My Vintage Hacks

Some tips on getting the best from your vintage clothing and accessories. Some are tried and true standards, some I have worked out from my own experience.


To make a metal zipper run freely, run a candle up and down the teeth. 

If you need to replace the zip, Op Shops (Thrift stores) often have metal zips in their haberdashery section.

Green 1950s Dress, with fully operational zip (and pockets!) in the store

To Remove Marks from Shoes, Bags and Leather Clothing

Use a slightly moistened microfibre sponge. Be very careful, as rubbing too hard can take out the color.

(Clean) Gherardini Mod Designer Bag in the store

To Reshape a Straw Hat

Dunk it in water and reshape as you choose. It should maintain the shape as it dries.

'50s/'60s Straw Hat in the store

To Remove Body Odour Smells

Don't waste your money on dry cleaning, it doesn't help. Only washing helps. Even woollen garments can be carefully hand washed, dried flat and pressed and steamed back into shape. I recently read that people have had good results from hanging the garment with a sachet filled with activated charcoal in a confined space. This is top of my list of hacks to try next time I get a smelly dress!! 

To remove and prevent musty smell in bags and shoes

I collect the little air drying, dessicant, silica sachets that come in boxes of new shoes or bottles of vitamins etc and store shoes and bags with these inside. Of course you can buy boxes of new packets. If your bag smells musty, hang it in an open space with the silica sachets inside. Leave the bag open. It may take a few weeks, but the smell will eventually go. Or try the activated charcoal.

Washing a 1940s Dress

One of the best tips I received when I was starting out in the vintage clothing business was from Nicole Jenkins of Circa Vintage. She said to ALWAYS remove the shoulder pads from a 1940s dress before washing it. Now, a rayon crepe dress will shrink a bit, but can usually be pressed  back to the original size and shape. Of course, a cotton garment can be washed. But why remove the shoulder pads? In the 1940s, during and after the war, supplies were scarce, especially in the UK, and people made do with whatever they could find. Regular stuffing like cotton wadding was scarce, so all kinds of interesting things can be found inside 1940s shoulder pads. Nicole says she found recycled (clean) bandages in one pair. I found unravelled rope in another pair. So just to be sure, remove them first. It's easy to tack them back in place after washing.

To Treat and Prevent Clothing Moth

Any new woollen item, including hats, goes into a zip lock bag and into the chest freezer for at least a week before storing in the wardrobe. Washing or dry cleaning will also kill moth larvae. I make drawstring storage bags from thrifted sheets and all woollen and silk garments are stored in these, either on the hanger or stored flat. I label my bags for reference, but you could easily attach a photo to help you remember what's what. I also hang camphor in the wardrobes as I find the smell more bearable than moth balls. I hang clothes in the fresh air for 10 minutes when I take them out to disperse the smell.  If you have furs, I also recommend this treatment.

To Treat Marks on Velvet

To treat crush marks on velvet, try steaming and brushing with a clothes brush.

If Your Waistband Button Doesn't Meet the Buttonhole

Only good if the button is not in obvious view, as in a waistband. If you need a little more room, try making a loop from hat elastic (roll elastic) and sewing it next to the buttonhole. Using this loop instead of the buttonhole may give you just enough room to fasten.


If There's Damage to Your Collar or Cuffs

If you are slightly handy with a needle, you can do what our grandmothers used to do and take off the collar/cuffs, turn them and restitch.

I turned these cuffs - good as new

To Remove Scuff Marks From Suede

Use a little water on a nail brush and gently brush. You will have to brush the whole item or you will just leave a bigger mark. I've done this successfully with bags and shoes but I would not recommend tackling a coat. Vodka is also good for removing marks from suede.

To Remove Mould and Mildew Marks

A little vodka on a soft toothbrush works wonders, particularly with removing mildew from black garments. I suspect isopropyl alcohol would also work, but I have not tried it.


I'm going to post these tips to a permanent page on the website under Resources, and add to them. 

Please comment and leave me any hacks you may have and I'll add them to the page.



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