These are sneaky. Now let me be very, very, very clear. I am not talking about legitimate repairs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with securing loose buttons, sewing popped seams, re-securing loose trim, or stitching a loose hem. You actually should pay more for a vintage dress that is in ready to wear condition.
It’s the things that are hidden that I am getting at. Alters and repairs that should be disclosed and aren’t.
I have missed a few of these over the years. You just about have to turn a garment inside out to tell. And when I have missed them, I ended up giving refunds. So let my pain be a lesson. There were also repair techniques I was told were acceptable and standard that I later learned were not. So beware.
Hems - Has the hem been moved up or down? Always check. Let down can be reset to the original length, but shortened can be tricky if a crease line is there. Is the hem tape rayon? Or lace? Lace is most likely a replacement. Not all manufacturers used rayon hem tape, but is it an indicator. If the hem has been cut and permanently shortened, you want to know. And not pay mint condition price.
An ethical seller will tell you the hem has been altered. They will also tell you if it has been reset to the original length.
Buttons - Have they been replaced? Check the threads and the size. They should fit easily, but not too easily through the buttonholes. If original, the thread should generally match the fabric and should all be the same. If the buttons are the same, but some threads are different, it just means some have been re-sewn. This is not a big deal. You or your seamstress can stitch it in the correct color thread. The buttons should be appropriate for the garment - wash and wear dresses wouldn’t have breakable glass buttons.
Again, a dealer on the up and up will disclose if buttons have been replaced with period appropriate ones. The same with hooks and snaps.
Seam and Waist Alterations - Look inside skirt and waist bands - have pieces been added? Have the seams been let out or taken in? Again, something you want to know before you purchase. Not because it can’t be set back to the original if you want, but it will take time and money to do so. And if it’s been taken in, you may have permanent stitching holes that show. Now, as a wearer, the current size may be exactly what you want. I am just saying, you want to know.
Mended Holes - Oooh these get me. Look for small darts that have been taken to enclose a hole. Just a small seam on the outside shows, but the lay of the fabric will be wrong. Better for a hole to be backed with matching fabric with small stitches. As to fusing - I don’t like it, but some restoration people approve. Your choice. Just watch out for the nasty iron on hem tape - it can very damaging to remove and leaves residue.
Restyling - Oh , this is a Hot Topic. On the Pro side - reworking a piece can give life to damaged vintage that will otherwise be un-wearable and isn’t restoration or study worthy. The Con side - the design and style are permanently changed and it encourages the ‘restyling’ of perfectly good vintage dresses. Here’s the thing - all styles Come Back. Last year there were dealers cutting off maxi dresses into minis with the thinking no one would wear them at the long length. Now the stores are filled with 1970s inspired maxi dresses. Sigh.
Again, if a vintage garment has been restyled and reworked because of irreparable damage, an ethical seller will tell you.
Next UP: Part 3: Condition and Reproductions