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Thursday, 19 August 2010

The vintage experience

I read a couple of posts similar to this recently and it jogged my memory to write my post on how I personally buy and sell vintage and then care for it once I get it it's a personal thing - vintage fashions, everybody has their own way with it... and that's why I like it !

Vintage shopping is head and shoulders above regular shopping compared to the corporate high street dictating what should be worn through mass production and money going to the fat cats, not good!

But also vintage is special as it's romantic, it has a story to tell, it has a history it's been places and it's a teleporter, a time machine, interesting, sometimes quirky often unique and timeless...not like the fast fashions of today - which I do my best to avoid, if I can help it....Vintage allows you to express yourself in an intelligent way, and I don't believe there's a better way of shopping - that allows for such a creative process.

Every vintage shopping spree is like a treasure trail and each wonderful buy is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, whether it be clothing, accessories or housewares/home ware vintage collecting, buying, selling is an anarchic, serene yet sometimes excitingly chaotic experience, an experience that the main stream high street cannot begin to emulate.

I have previously written a post on vintage sizing... Now to look at buying and aftercare.

  • When buying vintage, I look at seams, it's all about the seams, my dear...

Depending on the piece in question this check should be done very carefully, I tend to buy dresses but this clearly applies to any item of clothing....So get each seam look at it's entire length while pulling very gently, to see where they may be any flaws, any mending needed, or any severe damage. It is often a good idea to hold the garment up to the light, daylight whilst doing so as this shows up any light coming through...

  • Underarms

Always check underarms of a dress or top - as this is a place where there can be considerable staining from sweat, and or deodorant, and this may decay the fabric also - again good natural daylight is important when looking at this. If you think a fabric is easily perishable run your hand on the underside of it, again with good natural light any defects should show up.

  • Smells

No matter how silly I feel stood in the shop, I always smell the fabric of a vintage garment, sometimes they have been cleaned sometimes they haven't - ask the seller if they have and how i.e steaming/hand wash etc and if they have and it still smells like a rotten animal, think twice as the smell is probably ingrained in the fabric and a strong corrosive modern day detergent may rid of the smell, but is more than likely going to spoil the garment in other ways. The risk is yours but you have been warned ;-)

  • Alterations
I used to think, up until quite recently in fact, altering a vintage dress was sacrilege - but although I still find it a little sad - I think it can be a wonderful transformation. Basically I'm talking dress length more than anything else...I have in the past admired beautiful dresses that just aren't right for me floor length, yet now I have come to terms with altering vintage I see potential in so many dresses I may have otherwise overlooked. Never leave a shop without that almost prefect dress you admired just because of the length chop off the length! If you can't do it yourself -ask at vintage store if they do alterations also, many do and pretty cheaply if just shortening!

  • Touch

Touch the fabric, yes that's right just touch it! Understand if it's stretchy, or not, how it may wash, iron, crease, hang on your body shape etc and as some older items are particularly delicate run your hand on the inside of the item in good daylight to see if the fabric is beginning to perish in any places - if so think twice as it won't last long. If an item is perishing or has a hole in a place - is this a place that can be hidden with a small patch job, sewn or the sleeves shortened to rid a hole in one...think creatively, if you love the item.

  • Always try it on
Of course ignore any size labels. and sometimes on the hanger vintage garments can be deceiving in size. What doesn't look suitable on the hanger can often surprise you when on and vice-versa what you love on the hanger may not be quite right for you when on.

  • Taking the item home
Now it's hard work and each to their own, as I know many of my friends machine wash vintage. I can't bring myself to do it...if its lasted 40 years plus then I want to treat it with the respect it deserves, and I want it to last another 40 years, plus.

I hand wash everything vintage in a mild detergent. Colours fade quicker when machine washing, some older fabrics were designed before washing machines and will not handle a wash either shrinking or falling to bits, even on the hand wash cycle! and many items will lose their shape, fast through modern washing machines!

And be careful with ironing as many man made vintage materials will burn instantly even with a medium/low heat - items such as crimpolene, nylon etc

Hanging the item up as soon as it is washed helps keep it wrinkle free, or put it hung up in a steamy bathroom as you shower. Or if you're careful hold a steam iron above the item and let the steam work it's magic - or you can always have a go ironing the garment with a damp cloth over it. Be careful when ironing!

Also when hand washing it's very difficult to squeeze out all of the water, do the best you can as when it's hanging up to dry, the water can make a delicate item too heavy and pull it out of shape. I squeeze as much as I can straight after washing, and again keep gently wringing the items as they hang if they continue to drip. It's hard work caring for vintage sometimes, and can be time consuming but alas it's all part of the joy and satisfaction when you wear it, knowing it took you some work to source it and get it looking good!

Happy thrifting, hunting, buying! x

Here's a dress I currently have my eye on :-)


  1. Great tips! I cant wait to use them. Im going thrifting on Saturday. I hope I find so treasures.

  2. Aw thanks, good luck! I hope you find treasures too!:-)

  3. I adore the treasure hunt aspect of vintage shopping! I love thinking about what each piece I buy has been though, if only clothes could talk. Thanks so much for these tips... I feel the need to go shopping again :)


Pleased to meet you, hello and welcome to Porcelain Doll Vintage

This blog is a forum for my ramblings and mutterings that tend to revolve around creativity, music and the 1960s! Enjoy! I buy, collect and sell vintage dresses and other lovely pretty vintage things!

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Nottingham, United Kingdom
A 1960s dolly bird.

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