Thursday, April 2, 2009

Washing vintage doll clothes

Washing vintage doll clothes is a tricky business. Washing a doll's clothes typically detracts from a doll's originality and lowers the doll's value, particularly if you can really tell the clothing has been washed. However, dirty clothing also reduces the value.

Deciding whether to wash a doll's clothes therefore entails weighing the pros and cons — whether the doll's value will be affected more by dirty clothes or washed clothes. It can also be affected heavily by personal preference — i.e., whether you prefer a doll in your collection to be as original as possible, or as clean as possible.

In any case, whether to wash your doll's clothing is a very personal decision, so I won't give you advice on when you should or shouldn't. If you do decide to, however, this is how I prefer to wash my doll's clothing.

You will need:

* Biz laundry soap
* A large bowl or a mixing bowl
* An upside-down bowl, or a clean bottle, on which to dry the dress.

Note: Always remember to use cold water when washing vintage doll clothes. Some of the dyes were not very colorfast, and warm or hot water can cause them to run.

1) Put a small scoop of Biz into the bowl and fill with cold water, stirring to mix the detergent in as well as possible. Put the clothes in, stir again, and allow to soak. Do not scrub spots.

2) Check on the clothes and stir the water periodically. You may want to turn the clothes so all of it gets immersed in the water at some point. Change the water and Biz if the water becomes dirty or clouded.

3) Soak for up to 24 hours, checking the clothes frequently for damage caused by soaking too long, such as bleeding dye or tears in the fabric. Remove the clothes immediately if you see any of this. In my experience, cotton and taffeta hold up over 24 hours pretty well, but the more fragile organdy and satin should be taken out sooner.

4) Remove the clothing from the water and rinse under running cold water. Scuff the fabric lightly with your fingers as you rinse it to make sure none of the detergent is left in the fabric.

5) When the clothes are rinsed, you can press the clothes gently to squeeze out the extra water, but do not wring. This is very important, as wringing causes wrinkles that often do not come out again!

6) Arrange the clothing how you want it to dry. For instance, if the skirt is full and you want it to stand out a bit on the doll, arrange it flat, in a circle, with the bodice of the dress standing up. If you don't want it to stand out as much, arrange the dress over a bowl, so that the skirt hangs down around it. Be sure to puff out sleeves, etc., so that they don't dry flat or creased.

7) Allow the clothes to dry overnight. Do not use heat to dry them faster.

In my experience, this method of washing will not remove the sizing (the factory stiffness in the fabric, desireable in mint or near-mint dolls). Sometimes I've even found that vintage doll clothing that has been machine washed or ironed (which makes them limp) regains some of that desireable stiffness with this method.

Good luck!

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