Smokin’ Hot Vintage

Sometimes, vintage stinks!

Now, don’t get me wrong! I love this industry. I love vintage clothing. I’ve collected and worn vintage, upcycled, and thrifted clothing my entire life, going back to my childhood when my grandmother would scour the thrift shops for cute clothes she could dress me up in.

My twenties were spent in New York City’s packed-to-the-gills vintage and thrift shops, hunting down unique looks on my extraordinarily meager writer’s income.

Each look was definitely quirky and one-of-a-kind. But most of my vintage finds have had one thing in common. Stench!

Sometimes it’s those pesky mothballs from hanging around in Grandmother’s musty attic for 40 years. But most of the time, it’s smoke! I’m talking 40 to 50 years worth of hazy bars and discos.

There was a time, kids, when literally everyone smoked. And even if you didn’t smoke, your clothes sure did.

And this isn’t some reference to the 50s and 60s where smoking was even permitted on airplanes. No, no. I remember when my first husband and I got together, way back in the late 1990s, he would go out for a night on the town and come home smelling like an ashtray. And the man never smoked cigarettes himself. His clothes reeked of smoke for days.

So it’s hardly a surprise when I dredge up some vintage treasure, some absolutely gorgeous piece that I can’t wait to revitalize, only to discover it STANKS!

Case in point: an absolutely stellar late-70s, early-80s capelet dress in the cutest shade of pink I just secured for the shop. It didn’t smell too off-putting when I found it. And this is usually the case. It typically takes a least one washing for me to realize the film of cigarette smoke is trapped deep in the fabric.

Let’s take a look at the aftermath of the SECOND washing. Yes, this is the second cycle.

Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the grungy shade of brown-gray left behind. There’s a not-insignificant level of satisfaction in knowing this is no longer in the dress itself.

It will likely take at least two or three more washings before I deem the dress fit for the store. If it smells even a little off, I can’t bring myself to list it.

So, how do I do it?

I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I’m sure by now you all know how important white vinegar is in any vintage reseller’s arsenal. I live by it. It removes tough odors and stains, and it’s all natural. But I’ll also use baking soda. It’s another natural odor remover. And a good soaking in both will help lift those nasty odors out in no time. I’m also a fan of plant-based detergents like Mrs. Meyers.

Vintage is important to me because it reduces carbon emissions. The more clothing that is recycled and reused, the less likely you are to buy new clothes, reducing the demand for mass-produced fast fashion that’s rapidly killing the planet. But that doesn’t mean we have to stink. Let’s give it up for un-stinkifying our vintage wardrobes!

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