Tag Archives: collecting vintage

Collection Organization Time

It’s been really busy around here, as I have been working on upgrading my collection records. While all of you have been busy watching Marie Kondo helping people declutter their homes, I’ve been busy making sure all my stuff and the information about each piece is readily accessible.

I recently did a card count (I have always kept a card for each item of clothing and for each accessory) and discovered that I now have over one thousand pieces in my collection. That’s not counting any of the paper items. I’ve been fairly conscientious about record keeping, but after reading the book in my photo above, Managing Costume Collections, I realized that much of what is known about each piece is either in my head or in an old blog post. So much of the supporting evidence I’ve collected (much of which has been emailed to me by many of you) is available only in files on my computer.

One of the things Louise Coffey-Webb pointed out is how fast digital systems change, and how quickly things like floppy disks become obsolete. This combined with a recent major computer failure has convinced me that hard copies are good. Actually, I’ve always thought that, but I have been too lazy and cheap to invest the time and money to make sure all the information I have about each item is stored together.

Several years ago I wrote about my storage and organization system. While all that still works for me, I have decided to add a physical file for each item. I’m starting with the newest acquisitions, and hope I can also work through my collection so that eventually most items have their own folders.

Every item has a number that starts with a year close to the time it was made and worn. I don’t have every year in the system, only those that end in three or seven, like 1943, 1947, 1953, and so on. My new skating sweater is from the early 1940s, so it is categorized as 43. The 1 means it is a garment (2 is for shoes, 3 is for hats, and so on), and the 29 means it is the twentieth-ninth clothing item for the early 1940s.

This number is used everywhere the sweater is referenced – on the folder, the file card, in the book of photos, and on a piece of twill tape sewn inside the sweater. Hopefully there is no way the information I’ve gathered about this sweater can be separated from the garment.

So, what goes in the file? So far I’ve got photos and information about the roller skating club from the yearbook of the school and an ad from the rink where the club held their meetings. I have the obituaries of the brothers who were the likely owners of the sweater. I’ve included the sales slip. On the front I’ve attached photos of the sweater, and have listed the contents. At the bottom of the folder is the date I blogged about it. Eventually I might find a catalog that shows my sweater style for sale. That will be added to the file. Hopefully I’ll get an email from a Przysucha heir, which will then go into the file. The possibilities are so exciting!

 

 

 

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Selling Vintage

For several years before I retired, I had a plan.  I was going to sell vintage clothing online to make a few extra bucks and to productively spend my time.  And for a while, around two years, that’s exactly what I did.  The problem was that I really did not enjoy selling.  What I wanted to do was collect and write about fashion and textile history.

So I gave up the etsy store and began spending my time researching and writing, care taking and mending.  And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

A while back I mentioned that one of the things I love about Instagram is that almost everything posted there is for sale. The problem is that I post photos of my vintage collection and finds there, and it’s quite often that someone asks if the item is for sale.  I somehow feel like I should not be teasing people showing off some of the great things I’ve found over the past twenty-five or so years of collecting.

Even here on The Vintage Traveler, I get emails all the time asking if an item I posted about is for sale.  As you have probably guessed, my answer is almost always “No,” but there are times that I have agreed to sell an item to a reader.  I have one rule that determines whether or not the item changes hands – the prospective buyer has to want the item more than I do.

I know what it is like to really want something for my collection.  I’ve written plenty of those almost begging emails myself, so I pretty much know how to judge item desire in others.

If you see something here or on Instagram that you feel you can’t live without, it never hurts to ask.  But you have to convince me that you need it more than I do, and that you will take good care of it.  And be prepared to hear, “No.”

See that cute little cat skirt?  I pulled it out of the Goodwill bins and posted a photo on Instagram.  The skirt was felt with the kittens sort of embossed onto it, and contrary to what my photo might lead you to believe, was in pretty rough shape.  The kittens were fading and peeling, and there were holes in the felt.  The skirt was for a little girl.  Still, I put it in my shopping cart to make a decision about it later.

Finally, I decided that I really had no need for it so I put it back in a bin.  Very quickly, one of the three shoppers that had been stalking me, hoping I’d discard it swooped in to get it.  That was good because I hated the thought of those kittens in a bale of rags.

By the time I got home and checked my messages, two people had already asked about the skirt.  I felt really bad about having to tell them that I didn’t even buy it!  I think my days of leaving something this great in the Goodwill are over, especially if it has a kitten on it.

I’m in the process of going through my vintage sewing patterns and books, and I’ve decided that I really do need to sell some.  So starting in November I’ll reopen the old Fuzzylizzie Vintage etsy shop for a few months to offer them.  There will probably be some fabric as well.  I’ll be sure to announce the opening when it happens.

And seriously, if you sell vintage, you need to be on Instagram.  Just don’t make it entirely about what you are selling.

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Managing a Clothing Collection

I’ve had several people ask how I store and manage my collection, so today’s post is devoted to the working side of collecting.  You have to keep in mind that I’m a collector, not a museum, but I do the best I can to preserve the items in my care.  What I do is far from perfect, but I’m always looking for ways to improve.

First, a few details about what is in the collection.  I have almost 1000 items of clothing, shoes, hats, handbags and other accessories.  The oldest items are around 100 years old, and the newest are about 40 years old.  There are very few items made from fur as it requires a more complicated storage for which I’m not equipped.

I store my collection in a late Victorian cottage we own.  It is not ideal, as there is no air conditioning.  It is heated and has humidity controls, and we are very careful about pest control.  I use two rooms that are quite dark, and in addition I have shades on the small windows that further block the light.

Most of the clothing is stored by hanging.  There are two large closets that allow for quite a bit of hanging garments.  The closet here actually has a second rack behind the one you can see.  The  colored boxes are full of shoes.

All items are hung on padded hangers for which I’ve made muslin covers.  After hanging the garment I then cover it with a cover that I’ve made from muslin or from white pillowcases.  I try to find unused ones at thrift stores.

Knits and fragile items are stored either flat or folded with padding.  Each is stored in its own muslin or linen cloth envelope.  I store these in old hatboxes that have been sprayed with an acid neutralizer.  Inside each box is a list of the contents.  I’m working toward acquiring acid free flat boxes, but they are very expensive.

I always have a piece or two on display just for inspiration.  I switch these out quite often.

Once the collection started growing, I realized I had to have a system that would make it easier to find items when I needed them.  I also needed to be recording the details of each item.  I came up with a number system, based on the estimated year of manufacture.  I limited the system to every 5 years, so items are dated 1917, 1922, 1927 and so on.  There is a number for type of item, such as 1 for clothing, 2 for shoes, 3 for hats, and so on.  Then each item is given a numeral in the order acquired.

The card above is for a late 1930s pair of pants.  I put a lot of information on the card, including a short description, a condition report, any labels, where and when acquired, and the price paid.  On the reverse of the card is other info such as any known provenance.  I also put the date of any blog post that I’ve made about the object.

I also keep a notebook for each decade that has a photo of each item, along with the item’s number.   I group items together as they might have been worn.

I also include scans of vintage ads that I find of the items, when I’m that lucky.

That is it in a nutshell.  If you want to see how far I have to go, you need to view this video of the V&S’s new storage facility.  I am humbled!

 

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