In case you didn't catch the beginning of this Vintage Care series, let me explain that I'm working out a section of my book. This is more or less a rough draft, and I'm very much open to corrections and suggestions, so please comment!
I've discussed clothing care and storage, and many of the same guidelines apply to accessories, but here are some more things to consider.
Hat boxes are not only attractive but (surprise, surprise!) very useful for storing your vintage hats, although other boxes will also work fine. Usually, a bit of carefully placed acid-free tissue paper can protect hats stored together in a box, and protect the hat from a non-acid-free box over time. You can cradle delicate features such as feather plumes with tissue “nests.” If you have just a few hats or want to show off a few, and they are sufficiently sturdy, by all means do place them on shelves or wig stands. Just keep them out of direct light and give them a dusting from time to time. For dusting and cleaning hats, two interesting tools to have on hand are canned air and a soft paintbrush. You can also work with a hair dryer on its cool setting and any soft-bristled brush. A steamer can help make a warped brim pliable enough to reshape, straighten a crumpled veil, and fluff up a flattened flower.
Veils can be particularly delicate and vulnerable, and I store veiled hats with their veils gently tucked inside, tissue separating the netting from the hat if there are any rough spots.
Many a very respectable vintage bag has been ruined by being stacked in a pile, with the surface and structure creased, dented or even broken down. The best way to store bags is sitting upright on a shelf, and if the structure needs to be bolstered, you can stuff your bag with a clean old cotton t-shirt, a chunk of unbleached cotton, or a wad of crumpled acid-free tissue paper.
Bags are notorious for the odors they transport through the decades, from cigarette smoke to perfume. For the newcomer to vintage, I absolutely recommend choosing a bag with no odors. Stuffing the bag with tissue which is periodically replaced can help remove mild odors. I have used dryer sheets in bags with stronger odors, but of course, one ends up with the dryer sheet's perfume-y odor that will linger.
For short-term storage (about 18 months), a shoe rack or placement on a shelf is just fine, but for longer storage it's best to box them and use acid-free tissue to stuff the shoes to support their shape. Take care not to overstuff or you can stretch the shoes. Wrap the shoes individually in more tissue or plain cotton and set them in a box. Moisture can promote mildew, so use a breathable cardboard box, preferably acid-free for your most cherished shoes. You can find acid-free photo boxes in just the right size for a pair of shoes.
Bag and Shoe Care
Leather can and should be cleaned and conditioned. I like Cadillac Leather Lotion, which helps to preserve leather, reptile skins, and also imitation leather surfaces. You can use it on your shoes, bags, and even jackets. There are many other products that work similarly, such as saddle soap.
Suede can be brushed with a suede brush or rough towel. Suede is not as sturdy as smooth leather, and it will easily absorb dirt, moisture, and oils. If you have a small, dry stain to remove from suede, you can start by softly scrubbing it with a cloth or art gum eraser. Be gentle and don't dig a hole in the suede's nap, but do loosen the stain, and raise the nap that might have gotten stuck down with the stain.
You can use a vacuum to help clean out your bags and shoes, and to remove some of the dust from the exterior of any sturdy fabric bags and shoes without beading or other potentially loose embellishments. For those, you can use a screen over the head of your vacuum wand, or use a soft brush to loosen and sweep away dirt.
Patent leather (real or faux) can be cared for with some common household products. You can wash off the surface with a damp cloth. A glass cleaner can be used to remove dirt and improve the shine. Use a soft cloth with petroleum jelly or mineral oil to rub out scuffs and then use your cloth to polish the remainder of the shoe or purse. Use a clean cloth to buff to a shine. If you have a stubborn scuff or fogging, first try rubbing it with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab. If that doesn't do the trick, using a low percentage acetone (the kind used for fingernail polish remover) with a cotton swab may work. Follow up with mineral oil or petroleum jelly to restore the gloss. With the acetone you'll removing some of the protective lacquer, so use it with caution.
If your shoe's insoles have lifted around the edges, I would recommend using a shoe glue such as Shoe Goo or Barge Cement. A paintbrush can help apply the glue. If the insole seems to be coming loose, you might want to carefully lift it off and reglue it entirely.
Just like finding a good dry cleaner and seamstress, it is a very good idea to find a good shoe repair shop, one that respects vintage workmanship.
Collecting scarves can be addictive, and if you have considerably more than can be reasonably stacked in a drawer, consider a hanging set of loops. You can use any kind of plastic ring so long as they don’t have any rough spots. The added advantage of this hanging method is being able to see them all better.
You can almost always hand wash a scarf, even one made of silk, using cool to tepid water and very mild soap or baby shampoo. You may see some dye bleed, but just don't leave the scarf to soak long (or wash more than one at a time) and you will be fine. If you have stains to remove, you can try using the mild soap on the spot as a pre-treatment, first checking on a tiny bit of an edge of the scarf to make sure the color doesn't fade noticeably with the full-strength soap. Don't wring or twist, but roll the washed and rinsed scarf in a clean towel before laying it flat to dry. You can then iron it using a press cloth and a low heat setting just as it reaches a nearly dry stage. Avoid ironing on a rolled (hand-sewn) hem. If a silk scarf has lost its gloss, you can sometimes bring some of that back by rinsing it in a solution of white vinegar and water (1/4 cup per gallon).
In our mother's and grandmother's days, gloves were often stored in pretty, decorative long boxes. I have so many gloves that I keep them in boxes by color, with one small drawer devoted to long white gloves, and one to short white gloves.
The vintage way of washing your gloves is to leave them on and make like you are washing your hands, using a gentle soap and lukewarm water. You can use a soft brush for spots. Invert the gloves and repeat the hand washing, then rinse them thoroughly. Allow the gloves to dry away from heat. Keep the colorful gloves away from their white and cream mates to avoid dye bleed.
If you have unlined leather gloves that are clearly stamped "washable" inside, you should be able to wash them by hand successfully using the same technique, but with a couple of additional steps. Roll your washed gloves in a towel from the fingertips to the cuffs, allowing water to drain out the cuffs. When the gloves are nearly dry, put them on, allowing them to shape again to your hands. If you have let them get all the way dry, moistening your hands before pulling them on will help to get the shape back. If the gloves are not clearly marked washable, they haven't been tanned to allow washing and would need to be dry cleaned. Dry cleaning washable leather gloves negates the option of washing them. Any dry cleaned or non-washable leather gloves will shrink badly if washed.
After all, you want them to fit like a glove—not smaller!
Next time: Basic mending