In the early part of the 20th century, people spent a lot on luggage, and expected it to last them a lifetime. A lot of that luggage is still with us, and with a little care, that luggage can become a valuable part of an antiques collection or theatrical prop box.
If you run across an old suitcase in an attic or at a yard sale, chances are it will need cleaning. Except for leather, most luggage can be cleaned with a soft cloth, dampened and treated with mild soap. Air-dry it -- outside if weather permits -- to dispel any odors. For leather, use a cream leather cleaner (available at most shoe stores) and then follow up with a leather conditioner to restore natural oils.
Vintage luggage is fun to look at, but makes an impractical choice for modern travel. For one thing, it is usually so heavy that it is impractical to use it, given today's airline weight restrictions. Also, vintage luggage was not designed to fit under today's airline seats or in overhead bins. Finally, it doesn't include the convenient features like wheels and telescoping handles that make it so much more convenient to take your belongings along. Besides, you've got a piece of history there -- particularly if it's a family piece. Why subject it to the uncertain treatment of TSA inspectors and airline baggage handlers?
Instead, save a restored vintage luggage piece for show, for occasional car trips, or for a funky accent as part of your home decor.
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