You need an assortment of items when sorting through and selling vintage clothing from a selection of old buttons to lint rollers and stain remover. The most essential piece of kit I’ve discovered though are rubber gloves! It’s a case of ‘if you know, you know!’
I’ve been sifting around in old clothes since my teens and doing it as a business for nearly twenty years, delving into pockets has turned up some interesting items. Interesting usually in the sense of, “What’s the hell’s that?!”
Common finds include keys, safety pins, lists – which range from shopping to life goals, and rubber bands. I’ve found badges, jewellery (nothing valuable), pegs, hair accessories, jigsaw pieces, business cards and coins. By far the most frequent find and one you least want to stick your bare hand into has to be the used tissue or handkerchief. Hence rubber gloves!
From heaving the full sacks of vintage stock home to laundering and repairing each piece, it’s not the most glamourous of jobs but it’s the part of my work that inspires the most wonder. The anticipation of what lies within each sack and the delight when a rare beauty is revealed. Each vintage treasure has its own story. No matter the age or condition, these clothes all had a previous life, most several decades ago in another era.
I’m uncovering swinging sixties frocks that have twisted the night away. There have been drape jackets complete with cloakroom tickets and beatnik jumpers bearing the fag burns of teenage angst from another age. So many retro sports tops come my way, complete with battle scars of the football terraces, jeans too that have a front seam carefully pressed into them. Different days, fashions and styles. The disco lights have shone on dresses that lit up the dancefloor with their acrylic shimmer and colourful prints. Biker jackets reveal the chapters their wearer held allegiance too and denim jackets cheer pop idols while hand painted slogans shout political statement across t-shirt chests.
Even as they lie folded and hidden from view, their history beguiles me. You just never know what will appear, where it came from or how long it’s been tucked away in a wardrobe. I feel privileged to get first dibs at some of our most coveted clothing, sought after items. It’s mostly true, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Fast fashion has torn apart the fashion industry, leaving a gap in the market where quality and individuality are sadly rarely seen. In vintage clothing so much is handmade, carefully crafted from beautiful fabrics. Clues remain from an age where mend and make do existed and thankfully, these treasures have been kept at the back of a wardrobe and not sent to the landfill mountain we now witness.
I will therefore don my rubber gloves for as long as my vintage supplies keep coming. I will wash them, mend them, replace their lost buttons and display them with pride. Their stories continue to beguile and entertain me and those who share my passion for vintage fashion for decades to come.