How To Care For Your Vintage Lingerie

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So, you've become smitten with vintage lingerie. You've been eyeing & buying like crazy. But now that you have it, how are you going to take care of it?

Kath, collector and ebay vintage lingerie seller horsefeathers*at*il answers Gracie's questions on caring for your vintage delicates.

Vintage Lingerie at eBay

What is the best way to wash your vintage delicates?

Always hand wash your vintage delicates - the operative word here is HAND.

1. Only wash one item at a time.

2. Generously fill either a deep basin, bathtub, (or what I use is the grand boy’s discarded baby bathtub) with lukewarm water.

3. Start your cleaning by using the most gentle of products i.e. Woolite, Dreft or other types of baby detergents on the market. Dissolve one of these products in a jug of hot water and add the completely dissolved solution to the bathtub. Here's a good time to take your jewelry off to prevent any snagging.

4. Lay the garment in the tub and pat it flat with your hands letting the solution run through the garment as it floats in the water. NEVER AGITATE THE GARMENT. Oh, and don't tease it or call it names either ;-) Those of you with long fingernails, you may want to use a sponge and just press the suds through the garment. If it is cotton or linen let it soak for about 15 to 30 minutes if it needs more than just a freshening up.

5. A good rinsing is just as important as the wash - as any residue left in the garment will either leave spots or add its dreadful demise. You can use a second large tub, bowl, or even the water running straight from the faucet - the trick here is, keep rinsing with cold water till the water runs clear.

6. Here's the part where I amaze the crowd with my knowledge... you think I know, I know - she's gonna twist and wring the garment out!!! No No No!! Gently squeeze the excess water out of the garment, then lay flat if possible and put between two bath towels. Continue to apply pressure until it is as dry as possible (not dripping wet) then lay flat on a clean dry towel to dry - a drying rack comes in real handy here, or you can hang it on a plastic or padded hanger to dry.

7. I usually wait till it's about half dry and then press my slips and goodies that I am reselling with my old vintage iron. A VINTAGE iron? Going too far with this whole vintage thingy you say? Well, not on purpose, I've just had it for years and I say: If it ain't broke... Make sure you have your iron on the correct setting for the fabric you are ironing - if you're not sure - start low and go up - a pair of vintage undies stuck to the bottom of your iron is not only heartbreaking - it could be VERY costly! Now, for you folks that insist on putting things in the washing machine - at the very least, put the garment inside a pillowslip and close it up, or use a lingerie bag to protect the fabric. Never wash with bras or other garments with hooks or zippers, and I would caution not to use a washer that doesn't have a delicate setting. NOTE: I must warn you that many spun garments end up with odd little holes that are impossible to repair.DO NOT TUMBLE DRY THE ITEM. It's just too dangerous. You know I'm speaking from experience here again - Gracie's probably asking - why the hell's she giving US advise on laundering??? Well, darlings, I've-been-there-done-that and got the fried chiffon nightgown and peignoir sets to prove it. ;-( Just please...don't put them in the dryer.

What if the item is missing its care tag, or you can no longer read it?

Usually it should be hand washable, but if in doubt - take it to your drycleaner and they will be able to tell you.

How can you tell if an item is real silk?

Hmmm, good question. It's just one of those things I know - ha ha! It has a look and feel of satin in a lot of ways but then if you pay very close attention to the feel, you will notice it has a "fuzziness" to it also (for a lack of better words). Silk is usually much lighter weight than satin too.

Vintage Slips and Lingerie What is the proper way to care for silk?

If it is washable - hand wash as directed above and be sure to never twist or wring your garment because silk is a natural fabric it can tear the fiber and do permanent damage. Also remember never ever EVER bleach silk - this is a mistake I've only made once - but it's best that you never do - as the chemise I was washing literally went to shreds in my hands. Oh my, it was just awful!

Do you recommend a specific product for washing your vintage lingerie items? Any for modern lingerie?

Woolite is always good for both vintage and modern lingerie, but I've found that baby detergents such as Dreft work just as well and are a little more reasonable (cuz I do MEGA loads of lingerie a week ;-)

Can you repair vintage lingerie items?

You betcha girlie, I am mending all the just takes patience and maybe a little bit of lace or an appliqué to bring a piece back to life. Such as missing or broken garters, shoulder straps, under-wires, closures etc Oh yes, garters tend to dry rot or just get hard on girdles and garter belts - but they can be easily replaced with new ones that can be purchased at Wal-Mart or a sewing center. The same goes for the under wires and hook & eye closures. Most shoulder straps are easy enough to replace, but if you have trouble finding the right material or color, a good seamstress would be able to help you.

What if you find a lovely item, yet you see a rust spot, can that be removed?

Lemon juice mixed with common household salt creates Oxalic Acid, but poisonous proprietary remover for rust stains. Oxiclean also works on rust.

What kind of spots can be removed?

Most all of them can with a little TLC and sometimes a lot of time...but I have bought some "killer slips" that are worth the efforts! Underarm stains or deodorant are common and can be removed by spot dabbing it with a clean white cloth dipped in a half white vinegar half water solution or a lemon juice mixture will also work. Coffee, lipstick, make-up and grease - these are all pretty common and can be pretreated with a little "Shout" if it is washable, then hand washed accordingly.

What kinds are not removable?

I’ve had a real hard time with laundry marker/permanent markers, you know, the kind they put the poor old lady's name in bold black letters across the back of the slip at the nursing home? Ai Yi YI!! That makes me NUTZ! But seriously, I have even gotten some of those out, and if it has lace "to die for" and I can't, well, I'll just recycle into a flirtskirt or something.

Another huge problem is mildew, try using half lemon juice half water, or half white vinegar half water mixture. But unfortunately, the mildew may be locked into the fabric and the spots will not come out or will "reapear" - because it is "alive" (I say in my deep scary voice). You can air it outside and it will smell better.

Do you have a rule of thumb on purchasing items with spotting?

As a seller I have a "2 issue rule". Say, if it has more than two problems (i.e.: more than 2 spots and more than two mends to make, or a combination(s) thereof) then I will say goodbye and leave 'er on the rack. As a collector/wearer I have bought some more damaged pieces and will put hours into restoring a piece back to its original condition for my own personal collection.

Are there special concerns regarding the elastic on vintage garments?

Yes Gracie, unfortunately the elastic will dry rot if not taken care of properly (i.e. harsh detergents, hot dryers etc.). Elastic will also get "rippled" if the person wearing say, a half slip that's a size or two too small for them. Yeah guys, you know who you are ;-) Elastic can also be replaced but it is very tedious work to rip out the old elastic and sew a new waistband in on a sewing machine. An extra special lacy vintage slip is always worth it though.

What do you know about dry-cleaning?

Dry cleaning is costly, but remember your time is money so you should weigh it out whether trying for hours to improve the look of a garment would be better achieved by a professional cleaner. If it is a fancy designer, silk blend, or rayon based item don't hesitate to have it dry cleaned.

I personally found out, the hard way, that many vintage items that ‘ought’ to be dry-cleaned can no longer be! If it has beading or other embellishments, the way they dry-clean now would press & melt &/or destroy the work! Any tips or advice?

Gosh, there's so much to consider here. The best thing to do is to find a very reputable dry cleaner and tell them "don't screw it up", seriously - they should be able to tell you whether they can clean it or not. Sometimes you can do a mild hand washing, paying very close attention to the decoration. I've recently tried (and had luck with) one of those home dry cleaning kits you can buy now.

Is there a proper or best way to store vintage lingerie? (hangers, drawers, bags, etc)

It's really whatever you prefer. I have my nightgown sets hanging on padded hangers in the closet and the rest of my goodies folded neatly in my chifforobe. Just remember to be careful of where you hang them in your closet so they don't get snagged.

Vintage Lingerie at eBay Any travel tips for vintage delicates?

Just make sure you let them hang at least 8 hours after ironing them before you pack them or ship them. If you don't, the moisture combined with the warmth will cause some ugly wrinkles if you fold it into a small space. I have a special satin bag that folds up and fits into my suitcase (I think it was a nylon bag in a former life.) As soon as you get to your destination, take them out and hang on padded hangers preferably.

If it looks like they need a "little help" those small hotel bathrooms are perfect for steaming all of your clothes, not just your lingerie. It will take about 15 minutes for the wrinkles to drop out, then, leave the item to air thoroughly from all angles by hanging it up from a door frame if possible.

Are there any Do’s & Don’t’s for vintage lingerie care & cleaning?

1. Don't store items in a plastic hanging garment bag or a dry cleaner's bag as in time, it will cause discoloration.

2. Don't hang silk outside. 3. Always wash lingerie before pressing - a hot iron can "set" a stain in for life.

Any other tips?

Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT remove your toenail polish while wearing a long vintage nightgown! I was doing this one night and got the remover on the hemline - it "ate" holes in the gown! ARGHHHH! Sooo, I had to shorten that gown ;)

Do you know anything about preserving lingerie? As in ‘collectors’ pieces not for wear?

Let's assume they are clean of course ;-) Wrap them in acid-free tissue wrap to buffer the folds. Then place in an acid free box.

I have some of mine at the top of the closet and the rest in an old cedar chest, but clean, dry, and climate controlled are of the up most importance. Don't even dream of putting them in the attic or basement. Be sure to take them out and refold about once a year, otherwise they will get permanent folds. Do not store vintage goods or wedding dresses in vacuum packed bags as creases will permanently set. I just recently found this out - so now my wedding dress - it's gonna be wrinkled all to hell when I do pull it out of the vacuum packed box. Oh well, who are we kidding - I’m not going to ever be wearing it again - my “size 10 days” are long gone. ~sigh~

In conclusion, just try to remember, these are VINTAGE pieces, some are family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. They should always be handled with TLC and appreciated!

Hugs and Kisses to all!
Always, kath~

Visit Kath's eBay sales & see what she's got for you!


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