The Problem With Vintage?

the problem with vintage

If you’re seasoned vintage seller, buyer, wearer etc, you are no doubt aware that there can be problems with any kind of vintage, preloved, secondhand items and clothing but if you’re not I’m going to list a few and the way you can deal with these.

That Vintage Smell

Recently I purchased a bag and it had that ‘smell’ that is regularly associated with old neglected things that have been stored badly.

Most items with natural fibres tend to pick up and absorb their local environment smells, so it could be stale cigarette smoke, cooking smells, perfume but mostly it is a stale and musty smell from being stored in box or closet with a bunch of other stuff. Sometimes it just needs a good airing. I once soaked and washed a cardigan and it still smelt, Four days hanging on the washing line to air out and the smell was gone. I’ll be doing another post on the products and process for cleaning and repairing.

This particular bag was made from rope and after three soakings not only had the smell gone but it was also a different colour! the dirt that some items, especially bags and shoes can accumulate can be a little gross. Drawback was soaking it caused some of the wooden beads to swell and split and I need to glue them back together when putting the on the bag but this leads nicely onto…


Doesn’t matter how you dress it up vintage clothes are mostly used clothes, they been worn, carted around, been through many washes, stored for long periods of time, sometimes badly and so seams come undone, hems drop, zips break, buttons need replacing and so forth.

Most can be easily be dealt with yourself if you’re handy with a needle and some spot cleaner, some you might need to take to a dry cleaners that have alterations and repairs service.

On a side note I went into a big vintage shop once and they were selling damaged items at high prices just because and I quote ‘it’s vintage!’ I guess people are free to sell stuff at whatever price they want but check garments over thoroughly before buying in a shop, it’s all too easy to pick up and item, go this is pretty, buy it and get home to find something is wrong with it. Some repairs are easier than others.


If something comes with moth holes stick it in the freezer for a few days just to be on the safe side. The last thing you want is a moth infestation, they love natural fibres and will work their way through your collection and getting in a professional pest controller can be very expensive. many smaller moth holes can be darned, bigger ones may need to be taken to a specialist or tailor.

Lavender sachets and moth balls are a good repellent. You can get rentokill tear off sheets to put in pockets or drawers which is what I use. if you recieve an item with moth holes you can always put it in the freezer for a few days just to be sure and kill off any stray eggs.

Items are not described properly.

These days this not as bad as it used to be because sellers are way more protected than buyers, in that online sites tend to side with the buyer, so sellers tend to be overly cautious and provide lots of info and photos. Plus everyone wants good feedback because it helps their reputation as a seller and the competition is fierce.  In the UK buyers are covered under the distant sellers clause and have 14 days to send back any item they have bought online, this gives buyers a chance to physically see the item. Not sure what’s going to happen when we leave the EU but I guess that’s a thought for another day.

If an item you buy isn’t as described, contact the seller first to resolve the issue. Many sellers are pretty decent and will help as much as they can.

Damaged/Lost in Transit

I’ve had my fair share of crappy courier companies leaving parcels in random places. However, with vintage if it gets lost or broken there isn’t a whole lot you can do to get a replacement. You’ll more than likely get your money back but sometimes you have your heart set on an a particular thing and nevertheless it’s still disappointing.

I recently purchased a lot of vintage brooches, the seller didn’t make a whole lot of effort to pack them properly so one ended up bent and another snapped but don’t be afraid to let sellers know, so they can improve their packing techniques.

Can’t find anything in your size.

As far as problems go there is not much anyone can do about this, there is no vintage fountain of clothes and apparel for all sizes, it really does just depend on what has been allowed to circulate. Sometimes you come across larger sizes, sometimes a lot of small sizes, sometimes it’s very hit and miss. The average size has changed over the decades but worry ye not because there are a lot of good repro companies out there. I know sometimes it can feel like all it is polka dots and cherry but there some good that specialise in all decades. 50s was quite hot for a while so you will find a lot of that about.

Alternatively you can sew it yourself as there are lots of vintage sewing patterns in circulation and a lot of sewing pattern companies have caught onto the vintage bug and have been re-releasing their older patterns from certain eras. Don’t be put off if you can’t find a pattern in your size, sewing isn’t as daunting as it looks or if it is, you could probably find a tailor or dressmaker who could make the item for you. It might be as bit pricey but you’d have a made to measure outfit.

So that’s just a few of the problems I find with vintage, let me know if you have you’ve come across.