Preserving the Archive: tips for long-term storage

Sometimes, clients will have garments they aren’t currently using, but they don’t want to part with—for one valid reason or another. Here are some tips on how to store items to ensure the best possible outcome for preserving them. Scroll down for my suggestions on what (and what not) to store for the long-haul.

  1. Launder and/or Dry Clean before packing away.  Never store unclean clothing—tiny bits of body oils or deodorant/food residue will ruin a garment over time. Remove all dry cleaner’s plastic when storing long term.
  2. Protect everything. For folded clothing, use clear plastic bins with snap-on lids.  For hanging clothes, a garment rack with either a sheet draped over top or cloth garment bags with zippers.  You want some light exposure (but not direct) and some airflow (vacuum bags aren’t great for long term). You also want to keep the dust away.
  3. Store in a dry area with some natural light, but again, not direct sunlight. Cool, dry attics work well. Dark, damp basements do not. A cool cedar closet with a small window is ideal.
  4. Wool is tricky!  Using cedar bricks or even a cedar closet doesn’t always guarantee that moths won’t get at it over time. Clear bins with snap-on lids that let in a little bit of light seem to be the best bet, but click here for some more thorough ideas (DIY moth balls; freezers!!). Moths love soiled fabric so clean completely before you store.

Click on the above images to link to the item (all found at The Container Store).  These are all useful for seasonal (as well as long-term) storage, too.

Clients often ask me what is “OK” to keep.

Store the item if:

  • It is super-specific and you may wear it one day in the future to A) an art opening  B) a costume party or C) someone’s wedding.
  • It is just a bit too big or too small (5 pounds or so).  No need to keep these in your everyday closet.  The only items in there should fit perfectly and be ready to wear right now.
  • You wore it for A) someone’s Christening B) someone’s Bat Mitzvah or C) your rehearsal dinner and it just makes you super-happy to know you have it.
  • It was a gift from your A) aunt B) mom or C) mother in law—some female relative or close friend—but you’ll never wear it and can’t live with yourself if you give it away. Only a few of these!
  • You really love it; it fits; you’re just not wearing it right now. Not an overwhelming number of these!

I advise against storing items if:

  • It is more than one or two sizes too big or too small.  If your weight should fluctuate, you will most likely want something new.
  • It’s dated but you paid a lot of money for it.  Prime example:  beautiful business clothing with no stretch in the fabric.  Really hard to wear these items again—between the cut and the fabric, they most likely will never feel “right.”
  • You found it on sale; it never quite fit right or isn’t really “you” but maybe your A) daughter B) mother or C) friend’s daughter’s friend's cousin might like it someday. Ask your daughter and if she says no, then release it :)