Typically when buying a vintage coat, you should follow a few tried and true guidelines. (Unless, of course, you are buying from a reputable store like WallflowerVintage.com – we inspect and clean all the vintage items for you.)
If you are shopping at an estate sale, thrift shop, garage sale, etc. here are a few things you should be on the look out for:
- Check for moth holes on wool coats. If you still buy it, air it outside for a while in case the moth still lives there.
- Two trouble spots on coats that tend to wear faster are under the arms and in the pockets – carefully inspect these two areas for stressed seams, holes and discoloration.
- Check the lining – sometimes the lining ‘rots’ and will shred if pulled.
- Check and see if all the buttons, fasteners, belts etc are intact. It can be disappointing to get home and find a rhinestone button or two missing.
- Try on the coat for fit – don’t go by the size label – sizes have changed over the years – what used to be a size 14 is now a size 6!
- Check the sleeve length, many coats from the fifties have ¾ sleeves – much shorter than today. Be prepared to invest in some long gloves!
- Be aware that in the 50s fur collars were sewn onto 1940 fashions, if you don’t like the look they can be easily removed.
- If you’re buying vintage fur, be sure to pull on the fur (really pull hard) and if fur comes off in your hand, the fur has dry rot and cannot be repaired. (note: it can be worn, but don’t spend a lot on it).
- Know your labels – there’s no bigger thrill than getting a vintage designer coat for $20.00!
- Lastly: buy what you love – a little wear here and there gives the coat character and if you’re handy with a needle and thread… even better.
Cleaning your vintage find:
Once you get your coat home, don’t fret if it has a musty, old smell – just follow these easy directions*:
Spray the coat completely in ten parts water to one part Eucalan wool wash. Roll the coat in a towel to wick away excess moisture, hang to dry, then steam. You can find Eucalan wool wash at fine knitting stores and online.
* not recommended for fur – just air out outdoors on a nice day.