I really love historical clothing, and fabrics, and sewing and trying out new things… But I also think it is important to care for what you have and make your historical garments last longer and look the part. This is also some good advice to those new in the hobby, and to customers wondering how to care for their new garments. Basically; a post with “good to knows” and things I try to think about with my own wardrobe.
Here are my best tips to care for and wear your garments so they will last longer!
Only wash if needed.
Ok, linen garments used as underwear need to be washed often, and they withstand the wear of the washing machine for years. Don’t tumble them dry, hang them to dry instead. Really dirty clothing can be presoaked in water before washing.
Wool garments will last longer if you only wash them when they are really dirty, and instead hang them out to air after each event. Grime, dirt, food stains and blood on the other hand need to be washed out after each use; sometimes it is enough to only wash the soiled part but other times a good hand wash is needed for the whole garment. Use a detergent for wool, and cold/lukewarm water. If you are machine washing your clothes, use the wool or hand wash program.
Don’t step on the hem.
It is easy done walking in a camp or climbing a stair, but it will wear out the hem or cause seams to rip.
If you are wearing long dresses and skirts draping on the floor, it means you portrait a person that has the time and money to care for such a garment, and doesn’t have to do heavy work, instead of strolling around and holding up the dress with a hand or two. Look at historical paintings; all the dresses that pools on the floor or have a train is worn by ladies holding them up while walking.
If you have your hands full, hike up the dress with an (extra) belt or cord around the waist.
Getting dressed and undressed.
Historical garments often feel differently on the body than modern ones, and many persons experience that they move differently while wearing them. This is a que to the action of dressing too; don’t jump into your hose like you would do with a pair of sweatpants. Instead, take time to dress carefully, adjusting the garments so they feel good on your body.
Never jank jackets, tunics or dresses down, instead carefully slip them on. If they are tight, move them slowly on and always unbutton or lace up the parts needed. Buttons and lacing are not just for show, they are essential parts for getting the clothes on, and then creating a smooth fit.
When pulling a tight dress over the head, ask for assistance when dressing or undressing. After all, the highly fashionable medieval person would have help getting dressed.
Care for and mend garments at once.
Most modern people are not used to mending clothes, but rather throw them away. Create habits after each event when you wash, air and mend clothing at once. Don’t leave dirty clothing lying in the wardrobe, it could attract moths, and remember to mend holes and ripped seams at once before the hole gets bigger.
Store your garments well.
Hanging light clothing is good, but heavy dresses and coats should not be stored on hangers, they may be stretched. Fold or roll them loosely and put them in the closet. I also like to keep my clothing in plastic containers to avoid moths, and take them out to air every once in a while (like autumn and spring).
What are you using the outfit for?
Weapons practice, heavy work, sweat and dirt will wear your clothes out much faster than strolling around at events and markets. I have dresses in mint condition that are 8 years old, while a customer of mine completely ripped his garment up in under a year doing weapons training and fighting. Consider what you will use your clothing for, and consider doing dirty work in your undergarments or a sturdy kirtle made for the purpose. Switch to your nice clothing afterwards or for shows (just like they did during medieval times).
A sturdy and practical dress made a bit shorter and with good stretch for moving