Fear and Failure.


Early this spring I went to a monster estate sale of a a very fashionable woman who kept every garment she ever wore and then some. Gorgeous silk printed jumpsuits, leather bell bottoms, mod mini dresses, acres of garments! I came away with a lighter wallet and a huge buzz. Perhaps it was the lighting or my excitement of the score but when I started my post sale ritual of soaking, washing and detailed inspection of my haul I discovered the kiss of death for any vinatge clothing lover, damage from long term smoking. The gorgeous 1960′s Malcolm Starr metallic brocade suit I was so proud of was pretty much beyond all repair. This suit had not been worn in decades and the sleeves and bottom of the dress and jacket were darkened from smoke. I brought the suit to a dry cleaner in my neighborhood who looked at me like I was nuts, I wanted to take the risk! The suit came back just as gross. I HAD to admit defeat as much as it killed me. The fabric was even too damaged to re-use. I did however manage to salvage the buttons. That suit taught me a valuable lesson about inspecting garments before I get them home, getting them into proper lighting and really looking at it with a truly objective eye.


The second suit I picked up at the same sale was a pale pale pink quilted sheath dress and bolero jacket trimmed in fur. It was covered in a fine waxy yellow film. I took it to a different but equally cranky dry cleaners. No success. This garment came back un-waxy but still stained to the point of ombre. I must have soaked that thing in oxi-clean 4 times! I have had great success in the past with Oxi-clean and it just wasn’t cutting it. I was getting the point of no return and totally losing all patience with anything suit related. I was resigned to never buy another. Failure again! Only as a last resort I soaked in a very mild bleach solution, I had nothing to lose.

I have always been a little intimidated by bleach and always used it for disinfecting or just for white cotton anythings. My mother always warned me about how powerful bleach can be and to use it with caution.

Much to my surprise it worked! The solution removed the dark staining and did not damage the fabric or fade the beautiful peachy pink. I used about 1 quarter cup in a bathtub filled up almost 1/3 of the way. Soaking time about 10 minutes, rinsed very well, hung in the fresh air to dry.

Another item that totally failed was a saffron silk chiffon tent dress with a full Egyptian style beaded collar. No tag or label, but a really sweet 1960s piece. Quite possibly a chic party look the owner had made while she was pregnant. The silk chiffon literally disintegrated when I washed it in cool water. I had every intention of restoring it with new fabric and hand rolled hems, but the chances of finding exactly the right color silk yada yada yada… The collar was the real stunner of the piece and now stands alone.






I am still searching for my perfect dream-come-true dry cleaners! Any suggestions for a Brooklyn girl? Preferably skilled AND polite!

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