Among the many vintage handbags we have collected and cared for over the years, vintage leather bags raise particular questions - Can I get this leather wet? Do I need to clean it? How do I store it?
And of all the many types of vintage leather handbags, Coach bags have more particular instructions than most. That's because vintage Coach bags are made of tanned leather that is otherwise unfinished. This lack of treatment gives them an entirely unique, natural feel but it also leaves Coach leather open to blemishes and burnishing, sometimes considered "good patina" on a vintage design.
Here's a 1982 pamphlet from one of those very bags:
At Vintage Vixen our usual answer about how to care for vintage leather is simple - First, clean it lightly and sparingly with saddle soap. Second, and only if needed, moisturize it with a good quality leather conditioner. In both steps, test the cleaning agent first in an inconspicuous area, let it dry and assess any change.
By the way, we do not use products like neat's foot oil. Saddle soap is easily obtained at a local drug store, and you can find museum quality leather conditioner online at places like Preservation Solutions. We have used this company to restore potentially unsaleable leathers with beautiful results... some of them seen on movie sets after their reconditioning here.
But I digress... The Coach Leatherware instructions below will illuminate handbag collectors as to what Coach itself recommends for cleaning their unaltered natural leathers. It's interesting to see that they actually recommend rinsing off saddle soap under running water, to the point that the leather is "soaking wet". I have not attempted this, so I cannot say if a vintage Coach bag will like this kind of treatment. If you know, enlighten us with a comment! We would love to hear from you.
As you plan how to care for your vintage leather bags, remember that leather is a skin, and it "breathes" (expands and contracts) with its surrounding environment. Just like you protect your skin with shade and clothing, we always suggest protecting vintage leather purses from the elements - whether it's rain outside or dust in the closet.
It might seem obvious, but leather care (and especially care of vintage handbags) is a love of ours, so we were excited to share this tidbit from the Coach Leatherware company. Until next time, Vixens!