your vintage ( or any other) textiles in attics or basements. Or unheated and un-air conditioned spaces. The temperature changes and moisture will cause and contribute to quick decay. And water leaks and vermin will be hard to spot.

    Ideally, the temperature range of your area should be 65 - 75 degrees Fahrenheit and have a relative humidity level of 45% - 55 %. But since we aren’t museums with fine climate control, a good rule of thumb is that if you are comfortable , it probably is as well. If you are too hot, the textiles are as well. If you have trouble with high humidity, a dehumidifier will help. Fans can assist with air circulation.

    Continued exposure to light is to be avoided as well, so cover your racks. Note: if you display items, do so out of direct sunlight and strong lighting and rotate your items. You want to avoid ultra violet light and heat.
  7. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Hanging Space:

    If you have enough closets to hang your collection - you are way ahead. If not, sturdy racks will help. Spend the money to get a rack that won’t fall down or lean over under too much weight. If you hang pipes from the ceiling or on walls, be sure to hit some studs. Clothes get damaged when racks fall down.

    If high enough, a wall or ceiling pipe does have the advantage of letting you double hang a second pipe underneath and you can use all the available ceiling height to extend your hanging storage.

    The salesman rolling racks are great - these are sturdy and have rollers. And they fold up and fit in your trunk if you need to go on the road. If you use racks, whether in a home or shop, do cover your textiles with clean sheeting to protect them from dust and light.

    Some storage areas black out the windows. This may be a extreme for the private collect, So consider tow covers - a white one for cleanliness, and a black over that to block out tall the eligh6.

    What is it safe to hang?

    You can safely hang garments that are in good repair, sturdy and have strong construction .And show no signs of shoulder damage or stress. Also, very lightweight dresses with little strain on the shoulders can be hung.

    If you hang - get padded hangers. For the shop owner of seller, purchasable padded hangers will be fine a as long as they are not perfumed. Hopefully, you will be turning over your inventory quickly enough that you won‘t have to think in terms of long term storage.

    To the collector who will be storing long term, you can make your own padded hangers . Use a plastic hanger as a base. You want a hanger that has the same shoulder shape as your garment and isn’t too wide. If too wide, it will poke out the sleeves of the garment over time.

    Wrap the hanger with layers of non adhesive poly or cotton batting . Then cover this with washed muslin and secure it with large hand stitches as needed.

    Never, ever use wire or wood hangers. Wire rusts, causes distortion and tears and doesn’t support properly . Wood is acid and eats the textile.

    If the garment is heavy, support the waist with cotton twill tape tacked to waist band or seams in large loops use this as a hanging loops to the hanger to take the weight. . If the garment has a train you might suspend a covered and padded roll from twill tape and lay the train over this for support. Sleeves may need acid free tissue stuffing to keep their shape.

    Loose muslin hanging bags for fragile garments are a good way to protect them. This is also effective for garment with sharp or fragile elements that might damage the hanging items on either side.

    Do not store in plastic bags. Many plastics are chemically unstable and will react with the textile inside. If sealed, plastic will also trap moisture an d help mold grow. And , if the worst happens, and insect get in , they may not be able to get out.
  8. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Flat Storage:

    This is what many drycleaners, etc. call “Preservation”.

    Most garments will respond well to flat storage. It is imperative you use archival supplies. Again, regular paper, cardboard, tissue ( especially that blue stuff) and wood are to be avoided.

    Acid free boxes come in a wide range of sizes and prices ( There will be a list of supply house at the end of the workshop).

    Flat storage is best for anything that is at all fragile, has hanging stress on the shoulders or waist, is beaded or heavily trimmed, bias cut, or strapless.

    Start with a acid free box. Place a piece of tissue in the box that can act as a lifting aid when you need to take the garment out of the box. Ideally , the garment will not be folded. But realistically, most garments have to have some folding. Use acid free tissue paper crumpled up in rolls inside the folds to prevent creasing.

    I stuff the bodice and sleeves as well. Avoid creasing the garment along fold lines that are already creased in. If there are metallic threads or parts, use tissue to keep these from touching other areas.
    Pad any folds you have to make to fit the garment into the storage box.

    Now if you have to use what space you have, and have cedar chests and the like available, or if you are going to be buying boxes and tissue over time, then adapt what you have.

    You can use heavily washed cotton sheeting ( light colors- no dye!) or washed muslin to line drawers and chests. Be sure to cover every bit of wood, and have enough muslin to cover the garment after you have placed it in inside. You can use scraps of muslin to pad the garment and folds.

    If the garment is not too big, you can store more than one like colored item per box. Place the heaviest item at the bottom. I don’t have more than 3 items in any box. And they are thin ones. For example, 1920s beaded dress at bottom, medium weight 30s dress next, lightweight cotton lingerie dress on top. Large bustle dresses, ball gowns and the like will take up a box of their own.

    When you have placed the garment in the box and closed it up, do not seal it and don’t put it in a plastic bag. You want some air circulation

    Acid free boxes all look alike. If you start to acquire a collection of any size, you will have no way of knowing what is in each one. And you will disturb the contents searching through every box hunting for the one item you need.

    Be sure to label your box with the contents. Us pencil, and note the inventory number you assigned it, a short description and list in order the garments that are stacked in the box.

    You may want to make a plastic sleeve and tape it to the box and slide your label into this so you can change the label easily in the future.

    If you are being very thorough, you can label the box on both the top and the side so you can easily se the label no matter how you store these.

    If you are a dealer who is storing some items as investments or for a period of time, please consider some of these techniques.

    You certainly don’t want to invest in acid free boxes for your entire inventory, but clean washed sheeting to line plastic and card board boxes would be a great start to preserving that investment. Padding folds will help you get a dress out of boxed storage in far better condition than smashed flat.

    Shoes and Hats:

    Jonathan mentioned stuffing shoes lightly with tissue in his work shop. These can be stored in boxes as well, or if you have shelving that is protected from light, you can cover the shelving with heavy acid free tissue or washed muslin. Hats should also be lightly stuffed and stored either in boxes or on shelves as well. Again - avoid stacking hats. If the hats have fragile feathers or metal components, consider using acid free tissue to make a roll that will support and protect the component.
  9. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    This is SUCH great stuff!!! Thanks so much for sharing all of this :D

    I have a question about a ball gown that I bought off ebay a few years ago - it is tulle and satin (silk, I believe). I have had it stored flat since I bought it, and took it out today as I'm thinking about selling it. Somehow I didn't notice it when I first got it - but it REEKS of vinegar - I think the previous seller must have somehow washed the tulle with it - or soaked it in it for a couple of weeks. :P Anyway, in your experience, is this something that airing out might help? Anything else that might expedite the process? It's been rainy here a lot lately, and seriously, hanging this dress in the house would seriously stink it up. It's that bad.

    Thanks in advance,

  10. route66gal

    route66gal Registered Guest

    Oof, I had asked this on the private boards, and Jonathan said that it's probably the off-gassing smell of the rayon. This is a tragedy! Am I SOL?

  11. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Wood is acid and eats the

    Thank you for mentioning this. I love the look of old wooden hangers. I suppose it would be okay if i used them in my front closet that guest's coats and jackets we grab everyday are in. Items are not there for any extended period of time for it to have an affect..///but not for the things i wish to keep for good...

    Re: the preservation...wow, that sounds easy! And here i thought involved some brain surgery...great! I think i may get ahold of a steamer and try my hand at my dress.

    One thing Hollis....on box selection...if you are dealing with a huge multi layered crinoline, do you select a box based on laying the crinoline completely flat which would be gigantic or is it okay to let all the netting fall more as it may as long as the bodice is laying flat and remains on top?
  12. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Melanie - vinegar, eh? Airing can't hurt. When something is really smelly I put it in a room by itself with a window open and a fan running. Weather permitting, I've done that for up to a week!

    If that helps, but doesn't do the trick, you might try a very delicate, very brief tumble inthe dryer on low with a Bounce type sheet.

    If it's sturdy enough , you may have to go the dryclean route. But try the others first.
  13. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Chris - that is exactly right. You will want to spread it out , then put the crumpled rolls of acid free tissue wherever you have to fold it over to fit it in the box. If the box it too short to lay the garment out flat length wise and you have to fold it somewhere, fold the bodice over the skirt at the waist with tissue in that fold so it doesn't crease. YOu dontl; want ot fold the skirt both length wise and crosswise.

    No box is going to be wide enough for circle or very full skirts. Although Talas has a box that hoops will go in. But it' s rather shallow.
  14. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Part 6

    Dyeing and Major Restoration

    Dyeing. Let’s deal with this issue since it comes up fairly often in the forums.

    This is something we do a lot in theatre and costuming, where the needs of the production come first. But it isn’t something I recommend for vintage clothing.

    It is permanent change. And the vast majority of the time, it just doesn‘t work. Think of dye as a watercolor. It isn’t opaque. It’s just a wash of color over whatever is dye is already there. So if there are stains or light areas, they will end up darker or lighter than the rest of the field.

    Over dyeing also dyes all the interfacings and threads and labels that originally were another color, leaving a telltale sign you have been there.

    Most garments are made of commercially dyed fabric if already and the fabric won’t usually take much more color. And purchasable dye remover won’t touch most commercial dyes.

    Other pitfalls are shrinkage, the fabric taking the dye unevenly and dye spots.

    About the only scenario where over-dyeing might help is rinsign a dark gamrne with it's existign color to frshen it up. And I still can't rreally reccomend it.

    And here‘s the kicker - over dyed garments lose a lot of value. Many a collector, including myself, will pass over a re-dyed garment, no matter how fab, without a second thought.

    Trying to dye only small spots of dye loss is a very tricky undertaking, not to be attempted by the amateur dyer.

    How to dye fabric:

    Having said all that, here are directions if you feel you just must take a project in hand.

    First- the garment must be washable. Cotton takes dye well. Linen takes light colors well, silk usually soaks up the dye, and wool will dye somewhat. Nylon and poly don’t dye well if at all.

    The garment must be clean and stain free.

    There are sources for dye on the internet from Rit to Deka silk dyes. Whatever your choice, be sure to follow any directions for adding either vinegar or salt to the dye bath and water temperature.

    The hotter the water, the quicker and deeper the dye will take.

    Boil water on the strove in a pot you will never again use for food preparation. Wear a dust mast an drubber gloves. Turn off any fans. You don’t want to inhale or absorb dye into your system or have it become airborne in your home. Add the dye and stir until it is all thoroughly dissolved. Set aside.

    Fill your washer or a very large pot on your stove with the appropriate temperature of water. Usually as hot as the garment will tolerate, but there are cold water dyes, so check your directions. You want enough water that the garment has plenty of room to circulate.

    Slide the garment into the water and get it completely wet, Remove it and set it aside. Pour the dissolved dye into the water, making sure it is thoroughly dispersed. Running the agitator will do this.

    Now slide the wet garment into the dye bath. Let it agitate at least briefly to make sure it all gets in the dye. Depending on the depth of color desired, either let the machine run through it’s cycle and rinse, or let the garment soak.

    Make sure it is all down in the dye bath without air bubbles. You may have to weight the garment to keep it down. Plastic bottles filled with water will work. Let the garment rinse well when it is a shade darker than you want. It will lighten a bit when dry.

    Lay flat on dark towels to dry and then press or steam.
    Be sure to run a load of rags or old towels with bleach in the washer next to clean out any residual dye.

    If you are going to try to remove dye, use dye or color remover rather than bleach. Bleach will weaken the fibers and turns many fibers such as silk and nylon permanently yellow.
  15. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Major Restorations

    Both Rules we mentioned way back at the beginning come into play here.

    Do No Harm
    When in Doubt, Don’t

    Most major restorations should be left to the expert. More damage has been done by inexperienced seamstresses than you can imagine.

    Paying someone to do major e jobs such as relining a coat or replacing damaged areas is expensive in both supplies and labor. And if it isn’t done well, it lowers rather then raises the value of the garment.

    In my experience, it is best to leave this sort of work to the buyer’s discretion. Most serious collectors would much rather have their own conservator do the work.

    Fabric must be dyed to match, not something for the casual dyer to attempt, and the fabric types must be right. Relining a silk velvet 1920s opera coat with polyester satin doesn’t help the garment, it hurts it. .

    If you do anything along these lines, try to keep the work you do such that it can be removed and the garment is will still be intact. Don’t cut the garment, as this can’t be restored. If you remove trims, buttons or lining, please retain them with the garment as a record. If you just must try a hand at relining, leave the original lining in place under the new fabric.

    Don’t try to redesign or ‘Improve” the dress. It is what it is . Accept it. If you think it’s dowdy or unattractive, perhaps best to leave it at the store.

    If you have a textile that has fabric losses, but is still a worthwhile piece, you can stabilize those areas. Simple techniques to address this are whip stitching the raw edges of holes or tears to prevent raveling. Use a matching color cotton thread . Nylon net or silk crêpeline may be placed over and under vulnerable areas or holes and stitched loosely into place with running stitch. . This can also help stabilized small areas of shattering. This will stabilize an area until you can work with a conservator to determine a long term solution.

    Tomorrow will be the last day of the workshop, so get your questions and comments in soon!

    I will get a list of sources together for the last session.
  16. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    Last Session, and a big thank you to all for your questions and Interest!

    Part 7
    Supply Sources

    2 small and inexpensive texts I have found useful are:

    <i> Preserving Textiles
    A Guide for the Non - Specialist </i>
    Harold Mailand and Dorothy Sties Alig
    Indianapolis Museum of Art

    <i> Consideration for the Care of Textiles and Costumes
    Harold F. Mailand </i>
    Indianapolis Museum of Art

    General Line Archival Materials, inc. acid free tissue and boxes, fabrics, detergents, etc.
    ( look under archival , then textile, costume or oversized for boxes up to 60“ in length)

    568 Broadway
    Suite 107
    NYC, NY 10012

    Gaylord Bros.
    P.P Box 4901
    Syracuse NY 133221-4901

    Paper products - boxes and tissue

    Light Impressions
    439 Monroe Ave.
    Rochester, NY 14603 - 0940


    Jiffy Steamer Cp.
    P.O. Box 869
    Union City, TN 38261- 0869

    Silk Fabrics

    Thai Silks ( full line, swatches available)
    252 State St.
    Los Altos, CA 94022

    Rupert, Gibbon & Spyder (Natural, white and black silks, cotton and silk dyes, swatches also available)
    Healdsburg, CA

    Dharma Trading - silks, cottons, dyes

    Cotton Twill Tape

    Ely Yawitz
    1717 Olive St.
    St. Louis, MO 63178-4325


    Dorfman Museum Figures
    840 Oella Ave.
    Ellicott City, MD 21043

    Stockman Forms
    Pucci International
    44 West 18th St
    New York, NY 10011

    Wacoal Corp
    7, shichijo goshonouchi
    Nakamachi shimogyou-ku
    Kyoto, 600-8862 Japan

    Vacuum cleaners - micro attachments

    B 3000
    Louisiana, MO 63353

    Orvus is also available at many Pet supply stores, where it is sold as a pet wash. A much cheaper source if you are buying in quantity.
  17. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    This has been so invaluable Hollis!

    I do have to ask....what about the dreaded pen on leather issue? I used to have some sort of thing that looked like a tube of chapstick that would take it our of leather furniture but don't know what to do now. Coach suggests do nothing in regards to their handbags "over time it won't be as noticeable and ads to the beauty, etc. etc." but what if it isn't that beautiful?
  18. pastperfect2

    pastperfect2 Alumni +

    I have used Carbona's ink remover on vinyl - and it worked.

    I just did a test on a pair of 2 yeard old smooth black leather shoes and it worked just fine.

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