December 29, 2011

Ask The Vixen: Valuing Vintage Clothing

Q: Dear Vintage Vixen: I have visited your site on numerous occasions and am a fan. I am writing to get advice from you regarding clothing. I lost all of my clothes (and belongings for that matter) in a water back-up/flood situation and am currently negotiating a settlement with my insurance company. They are claiming that the depreciation for apparel/footwear is in the neighborhood of 80 - 90%!

My clothing is high quality, i dabble in clothes collecting as a hobby, and take good care of my clothes. As you are an expert in clothes preservation i was wondering if you would either review my list and give an estimate with regard to depreciation or if you could refer me to an article, guide or other source/expert on clothing deprecation.

A: You wrote that you're seeking info on estimates of your clothing that has been damaged in a flood situation. I've not had particular experience with depreciation, though generally stated with vintage clothing, the older and rarer it is, the more valuable it can be. By degrees, this removes the garment from the sphere of used clothing and nudges it toward the realm of antiques and collectibles. This is totally backward to the average insurance company, who often assumes a garment is a garment. Thus, if a year-old garment is worth half price, a 50-year-old garment must be worth pennies. So I have sympathy with your dilemma, but I'm not certain how much help I may be.

If you got estimates of retail values on your vintage clothing by having them appraised, then the insurance company may be willing to look at your clothing's value as -collectibles- instead of garments. There can be a great difference between clothing that is a purchased collectible, as art, not a worn (and presumably worn out) garment. I don't know whether the insurance co will see this, but I do. However, even if they do see it, they might then assume you would have gotten special insurance on the clothes alone if they're of that much value to you.

It's also a bit of a dilemma to have items appraised after damage has occurred. There's no guarantee on the appraiser's part that the items were really mint condition (or whatever's claimed) beforehand.

For other info on apparel depreciation (apart from the collectibles world), there's not a lot I've seen. One book that does discuss it is pretty pessimistic. It's called "Taking Care of Clothes" by Mablen Jones, and it says that clothing even a year or two old is only worth a fraction of the original, discussed in the context of a dry cleaner losing or ruining a garment. You might try looking up similar books for info in this area.


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