When you buy vintage—clothes,coats, handbags—you have to know how to care for them to make them last. Precious things that are neglected not only show their age, they sometimes are irrecoverable. This is sad. If you truly adore things from a bygone era, you accept the responsibility that goes into the upkeep of these beautiful treasures.
My objective this year is not to buy more, but to look after what I have. This means maintaining items that are in tip-top condition, and taking a close examination of everything in my wardrobe and closet making note of any repairs necessary to fix or improve them. This not only extends their life-span, it makes them look better.
I have found local artisans who do this type of work, but I must say, this was not an easy task because these are fast-vanishing crafts: a cobbler to repair and re-sole shoes and boots; a leather/fur tailor to mend and restore coats and attend to handbag straps, and a trustworthy jeweller to repair and rework pieces that need a shimmery face-lift. Sadly, these traditional trades and skills are a casualty of our disposable society. In the past, things were repaired, now they are discarded.
GETTING THINGS DONE
Some things you can do yourself; but for some restorations, you need to turn to a professional. Before you commission any work, carefully consider the cost versus the value of the item—both actual and sentimental. Always get a price quote beforehand, and start with a small job to see if you like the result. You are building a relationship with these small business owners so always be friendly, clear and concise about what you want done, and effusive with genuine praise for a job well done. Luckily I’ve found some very talented people who I trust with my loved possessions. Currently, when I pick something up, I drop something else off. Eventually, it will all get done. Everything is getting a new lease on life.
I’ve found some fabulous pre-loved/un-loved designer shoes over the years. They sometimes need only a small amount of work to make them wearable and beautiful again.
Shoe maintenance is actually a very smart investment for quality leather footwear. To make shoes last, they require regular cleaning, polishing, conditioning every 3-6 months. In between, just wipe them with a damp cloth (no soap) every week to remove dirt and dust—the nemesis of leather which accelerates wear and tear.
A pair of Cole Haan Nike Air booties from the thrift store got new heel caps and toe guards to made them shipshape for many more miles. All the above mentioned treatments are not to be used on suede, which is actually the underside of an animal’s hide. Instead, use a small wire or suede-specific brush to wipe away dirt and grime. Note: water is suede’s worst enemy so never ever wear in the rain.
These are the most comfortable heels ever, I think I could run a marathon in them. Kidding, but if you haven’t experienced Nike Air technology, you should definitely do your feet a favour and give it a try. One should not have to compromise comfort for style.
For great boots like these, the repair cost was totally worth it.
I purchased a vintage French lizard handbag a few years ago. Over time, the top handle began to pull away from the hardware due to the drying of the skin which made it brittle, and thus rendering the handbag unusable.
Fortunately, my leather tailor, Vlad, was able to imperceptibly and perfectly repair the tear. To say I was thrilled to save this valuable lizard strap is an understatement. His expert advice: use a conditioning cream once a month to keep bags moisturised and supple.
Think of it as skincare for handbags. I’ve learnt my lesson, and now I’m giving my handbag wardrobe lots of TLC.
Gems and jewels are tricky because they often look fine to the naked eye, but under a jeweller’s loop they may reveal problems you didn’t know existed. Like a loose stone, or pearls that require re-stringing. Even just a professional check-up and a cleaning can give you peace of mind and your jewellery a newfound sparkle.
I inherited a many pieces of fine jewellery from my mother. One of my favourite pieces is a triple-strand pearl and diamond bracelet.
Obviously, it isn’t something I wear everyday, (that’s my Tiffany T-Square), but it recently broke when I was taking it off. Fortunately I was at home at the time and was able to find the flying pearl. As is frequently the case with pearls of-a-certain-age, it needed to be restrung. So my jeweller, Ed, took each and every pearl off and, like a work of art, restrung, re-knotted, and reassembled the Birks bracelet. It’s more beautiful than ever.
Taking care of your older but cherished possessions takes some time, effort, and expense, but it means you, and even perhaps others after you, can love and enjoy them.