How to Store Vintage Clothing Like a Pro!

Dominique de Merteuil By Dominique de Merteuil9 min read

Last updated on November 23rd, 2023 at 08:52 pm

Home » Vintage Fashion Tips » How to Store Vintage Clothing Like a Pro!

In this article, you will learn how to store vintage clothing like a pro! I’ve already written about how to take care of vintage clothes, but this is a more in-depth piece.

To give you the best possible advice and to answer most, if not all, questions about the dos and don’ts of storing vintage clothing, I consulted with a professional textile conservator working for the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanow.

taking care of vintage clothes
The picture on the left depicts the 19th-century funeral cape I ruined by storing it in a plastic cover. I had “secured” the antique piece before I started painting my apartment. It was meant to be just for a day, but I forgot about it. On the right, is Kleinert’s ad for a dress shield that I own and love. A real vintage dress saver that keeps my garments clean.

The Must-Do Before Storing Vintage Clothes

  1. First, make sure that all your clothes are dust and pest-free before you store them!
  2. There is a brilliant Insect and Pest Guide on the Preservation Equipment website that will help you identify and fight the evil pest.
  3. Before you store your vintage treasures you will want to make sure they are clean. It’s also important to check for any tears and holes.

How To Fix a Hole in Vintage Clothes Without Sewing


DISCLOSURE; As of October 2021  I’m part of an affiliate program and I get a small commission for purchases made through some of the links in this post. When you purchase a product via the link in my post you are helping to keep my website alive for which I’m very grateful. All opinions expressed here are mine!


 I don’t know about you but I’m awful at mending and I can’t sew at all. And that’s where Bo-Nash Fuse It Powder comes to the rescue! Here are step-by-step instructions and tips on how to fix a hole in clothes without stitching or sewing.

fixing vintage clothes without stitching

How To Clean Vintage Clothes

You can read all about cleaning vintage in my article “How to clean vintage clothes headache-free”.

  1. Eucalan detergent is my No1 choice for washing vintage and contemporary lingerie.
How to wash vintage clothes
Eucalan Wrapture with a Jasmine scent.

I receive a lot of e-mails about what detergent to use for washable vintage clothes. And I would like to emphasize the word, washable, because please remember, that there are fabrics that should never get into contact with water! 

My favourite and the only detergent I use when washing vintage clothes and lingerie is *Tip. Always test for colour – fastness first!



Hand Washing Instructions-Vintage Clothes & Lingerie

  • Fill the basin with tepid water.
  • Add half the Eucalan cap to the water. [ you really don’t need much!]
  • Soak the garment for 15 minutes.
  • Squeeze gently. No rinse is required!
  • To dry, lay the garment flat. I always place my freshly washed pieces on a towel.

2. Retro Clean-The Best Stain Remover

For getting rid of stubborn spots, yellow stains and dirt, I always use Retro Clean. It works every single time.

Buy Retro Clean!

Best product for removing yellow stains from white clothes.
Retro Clean stain remover for all washable fabrics.
how to remove yellow stains from clothes and linens
Retro Clean removed all the yellow stains from my bedspread.

Learn How to Store Vintage Garments Like a Real Pro

Time needed: 6 minutes

How To Store Vintage Clothes Like a Pro!

  1. Firstly, before you store vintage clothes, make sure that all garments are clean and free from dust as well as pests. Remember that dust can cut fibre.

    Inspect your vintage garments for any pest infestation. If you are not sure how to do it, the PEL website has an excellent guide on how to identify different types of pests and how to get rid of them without causing damage to vintage & antique clothes.
    How to store vintage clothing

  2. Choose the right storage materials if you want to store vintage clothes the correct way.

    For storing vintage clothes you can choose un-dyed cotton or muslin fabric, but only if the vintage clothes don’t have any decorative motives! That would be a big no-no for the late 1930s blouse embellished with sequins. On a side note, the blouse made an appearance in one of my favourite Bette Davis films, Old Acquaintance, 1943.
    1930s sequins blouse Bette Davis

  3. Invest in Tyvek (1623E) archival garment covers or archival Tyvek roll that you can cut to the desired size.

    Tyvek covers are lint-free, dust, pest and light-resistant. They come in many sizes. Preservation Equipment Ltd. launched this year a new product, the archival Tyvek bag for storing vintage & antique shoes. I use it for storing my vintage lingerie and gloves.
    How to take care of vintage clothes

  4. Use acid-free unbuffered tissue paper & archival boxes to store your vintage clothes and accessories.

    Place the acid-free unbuffered (don’t buy the buffered version) paper in your drawers, inside your hats, or use it to store your vintage & antique gloves. You can always choose the archival Tyvek shoe bag for storing vintage gloves. Archival boxes are brilliant for storing heavy vintage & antique dresses, capes and coats but they are very expensive.
    how to store vintage clothes

  5. To store vintage clothes like a pro, don’t ever use wire, wooden, or plastic hangers.

    Use conservation hangers for your precious vintage clothes. They come at a high price so alternatively, use Tyvek archival material (you can buy it in a roll) to wrap the coat hangers you already have. I use velour padded hangers that I cover with the archival Tyvek material so that the vintage garment is never in direct contact with the velour. Trust me, your precious vintage clothes will last you for many, many years to come if you store them the proper way.

    Victorian mourning cape

Storage Materials for Vintage Clothes

  1. Fabric Materials
  • Un-dyed cotton or muslin fabric. 

*Tip. I also use 100% natural and undyed linen fabric but all textile conservators I spoke to use cotton and muslin.

Always wash the fabric you are going to use for storing vintage garments. The product recommended to me by several textile conservators is Orvus W.A. soap. You can buy it from preservationequipment.com or a saddlery shop.

  • Tyvek (1623E) material is pH neutral and lint-free. It’s also very soft tear-resistant and breathable. Protects against pests, dust and light.

Archival Tyvek Covers Come in Many Sizes

I’m obsessed with Tyvek archival garment covers! As you can see in the picture below, the covers come in different sizes and you can easily fit two suits or blouses into one cover.

You can buy it in a roll and cut it to the desired size and shape. You can also purchase ready-made Tyvek Garment Covers which come in different sizes. 

how to store vintage garments
Tyvek archival garment covers.

Archival Tyvek Shoe Bags-The Most Exciting Product Of The Year!

A must-have product for antique and vintage shoes but also brilliant for storing purses, lingerie and gloves!

The inner bags supplied in pairs come in three sizes;

  1. Small 450 x 200mm
  2. Medium 400 x 400mm
  3. Large 500 x 400mm

The outer bags with a hook and loop closure also come in three sizes;

  1. Small 500 x 500mm
  2. Medium 650 x 500mm
  3. Large 800 x 500mm
PEL Tyvek shoe bag
Archival acid-free Tyvek shoe bag from PEL comes in three different sizes.
how to store vintage clothes
The medium size archival Tyvek bags from PEL are ideal for vintage purses.
how to store vintage clothes
My precious little hat was designed by Irene Sharaff for the film Mommie Dearest and it fits like a vintage glove in the small Tyvek bag.
  • Needle-punched (made without any adhesive) 100% non-woven polyester felt is great for the lining of drawers. 
  • Acid-free unbuffered tissue paper is the ideal wrapping material. 

Don’t use buffered tissue paper as it’s damaging to silk and wool. In fact, I only ever buy acid-free unbuffered tissue paper. You can get it in sheets or rolls. 

*I always buy mine in rolls and cut them to the desired size.

Storing Vintage Clothes & Accessories in a Box

  • Archival cardboard box.

Many of the archival cardboard boxes available online are NOT acid-free. If you have the option of choosing a buffered or an unbuffered box, always choose the latter. Otherwise, wrap your vintage garment in unbuffered acid-free tissue paper.

  • You can also use an archival plastic box because it doesn’t contain any additives and is more pest-proof than the archival cardboard box, but it’s not a cheap alternative.

*Every antique textile collector I know uses archival cardboard boxes.

WARNING! Never store your vintage clothing in a non-archival plastic box or an air-tight plastic bag!

The Danger of Hangers When Storing Vintage Clothes

The don’ts!

Mommie Dearest dress How to store vintage clothes

“No wire hangers, ever!” Said Faye Dunaway’s character in Mommie Dearest and right she was! After all, you don’t want to end up with rust on your precious clothes. 

  • Don’t use wooden hangers as they exude harmful materials that will be deadly to your vintage clothing.
How to store vintage clothing like a pro!
How to store vintage clothing like a pro!

*I’ve learned it the hard way by damaging a Victorian garment that I left on an antique wooden hanger.

  • Don’t use plastic hangers either as they can be as harmful to vintage clothing as wooden ones.
How to store vintage clothing like a pro!

If it’s possible, don’t use hangers at all or buy only conservation hangers. Unfortunately, they cost a fortune and take up a lot of space in the closet. You could make your own but the materials required for the padding are not cheap either. 

  • The cheaper alternative; cover your coat hangers with Tyvek fabric!
  •  I use velour hangers, mainly padded, which I wrap in either the Tyvek material or the unbuffered acid-free tissue paper.
  • Never hang vintage garments that are made of; heavy fabric, embellished with sequins, beads or made of very delicate fabric that will easily tear.

On a separate note, my dream walk-in closet would consist only of drawers!

Rolled Storage

Some, but not all, vintage garments can be stored on a roll.

  • You can use an archival acid-free storage tube that comes in different sizes.
  • Always use unbuffered acid-free tissue paper when starting the rolling process to protect your vintage garment.

I have neither space nor patience to roll my vintage garments.

  • That’s why I always opt for storing as many pieces as possible in a drawer lined with Tyvek material.
  • I also put acid-free unbuffered tissue paper between garments.

In Conclusion

  1. It’s crucial for vintage garments to be stored properly in order to prolong their life!
  2. If your budget permits you to buy only one of the mentioned materials I personally would choose a roll of Tyvek. It’s ideal for the lining of drawers and for making garment covers. Remember that vintage clothing shouldn’t have direct contact with wood, plastic or metal.
  3. I can’t imagine my wardrobe without acid-free unbuffered tissue paper. It’s definitely money well spent!
  4. Always make sure that your vintage clothing is clean before you store it. Dust can actually cut fibre!

Q & A with Barbara Czaja, textile conservator at the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanow

  • What materials do you use to protect historic textiles in storage?

Barbara Czaja: To store historic textiles we use boxes made of acid-free cardboard. Flat tapestries such as rugs are stored on acid-free cardboard rollers or perforated plastic rollers, wrapped in acid-free paper or Tyvek.

  • Is there a preference for the use of materials needed for the storage of historic textiles? Undyed cotton, muslin or perhaps Tyvek, Marvelseal or Melinex?

Barbara Czaja: We use Tyvek as well as acid-free paper. We avoid using any type of fabric that would have direct contact with antique textiles. The reason behind it is rather simple, cotton or linen could catch the threads of the antique fabric e.g. metal embroidery threads. We do not use Melinex because it doesn’t let air circulate and may cause moisture to accumulate in the storage box.

  •  Is natural undyed linen suitable for storing historical clothes?

Barbara Czaja: There’s always a risk with linen that it will catch decorative elements on the fabric.

  •  Is Orvus W.A soap popular in Poland amongst textile conservators?

Barbara Czaja: We don’t use Orvus W soaps. For removing impurities from historic fabrics, as long as they can be immersed in a water bath, we use Pretepon G.

*Pretepon G, a detergent commonly used in the textile industry, consists of the sodium salt of sulphuric acid ester and cetyl alcohol.

  • How do you protect historic garments from moths?

Barbara Czaja: We use anti-moth paper and of course, we keep a close eye on the antique textiles that are in our collection. Also, before we start any conservation work, textiles are placed in the fumigation chamber in which they are exposed to Rotanox gas. Gas neutralizes most microorganisms, it also has a destructive effect on moth eggs and of course larvae and adults.

Barbara Czaja

Prevention and Conservation Department
Textile Conservation Workshop

Museum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanow


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I sincerely hope that you found this article useful! If you enjoy reading my posts and would like to show your support for my blog, please consider donating to my book fund which will help me with further research. Thank you!

Dominique x



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36 Comments
  • Nicolle
    January 14, 2024

    Just found this and I ordered the Retro Clean soap. I’m starting my own vintage and reselling business and have to work on a storage plan for all the inventory. I generally store all sorts of things in plastic bins due to my ADHD out-of-sight-out-of-mind issues.
    Until I can afford archival boxes, I’ll have to risk it with wrapping the clothing in tyvrek and/or tissue paper.
    Very helpful tips.
    Thanks!

  • Laura Charlotte
    June 30, 2023

    Hi, fantastic article! I am a little distraught as I had very precious vintage dresses stored in large plastic boxes and when i took some of them out today they are ruined beyond belief. I took them to a specialist cleaner and he said nothing can be done for them. I have read all of your great blog post….urgh had no idea….i cannot buy unbuffered boxes as they just don’t exist large enough. I would have to buy 40 of them! And they are €30 each! I am wondering if i can store them all in a large wooden or even wicker end of the bed box?….if i line it in tyvek, and wrap each dress in unbuffered acid free paper?
    On a separate note….I also have a 80’s vintage wedding gown with terrible yellowy/brown stains on the train that my dry cleaner said would never remove…..is it worth me trying the retro clean? Many thanks, and thank you for such a helpful article

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      July 13, 2023

      Laura, thank you for your very kind words, and I apologise for the late reply, but your comment ended up in my bin, and I have no idea why.

      Plastic boxes are the worst offender when it comes to storing vintage clothes in them. I’m sorry to hear your precious dresses got damaged.

      Stay clear from wicker! I don’t even sit on wicker chairs when wearing vintage for fear that the fabric might get caught or torn.

      When it comes to storing vintage or antique clothes, using wooden boxes can be risky. While cedar wood is a great moth repellent, it can also stain clothes over time. Additionally, there’s always a possibility of woodworm infestation, which may go unnoticed. However, it’s worth noting that most furniture, including wardrobes and chests of drawers, is also made of wood.

      Personally, I recommend using ready-made Tyvek garment covers as they are my top choice for storing vintage items. They come in various sizes and save time compared to cutting covers yourself. The key is to check the state of each piece regularly, at least once a month, which can be time-consuming but is certainly worth it in the long run.

      RetroClean is a little miracle worker. As long as your garment can be hand-washed, I would give it a try!

  • Christine
    February 23, 2023

    Hi
    I was really pleased to find your blog entry. I have a few vintage and antique hats and garments that I ‘d like to properly preserve without having to take a course in archival conservation. I’ve been bogged down in buffered vs unbuffered, synthetic v.s plant based v.s animal based fibres, acid free, etc for two weeks now………..

    Thank you

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      February 23, 2023

      Welcome to my vintage world!

      I’m glad you found my article helpful. By storing vintage and antique garments correctly, we help their longevity. Unfortunately, I have no more space for hat boxes, so all my “new” vintage hats go on the wall. It looks rather pretty but not ideal because they need to be dusted every single day. The most precious and fragile hats are wrapped in acid-free paper and stored in archival-unbuffered boxes.

  • Martha
    March 23, 2022

    Great tips! Thank you!

  • Stacy
    March 23, 2022

    Thank you for sharing your love and knowledge of sentimental treasure and art! Upon becoming aware of the horrendous damage mice can do, I found myself quickly and desperately searching for the right way to store my favorite childhood dresses, made with a unique touch by my mother who worked as a seamstress all day and continued passionately until bedtime for most of her life.

    What I learned from you was of timely essence and of endless value!

    Thank you so very much for sharing!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 23, 2022

      Oh no! Mice and moths are the biggest threat to vintage and antique garments! I’m very diligent when it comes to the proper storage of pieces in my wardrobe. My husband refers to our walk-in closet as a museum, but better save than sorry!

      Stacy, thank you for the kind words about my articles. I’m beyond happy that you find them useful!

      Dx

  • Alison Cloonan
    January 5, 2022

    Some great information and interesting from cleaning to coat hangers great read and post thankyou

  • Brigitte
    October 13, 2021

    Hi,
    Thank you for these articles, they are very informative.

    I have seven new old stock 1950s lady Manhattan blouses in the original plastic. The blouses have cardboard to keep the shape and pins in them to hold them in place. The plastic has a slit at the bottom so the shirts can breath.

    They are Dacron and polyester material by the way. Before storing them in acids free unbuffed tissue paper should I remove them from the original plastic and take the cardboard and pins out of the shirts?

    Also should I store them in my wood dresser once they are wrapped in tissue paper or do I need to buy an archival box?

    Lastly, should I be using the unbuffed tissue paper if the blouses are 65% Dacron and 35% polyester cotton?

    Or should I use the buffed acid free tissue paper for these shirts because they are also made up of polyester cotton?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Thank you,
    Brigitte

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 15, 2021

      Dear Brigitte,
      Thank you for the lovely comment!

      You asked a very tricky question. If I was a vintage seller, which I’m not, I would tell you to keep the NOS blouses in their original packaging because they are much more valuable this way!

      As a buyer and wearer of vintage clothes, I would unpack them and store them in a drawer lined with acid-free paper. I always use the unbuffered one and I’m really baffled about the use of buffered acid-free paper.

      Either way, do check, without damaging the original packaging, if the pins are not rusting!

      Archival storage boxes are VERY expensive, and I don’t see the need for using them unless it’s a fragile or very heavy vintage or antique garment that can’t be stored any other way.

      Hope my answer helped a bit!

      Dominique x

  • Ivy
    October 5, 2021

    I had some vintage clothing items which was wrapped in acid free paper, stored in acid free box. When I checked it today I found evidence of tiny bugs, holes in paper. How can I prevent these insects? Thanks

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 6, 2021

      That’s terrible!
      Did the bugs do any damage to the clothes? What kind of bugs are we talking here about? Moths? Bedbugs?

      Did you clean your vintage garments before storing them away?

      Acid-free paper prevents discolouration and fibre breakage when you stuff garments with it but to prevent moths, I suggest Tyvec clothing covers.
      I use Tyvek for all my vintage clothes made of wool and silk. I’ve recently bought more of them for my 1940s and 1950s suits. Tyvek covers are great protection against pests, dust and fading!

      I check every single item in my closet for dust and moths once a week! I also have lavender sachets hanging all over the walking closet.

      • Ivy
        October 6, 2021

        These items were not cleaned – they had been in my Mother’s things and I think too fragile to do any thing. I’m not sure what the bugs are – I tried looking at one with magnifying glass and best I can tell they were brown and white – or clear – striped. Maybe 3 mm long. I haven’t had opportunity to check all pieces, but so far see no damage except to what I believe is a wool piece, and holes in the acid free paper. Most of these pieces dates back to my Grandmother who died in 1905, possibly to my Great-Grandmother. What can be done to prevent the bugs? I have plenty acid free paper and box. Thank you for your help.

        • Dominique de Merteuil
          October 6, 2021

          I’ve just googled a “brown and white bug”, and the first thing that came up was a carpet beetle! I suspect that the bugs were already on the clothes when you wrapped them in the acid-free tissue paper. You should definitely check every single item very carefully! As I’ve mentioned before, my recommendation would be to use Tyvek covers for your vintage or antique pieces, but the garments MUST be bug-free before you store them.

          I don’t know anything about bugs, now moths, on the other hand, that’s a different and frightening story.

          Go on the preservation equipment dot com website and look for the Insect & Pest Guide!!! They have pictures of all sorts of bugs and tips on how to fight them. I will add the link to their page on my blog!

  • Eileen
    March 7, 2021

    Extremely helpful information, thanks. I only have a few pieces, but I love them. Any information on repairs to silk 1920-30’s dress that has a tear in the back ? Should I re sew the ribbon detail on the skirt, and how?

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      March 7, 2021

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear that you find the tips helpful.

      I’m terrible at mending therefore I always leave it to professionals! I did attempt to fix a tear with the Bo-Nash Fuse it Powder, but I failed. Perhaps the tear was too big and beyond repair. I know people who use the powder and swear by it. if the garment is very precious to you let a professional seamstress deal with the problem.

  • Hanni
    November 5, 2020

    This article goes to great lengths in its research and is greatly helpful! Thank you very, very much! I will get that Tyvek.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      November 5, 2020

      Thank you!

      I do my best to be as thorough with my articles as possible! Tyvek is brilliant for storing vintage and antique garments.
      Dx

  • Sylvia
    November 25, 2019

    Brilliant and very informative post!
    I can’t believe the amount of research you do with all your articles.

  • Anna
    October 31, 2019

    Thank you for this amazing article!!! I’ve been looking for useful tips for months!

    So great that you got to interview a real textile conservator.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      October 31, 2019

      Thank you, Anna!
      I’m really glad you found the article useful!

      Best wishes,
      Dominique

  • Kate
    September 27, 2019

    Another very useful post!

    After reading this I’m definitely going to buy Tyvek.

  • Melissa Levey
    September 26, 2019

    Thank you for this article on storing vintage clothing. My only question is whether old padded hangers, the ones using cotton batting
    for the padding and cotton or rayon covers, is acceptable? I have searched antique stores or consignment shops for these and have a large supply.
    Melissa Levey

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      September 26, 2019

      Hi Melissa,

      I had an old padded hanger from an antique shop as well and it caused damage to one of my antique garments. Only use padded garment hangers that are conservation quality. Take a look at the preservationequipment(dot)com website and what their hangers are made of.

      I use velour hangers, mainly padded, which I wrap in either the Tyvek material or the unbuffered acid-free tissue paper and make my own Tyvek covers for all the garments.

      Conservation hangers are usually made of polypropylene plastic, polyester punched felt and washed cotton.

      Sending you a link to instructions on how to make your own padded hanger!

      http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/conservation/reports/paddedhanger.pdf

      Dx

  • Sarah Lafreniere
    September 25, 2019

    lovely, as always

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      September 25, 2019

      Hi Sarah,
      Thank you so much for your comment!
      I’m thrilled that people actually like mt posts. Hope that the article is useful to you.

      Best,
      Dominique