11 ways to cherish your Revival wardrobe

06th April 2022
Ellie Fazan

Vintage clothes can be extremely fragile with intricate details and delicate fabrics. But as anyone who has attended the Revival will attest, they’re destined to be shown off. Here are our expert tips for keeping your vintage finery in tip-top condition.


The most valuable item in your wardrobe isn’t the one that cost the most, it’s the one you cherish the most and will wear time and time again. Clothes deserve our care and consideration, but vintage clothes – that have already lived a whole life before coming to you – deserve it even more. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be worn. At Revival we believe quite the opposite. Vintage clothes should be shown off. Sadly, handmade clothes of yesteryear can’t just be stuck on a quick spin. But with our expert tips for looking after your vintage treasures, they’ll last for another generation to come.

Wash your hands

Granted, we’ve all heard it quite enough over the last two years, but wash your hands before touching or wearing vintage garments, and don’t cover yourself in body oil or heavy moisturiser if you’re wearing pre-loved pieces, as these can easily transfer onto clothes and leave a permanent stain.


Put your clothes in the freezer (really!)

“When it comes to vintage clothes, the biggest dangers are moths and mould,” says Sue O’Donoghue, former Theatrical Coordinator and Costume Curator at Goodwood. “When I source something – whether it’s from a Duchess or a local charity shop, it doesn’t go anywhere near my ‘babies’ in the wardrobe room until it’s been in the deep freeze for at least two weeks.” If you think moths are a danger to your vintage silks and knits, put your pieces in a plastic bag and pop it in the freezer to kill any bugs, then make sure you get some pheromone traps for your wardrobes. We’re sad to say that while cedar blocks and lavender paper smell divine they won’t do the job,” says Sue.

Clean clothes as little as possible

The older clothing becomes, the more washing can damage them with harsher chemicals really taking their toll on delicate fabrics. We follow Stella McCartney’s advice, given in this interview in the Guardian: “The rule on a suit is you do not clean it. You do not touch it. You let the dirt dry and you brush it off. Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it.” It sounds counterintuitive but cleaning actually damages clothes. If stains appear and you want to do a spot treatment, don’t immediately apply stain remover to the garment. Test the product on a different, less valuable item first, or test it on the seam. If you must wash things in a machine, check the fabric first and wash at a low temperature. Use a laundry bag to reduce the risk of tearing.


Raid the drinks cabinet

“A mixture of lukewarm water and vodka will get rid of any smells,” says Sue. Use three parts vodka and two parts water if something is very smelly, or three parts water and two parts vodka if it only has a light musk. “Stick the mixture in a spray bottle and mist it over,” advises Sue.

Check the seams (and buttons)

“Fabric is the hardest thing to preserve,” says Sue. “Sometimes it may be just the thread or lining that is going, and this can be replaced. But in others the fabric is breaking up and there’s nothing you can do about that.” Our advice: check something is repairable before you buy it. Touch the fabric, pull at loose threads to see what unravels, but most importantly hold it up to the light. If you see light coming through the fabric, that can be a sign of intrinsic damage. Don’t forget to check buttons are properly sewn on before you wear something, because it’s such a pain trying to match vintage buttons if you lose one.


Take care of zips

If your garment has a metal zip, it predates 1965 as that’s when plastic zips came into popularity. They last really well, but can get stuck. Apply a bit of beeswax to keep things running smoothly.

Look after the underarms

“The underarms are where most damage occurs and they are likely to get sweat stains,” explains Sue. Try adding a protective layer, like an underarm guard or undershirt to avoid staining. Wearing a slip under a skirt means you don’t have to clean the skirt as often, cutting down on unnecessary cleaning. If the slip is made out of silk, it will help to regulate your body temperature, too.


Invest in a steamer

Steaming is a great way to ease wrinkles and creases, and much less harsh than using an iron. Use scented distilled water in the steamer for super fresh results. But be warned, steaming can damage some fabrics, such as velvet, so it’s always best to put a muslin between the steamer and the garment.

Get repairs done by a pro

If you are going to wear clothes and enjoy them, rips and tears will occur. The British Invisible Mending Company repairs cloth by taking individual threads from a hem, side seam or other concealed part of the garment and reweaving them over the damaged area. Their work is quite incredible and highly recommended. Short of that, get a good relationship with your local tailor. They can fix things like dropped hems, let out seams and replace zips.


Best foot forward

Shoes can make or break an outfit, yet they can be hard to replace. To get the most out of your footwear, look after the leather. Men’s shoes should be stored with shoe trees, while women’s shoes can be trickier they can always be stuffed with tissue paper. When shoes are wearing out, have them resoled at your local cobbler.

Finally, keep your vintage clothes in a dry, dust-free place away from direct sunlight, ideally in cotton garment bags. Humidity or damp will damage delicate fibres, and sunlight can irreversibly fade vintage prints and colours. Hang your vintage clothes on cloth-covered padded hangers for best protection. Woolen pieces or anything that is heavily embellished should be folded in acid-free tissue paper and laid down, so they don’t stretch or misshape.

Follow these little tricks, and your Revival wardrobe will be well looked after for years to come.

This year at Revival, the Revive and Thrive Village will be packed to the rafters with artisans, experts and influencers sharing their wisdom around both thrifting and how to then repair, repurpose and restyle your haul. Learn how to transform old clothes into new looks, scrap metal into works of art and unloved furniture into stylish statement pieces. Book your tickets now to join the second-hand revolution.

Photography by Tony Adamson, Lee Carpenter, Drew Gibson, Chris Ison and Amy Shore.

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