The Cats Pajamas: Everything you need to know about vintage fashion

I’m Miss Kitty! No, not the little cat, silly – that’s Louise, my 2,000 Calico photo-bomber. I love to share my love, knowledge and vintage adventures with anyone who cares to read them. I have spent more than 35 years of my nine lives chasing after vintage estates, antique and vintage clothing shows as well as anyone’s closet or attic to procure items for my collection. Oh, and please feel free to write me, dahling -and ask me anything pertaining to vintage – I’ll do my best to answer at

If you’re taking your first steps into purchasing vintage fashion and footwear it’s really important to remember that, while they are meant to be worn, loved and enjoyed, in many cases, particularly with shoes, the items will need special care and attention to make sure they can continue to have a long and happy life.

Here’s how to look after and care for the different styles of vintage footwear you might have in your collection to ensure you get the best out of them.

General upkeep of vintage shoes

Keep away from other shoes: Always store your antique footwear separately to your other shoes. Generally, while vintage shoes are very well made and constructed, they are easier to damage or crush, simply because of their age and the condition they may be in when purchased.

Store them in pairs, preferably on a proper shoe rack that can be kept somewhere safe.

Even better is trying to purchase something along the lines of an archive box (you can buy these from stores that sell home wares or even places that sell genealogy supplies) they are usually made with acid-free paper or specialist plastics that will not harm the fabrics or leathers the shoes are made of.

They are not cheap, depending on where you buy from, but really will look after your footwear.

Make sure they smell sweet: There’s no delicate way to put it – vintage shoes are going to carry odors, whether from being stored and not worn, or because they have been worn and picked up the particular scent of their previous owner.

Dealing with such matters in precious garments like this is difficult, as you do not want to damage the insoles or lining with harsh modern chemicals.

One tip is to very lightly dampen the insole by using an atomiser filled with water. Onto this lightly damp surface, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda. Leave the shoes out to dry thoroughly for a few hours or overnight and then simply shake off the excess soda.

Keeping vintage shoes clean

Keeping vintage shoes clean can be problematic, but not an insurmountable issue to tackle.

The main thing to do, as with making sure the shoes smell sweet, is to try and avoid putting them in contact with harsh chemicals.

Generally, the cleaning process will be different depending on the sort of material the shoe is made of.

Leather shoes – If you have a beautiful pair of vintage leather brogues or boots, perhaps a set or two of Jeffery West shoes or any other well-known designer brand such as a great pair of vintage Roger Vivier pumps that you want to either repair or keep in good condition, then one of the easiest ways to keep them clean is, believe it or not, to raid your kitchen cupboard.

Take an ordinary spray atomiser; into it put quarter of a cupful of white vinegar (the distilled variety) and then half a cupful of olive oil. Give this mixture a very good shaking before every use so that the ingredients are mixed and well distributed.

Now, take a soft-to-medium bristle brush that is specially made for shoes and give them a going over. This will remove anything loose, such as dust and dried on mud or other detritus.

Next, lightly spray over the prepared oil and vinegar mix then use a soft cloth to evenly spread the mixture over the shoes. Finally, take a second soft cloth to buff off any remaining polish and give the shoes a good shine.

Fabric or canvas shoes – These can be tricky to care for and may require specialist handling from someone who repairs vintage clothing or jewelery for a living.

If you are in any doubt, don’t attempt to clean the footwear yourself, take it straight to a specialist. However, spot stains can be cleaned at home providing the right amount of care is taken.

Only use the gentlest of soaps on them, preferably ones that are formulated without ingredients like sodium laureth sulphate or its equivalents. In many cases it is better to just use water and no detergent, unless the stain is very ground in.

Run a small basin full of lukewarm water and use a soft cloth to gently spot treat any areas that need it. Gently sponge as much water out of the shoe as you can, before leaving it to air dry.

Prevention always is better than cure

If shoes are looked after properly and stored correctly from the moment you buy them then issues such as cleaning or repairs will occur infrequently and a good program of maintenance should be all that you need.

Vintage shoes are there to be worn and loved not just kept in a box and stared at.

It’s really important that you have fun buying them and looking after them, too!

Content courtesy of Miss Kitty’s blog,

The Cats Pajamas is an online store based out of Montoursville that specializes in vintage clothing.

The column will run the first Friday of each month.