How can something make it to be 70 years old and look so perfect?
I also find items that are in complete shambles and have seen better days. Sometimes these items just need a good bit of TLC with Biz and a needle and thread and they're almost as good as new.
A few weeks ago I won, at auction, a box lot of purses. I mainly wanted the tooled leather purse on the top, and didn't really care what else was in the lot. When I got my box home and sorted through the purses, I was disappointed that most of them were in tatters and almost worthless. There were five vintage leather Etienne Aigner shoulder bags, and only two were in decent condition. The other three are misshapen from being stuffed willy nilly into the box for goodness knows how long, the linings nearly rotted away by moisture. The other purses were hardly better, and the oldest handbag in the box from the 40s can't be salvaged at all, it is so far gone.
I recently took out my wedding dress and was dismayed when I found faint brown spots down the front of it; like I had spilled a drink on it. I don't recall spilling anything on it during our reception; and it didn't have any marks on it when I stored it away at my Mom's house; but there they were. My Mom asked me if I had had it cleaned after the wedding and of course I had not. She "tisked" at me and said it's always a good idea to have formals cleaned after every event. Of course, she is right.
"Back in the day" most people took better care of their items. Clothing was more expensive then, there was less of it, and there was less money to buy it with. So if you were a prudent person, you took care of your clothing and accessories. Careful wearing, washing and storage were part of everyone's daily routine.
Today we have a much more "disposable" mentality. Not much was disposable then; almost everything was re-used or remade into something else. Things were valued more.
Whether your clothing and accessories are vintage or modern, it's a good idea to take care of them. For yourself; because it will last longer; and for the person who may be owning it after you.
(Enjoy this little sneak peek into my inventory room, which is a loft like room above our dining room that we converted into a closet like space where I store my inventory and my vintage home decor stash.)
My vintage shoe inventory. I bought an old record shelf for placing shoes on.
Have formals cleaned after being worn at an event, whether they look like they need it or not.
Hand wash old and delicate items and line dry. Machine washing causes so much wear and tear on finely made items.
Don't use the clothes dryer for vintage and finely made items. The clothes dryer breaks down shape so badly.
Have coats dry cleaned after every season and properly store them. (See tips on storage below)
Invest in a good leather care kit for leather handbags and shoes/boots. As an equestrian, I have a wide array of items for leather care in my tack room that I use on my vintage leather items. My instructors always told me that good leather saddles and tack will last a lifetime if properly cared for, and the same goes for leather boots, handbags, shoes and belts. Leather will get dry and brittle if not cleaned and oiled. However, if you clean and oil it too often, you can cause it to rot; so be smart and pay attention to when your leather is thirsty.
Leather handbags on top, standing on their feet. The only downfall to this arrangement is that the handles cannot stand up properly. May need to re-think this. Also note belts, coiled to hold shape.
Hats and shoes, stored in boxes.
Don't store or display anything in direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause fading and drying/cracking o materials.
Don't store anything in a moist area, like a basement. Please!
Don't stack handbags on top of each other, especially leather ones. Leather will get permanent indentations from the hardware of the neighboring bag (this happened to me more than once)
Store hats in hatboxes if at all possible, and use tissue to hold shape if needed.
DO stuff handbags with tissue paper to hold their shape, especially if you're going to be storing them for a long time.
Don't stack shoes on top of each other. Store in boxes if at all possible, and away from direct sunlight
DO invest in plastic totes for storing things like coats and clothing. Fold neatly, using tissue to hold shape if needed, and store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. And label the box so you know what is in it at a glance.
Here is an example of a handbag that needs to be stored with filling to hold it's shape. It was a mashed pancake when I dug it out of a yard sale pile.
Above is a "poor storage" victim. This would be an adorable 1940s handbag for someone if it weren't for the fact that it probably got wet, then dried out, cracked open, and then faded, to boot. This was part of the auction lot.
I stuffed newspaper in the toes of these shoes to keep them from collapsing and getting "mashed".
You can also use these nifty do-dads to hold a shoe's shape. I use them in my leather or reptile skin shoes to keep them in perfect shape.
Don't hang knits on wire hangers. In my personal closet, I never hang sweaters and knits at all. I fold them and put them in drawers. Wire hangers can put a permanent bulging corner on the shoulders of knits. The sweaters shown here are inventory and won't be around long; so I hang them on padded hangers.