Clothing is probably one of the easiest forms of “art collecting” to get into. Many pieces, even those of the “luxury brand” nature, can be found for a couple thousand, if not a couple of hundred dollars, which is a fraction of the price of most paintings or sculptures. However, old clothes can be very temperamental — sensitive to certain conditions and seemingly showing wear when you have taken care of them so well. These tips are also not just for collectors, but also for those wanting to save their wedding dresses or other heirloom garments.
Wash your hands!
In these pandemic times, this adage is applicable to any circumstance, but this is especially important for handling antiques. The dirt and oils on our hands may speed up wear on the already damaged fabric over time, so it is best to take this precaution. Gloves are not recommended because you want to be able to feel the clothes and know where the weak points are. However, remember to take off your rings and any other jewellery which has the potential to snag the fabric.
Get some archival boxes
Buying the actual clothing is only half the work and expenditure for this hobby. The appropriate boxes, acid-free tissue paper and other temperature/humidity regulation devices. Archival boxes can be purchased at places that sell museum supplies, and these are acid-free, opaque and waterproof boxes that can keep your garments safe. If you are trying to store large clothing like gowns or skirts, bigger boxes like the ones containerstore sells are most ideal. You want to minimise folding the garment, if possible, as the folding creates stress points. Ideally, there should be one garment per box but most of us do not have sufficient space. Thus, if you are putting multiple garments in a box, those which are heavier and in better condition should go to the bottom. Just use ample acid-free tissue paper to create sufficient “cushion” between the garments.
Cataloguing is not only a good way to track your collection but can also be very satisfying to look at. Lady Rebecca Fashions goes through her way of making an inventory spreadsheet in excel. However, a few basic categories/columns could be a brief description, approximate date of manufacture, brand and condition. Another YouTuber who has tips on cataloguing and care of old garments is Abby Cox, who also has a masters in clothing conservation.
Beware the creepy crawlies
Unfortunately, Singapore’s climate can create more problems than if you were living somewhere dry. The humidity can speed up mould growth and attract insects like silverfish. A low-cost way of reducing the humidity is to use silca gel packets or moisture absorbers. Moths can also be an issue, and other than using mothballs, there are many “natural” solutions like cedar that are available online. Another solution would be to get a storage facility. Here at Storefriendly, all our facilities are temperature-controlled, and air-conditioned 24/7. You can opt for robotic storage, which allows easy retrieval any time of the day. Your goods can be accessed with a tap of a card, and Gary, our Gobot will retrieve your cabinet to a designated terminal kiosk.