Part 2 of A Guide to Care and Cleaning for the Vintage Seller
by Hollis Jenkins-Evans pastperfectvintage.com
Let’s start with the point of purchase
A lot of damage happens just getting our treasures home. Maybe you have found things at a local shop, vintage clothing show or were lucky enough to be given goodies. Usually they are stuffed in a tiny grocery sack, or a dirty cardboard box or even a huge used garbage bag and then handed to you. Delicious. If you can, try to wash your hands before you handle it all. Those nachos and cheese dishes can leave some really greasy stuff on the clothes.
Now for the obvious: Don’t try to carry too much – if you head to the car with 15 dresses and 10 hats piled in your arms, I promise you will drop something or drag on the ground. And those velvet dresses don’t look good after you have stepped on them in the gravel parking lot.
So be patient, be careful. Carry what you can securely. If you have a lot of dresses, lay them flat, grab all the hangers in your right hand, then slide your left under the garments and carry horizontally. You won’t drop anything and nothing will drag on the ground. Make as many trips at it takes.
So, now we have you to the car. If your car is not all that clean, or you transport pets, consider taking a clean sheet along on buying trips to lay on the back seat to protect the clothing. You can wrap this over them as well.
If there are any wire hangers, this is the time to get rid of them. They are DOOM. Not only are they terrible to hang garments on, they rust and the damn things catch on other garments and tear them. Nothing quite matches the feeling you get when you have bought a mint condition lace dress, then getting home and realizing the next two hangers on either side of it are entwined in it and have put a 3” rip in the front of the dress. Or the hangers have rusted and not only do you have rust on the original garment, you have rust on the ones next to it.
So like Joan Crawford, your mantra should be: “No Wire Hangers-Ever!” I do suggest taking a garbage bag along to a big sale and throwing the hangers out before I leave.
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If you have a hanging bar, take along some padded hangers, and you can get the clothing home reasonably unwrinkled. It’s worth it to take some time. I mean really, if that Adrian suit is in good presentable shape when you buy it, why would you wad it in a bag and have to steam it all over again when you get back to your home or shop?
If you don’t have a hanging bar, lay the garments on the back seat, with as few folds as possible. I place heavy items such as coats to the bottom, lighter weights at the toward the top, with satins and velvets at the top to avoid irremediable crushing.
I do keep hats and shoes in boxes to protect them. And these can go in the trunk. My trunk was only clean enough for clothing when we drove it home from the dealer.
Please don’t store food and drink in the back with the clothing, you never know what can happen if you have to slam on the brakes. That may sound odd but when you go on long drives to hunt for the good stuff you may well have a few soft drinks and snacks in the car.
If you buy in large lots, I also recommend having a garbage bag or two along and weeding out the items you aren’t keeping. Plus one for the trash, the nasty old boxes, the old wood and wire hangers, the dirty newspaper stuffing, old discolored tissue, cracked plastic garment bags, and other goodies that so often are part of the territory. There is no need to even take any of that in the house or shop. And it may well be home to insects, so all the better to get it out of the way ASAP.
I have been known to drop off the rejects at my local thrift on the way home from the sale. And the trash bag goes right on out to the bin when I get home.
Now, you’re home
I don’t know about you but it’s always dark or raining or both when I get home from a buy. Always. And I am always tired from a day on the road or a day driving all around town.
So if it‘s raining, wait until it quits to unload. Water spots can be the difference in a big price tag and a medium one. If it’s dark and you can’t see well enough to be able to tell if you dropped anything, wait until morning to unload.
Now, take as much care getting everything into your house or shop as you did getting it to the car. Dropping satin dresses onto oily driveways or muddy grass verges is heartbreaking.
Here’s the hard part, don’t throw everything over a chair or table and decide to face it later. The time to get this new purchase hung up and temporarily stowed is now. You want to get it done before the pets get to give it the once over or it gets thoroughly crushed.
If you are a seller, I suggest you have staging area, even a temporary one, with an empty rack and clean table that you can unload onto. Have your padded and skirt hangers nearby and hang everything up as soon as you come in. I lay out all the hats, shoes and accessories separately at this point. If I am going to be away for awhile I stow all these in clear plastic tubs until I can get back to them.
I do shut my cat out of the staging room until I have it all safely stowed. He’s a cat. He is curious. He just has to inspect all that new smelly stuff and since fur and feathers are just dead animals to him, you can imagine the destruction he is capable of.
If you are a private collector it’s still a good idea to have a clean area you can unload to and then get these hung up. If you use a bedroom, you may want to put a sheet down on the bed first – I am always amazed at some of the stuff that is left on the table after I hang it all up. And it will catch any beads that may fall off.
Now there are some exceptions to the hang it up right away rule:
- Anything with signs of fabric stress at the shoulders
- Beaded dresses
- Delicate garments, such as old chiffon or silk taffetas. These often end up with the hanger sticking right through the sleeves.
- Children’s garments that are too small to fit over adult hangers
- Garments with a lot of weight that will strain the shoulder.
A few more thoughts, don’t stack the hats on top of each other, that’s a great way to break feathers and beat down crowns. Be careful of shoes, scuffs can happen in storage almost as much as in wear.
So we have you and your treasures home now, ready to face tomorrow’s ever so much more glamorous and exciting topic: Sorting and Cleaning.
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