Sep 272011
teen room accessory display idea with vintage ladder

Teen room display of heirloom accessories.

Have you ever realized textiles are part of your life from birth to death? Those carefully crafted garments, from baby items to wedding dresses, worn on special occasions tend to be pieces of the past you retain. Preserving those treasured keepsakes, especially proudly displayed heirloom clothing, can be a challenge.

Protection First

Light, temperature, humidity, dust, and insects along with improper storage and display can cause irreparable damage. Knowing how to properly display heirlooms will preserve them from rapid deterioration. The greatest threats to your displays are:

  • Light causes the worst damage. While UV radiation from sunlight and fluorescent bulbs are the most harmful, the entire light spectrum causes fading and brittle fibers.
  • Excessive heat and humidity accelerate deterioration plus provide a breeding ground for insects, mold, and mildew.
  • Dust acts like small knives cutting into fibers and will be the greatest problem with your collection.

Proper display can reduce these threats. Control humidity with humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Keep a constant flow of air to prevent mold and mildew. Avoid excessive heat by regulating with air-conditioning systems. Regularly inspect for insects (holes and tiny droppings are evidence) and vacuum to remove dust. Keep your display out of any direct light source.

One of the best methods of protection is seasonal rotation. Display for a few months then return to storage to rest the remainder of the year. Switching out items allows several to be displayed but still extends lifetime of each.

Display Correctly

Get creative with your display but follow these tips to protect your heirlooms:

  • Wood must never contact fabric; coat wood with water-borne polyurethane to seal acids.
  • Use 100% cotton or poly-cotton blends mounting fabrics that are pre-washed to remove finishes and sizing.
  • Float any framed item (all edges are visible) leaving plenty of breathing room inside frame
  • Use Plexiglas (contains an ultraviolet filter) instead of glass; glass should never come in direct contact with fabric.
  • Only use archival paper (cardboard, mat board, decorative paper) in mounting heirlooms.
  • Rods, hangers, or dress forms should be padded with pre-washed cotton fabric.
kids room display ideas for vintage clothing

Kids’ brightly colored clothing makes a great display. Be sure to pad the hangers and rotate back into storage to lengthen fabric life. Keep out of direct light.

Vintage dress forms can be used to display dresses from the past. Be sure to cover form with fabric, vacuum regularly to remove dust, and rotate into storage for periodic rest.

For a touch of vintage in small rooms, add an heirloom hat on a pedestal. Cover with a dome to protect from dust.

Hang baby items from decorative hooks using padded hangers. Be sure to check for pests, vacuum for dust, and keep away from sunlight.

heirloom clothing display ideas

Love the idea but not for permanent storage. Mold can grow where textiles touch glass. Eliminate the problem by providing air circulation with a loosely covered top or mesh bottom.

heirloom clothing display ideas for baby nursery

Use a shadowbox display for items that cannot lay flat. Notice the shoes do not touch the frame. Use acid-free archival paper for backing and Plexiglas cover.

heirloom clothing display ideas for baby nursery

Keepsake baby clothes can be mounted on pre-washed fabric by carefully stitching in place. Be sure to leave plenty of room around heirlooms. If glass is used, make sure fabric does not touch.

How you display your heirlooms will depend on condition of the item, but whatever you choose, know your kids will come to appreciate family a little more, each time they look at the special accessories in their rooms.


For more information on archival storage and display of textiles:

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