If you are new (or old) to buying vintage you are probably only to aware of the potential for there being damage or wear and tear to a beloved piece.  Many a hope has been dashed when we have come across an amazing find only to discover it is moth eaten or beyond repair.  So here's our list of what we see some of the biggest problem areas when buying vintage, by no means is this list exhaustive just the biggest irritants to us when we are on a vintage hunt.


One of our absolute bug bears with vintage dresses is the zips- this year alone we have bought four vintage dresses for our personal wardrobes, all of which have had broken zips!  And in the shop we have had to repair or replace at least 5.  We always check zips before we source an item for the shop- but what to check though? And more importantly how can you fix it..

  • Missing teeth in the zip- the zip will then no longer close properly
  • The zip is popping open at some points... could be one of a few problems, the slider has loosened or the teeth are out of alignment.  If it's the teeth you can use pliers to try and realign it, if its the slider likewise use your trusty pliers to squeeze the slider together again.
  • The zip is  feeling a bit sticky- run a graphite pencil or lip balm (colourless) along the teeth and slowly inch up the zip.
  • The pull is missing from the zip, so although the zip works it's tricky business pulling it up again. Simple solution, use a safety pin or a loop of ribbon as a new zip pull.


Little unexplained nibbled holes over your find, or small white balls?  Could be moths and their eggs- so be warned. These are every vintage lovers nemesis- the usual solution to a moth infestation is to boil wash everything to within an inch of its fabricy life.  With vintage it would probably mean the end of its life to boil wash it.  There are a few tips and tricks though to deal with this problem, so you don't need discard the item if you own it already, but personally we tend to avoid a find with moth holes as we are very nervous about any chance of introducing a moth infestation:

  • If you can boil wash it. If not put it in the freezer.
  • Moths hate smell and movement so regularly fluff your clothes, check your wardrobe, and leave scented lavender bags or cedar wood blocks in clothing storage areas.
  • Holes can be darned up, or you could patch them up.
  • There are also pesticide alternatives.

Worn Fabric

This can be one of those issues which quite often is a make or breaker for a vintage piece, as usually wear occurs in the most conspicuous areas because of the amount of use.  However, just because the fabric is worn it does not mean you have to write it off.  This gorgeous 1940s day dress had extensive wear that the original owners had repaired, rather than spoiling the outfit it improves the appearance adding an extra dimension to it; likewise my favourite vintage jacket which has extensive wear and tear, but rather than ruin it for me it makes it more loveable! You can read ore about my obsession with my perfect jacket here.


This is usually the first thing you look for on a vintage piece, is it stained.  Answer is 5 times out of 10 yes it is. How bad is the satin and how easy it is to deal with are the important points though.

  • Check underarms for sweat/deodorant stains.  Especially on white clothes.  Sometimes dress shields will be in place and these can be removed - the fabric below will have been been saved from stains.
  • There are various tricks and ways of removing differing stains (too may to mention here!) that you can try from baking soda to lemon juice. 
  • "Nasal stains" as we call them are basically when an item of clothing smells and smells bad.  Washing it usually does the trick but not always.  Line drying in the fresh air often helps, or you can fill a spray bottle with a dilute vodka to neutralise the smell.

This was just a very short and sweet description of the key problem area when looking at vintage, it is by now means exhaustive just a few things for the novice vintage shopper to look out for and possible ways to rectify them.  Share with us your bugbears on vintage clothing in the comments below and top tips on how to fix them.

Buying Vintage

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