I have a thin cotton blouse, an heirloom belonging to my partner. It’s about 100 years old. How should I wash/store/iron it?
If the fabric is reasonably stable (without holes and strong enough to handle without causing any signs of damage), it’s likely in good enough condition to wear. A good tip for wearing vintage clothing is to use “dress shields” – pieces of fabric fastened at the armpit to protect the fabric from sweat and prevent staining.
If you think the blouse needs to be cleaned, I recommend washing it flat in a bath of warm water with just a little detergent (without fabric softener). Use a sponge to gently press the foam into the fabric, stopping if you see signs of damage at any time. After rinsing, dry the blouse by rolling it up in a towel, then let it dry flat on a fresh towel, smoothing out creases as much as possible. By doing so, you can likely avoid the need for ironing! If some creases remain, iron on the lowest setting possible.
It’s best to store the blouse flat, padding the folds with tissue paper, and protected from light.
Kind regards Hannah, textile conservator
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