Vintage Vantage. Pounce or Pass?

November 18, 2008 • Fashion


Editor’s Note: After too long of a break from vintage coverage, Second City Style would like to welcome Becky Ellis to our editorial team.

Becky Ellis for Second City Style Magazine

Unless you’re shopping at high-end vintage stores that have ruthless quality control and equally brutal pricing, you’re unlikely to come across vintage clothing in perfect condition. So when you’re trolling the racks of thrift shops and happen upon a great piece with flaws, it’s tough to know whether it’s a dud or diamond in the rough.

“Textiles are a tricky thing,” said Jim Kirby, restoration
expert with Drycleaning & Laundry Institute International, “they
can have many problems, and there are different dyes, different optical
finishes… some can be restored nicely, but the consumer has no way of

But if you’re just looking to add to your day-to-day wardrobe, and
not, say, stocking an exhibit at the Met, some items are better bets. Here are six flaws common in vintage clothing, with an expert opinion on when to pounce and when to pass.

Underarm stains: Possibly Pass
Three things lead to underarm discoloration: Deodorant or
antiperspirant stains, which are white and powdery; perspiration
stains, which are brown or yellow; and gas fading, a chemical reaction
that can cause some black, navy and other dark colors to become
reddish-brown. Deodorant and perspiration stains can often be removed,
so pounce if this is the major flaw in an item that you love. Because
gas fading is a chemical reaction to the fibers of the fabric rather
than a stain, there’s nothing you can do to fix it without re-dying the
entire garment. If you’re not into getting up close and personal with a
bottle of RIT, pass.

Stains to the body of a garment: Possibly Pounce
Depending on the price of the item in question and the extent of the
spots, it may be worth a shot. If it’s a washable fabric, you can try spot removal at home before moving on to a dry cleaner.

“If it’s just a question of wearable clothes… regular cleaners can
get out many stains, and will charge regular cleaning charges,” said

There are specialists who have the knowledge and processes to remove
complicated stains, but the price—from $80 to $300 per garment—may not
be worth it.

Read more "Pounce or Pass" here.

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