Monday, January 10, 2011

Wallflower Vintage Presents: Choosing a Vintage Coat

Typically when buying a vintage coat, you should follow a few tried and true guidelines. (Unless, of course, you are buying from a reputable store like – we inspect and clean all the vintage items for you.)

If you are shopping at an estate sale, thrift shop, garage sale, etc. here are a few things you should be on the look out for:

  • Check for moth holes on wool coats. If you still buy it, air it outside for a while in case the moth still lives there.
  • Two trouble spots on coats that tend to wear faster are under the arms and in the pockets – carefully inspect these two areas for stressed seams, holes and discoloration.
  • Check the lining – sometimes the lining ‘rots’ and will shred if pulled.
  • Check and see if all the buttons, fasteners, belts etc are intact. It can be disappointing to get home and find a rhinestone button or two missing.
  • Try on the coat for fit – don’t go by the size label – sizes have changed over the years – what used to be a size 14 is now a size 6!
  • Check the sleeve length, many coats from the fifties have ¾ sleeves – much shorter than today. Be prepared to invest in some long gloves!
  • Be aware that in the 50s fur collars were sewn onto 1940 fashions, if you don’t like the look they can be easily removed.
  • If you’re buying vintage fur, be sure to pull on the fur (really pull hard) and if fur comes off in your hand, the fur has dry rot and cannot be repaired. (note: it can be worn, but don’t spend a lot on it).
  • Know your labels – there’s no bigger thrill than getting a vintage designer coat for $20.00!
  • Lastly: buy what you love – a little wear here and there gives the coat character and if you’re handy with a needle and thread… even better.

Cleaning your vintage find:

Once you get your coat home, don’t fret if it has a musty, old smell – just follow these easy directions*:

Spray the coat completely in ten parts water to one part Eucalan wool wash . Roll the coat in a towel to wick away excess moisture, hang to dry, then steam. You can find Eucalan at fine knitting stores and online.

* not recommended for fur – just air out outdoors on a nice day.


Anne, Vintage Baubles said...

I love vintage coats, so this was a nice treat to read! Very good tips, as well. But if you have a coat with moth nibbles or holes, the very best thing to do with it is put it in a plastic bag in your freezer for 2 weeks. This will kill any active infestation. Airing it out won't. I do this with ALL vintage wool coats I buy, because there may be moth larvae in the fabric that haven't made themselves known yet by the presence of holes; you want to get them before they get your coat.

Lynn said...

Anne, Thank you for the tip! Apparently I've been pretty lucky! I'm guessing because most of my vintage is stored in a freezing (albeit clean) attic - I've just killed the moths inadvertently!