How to Restore a Vintage Coach Bag: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

I’ve been wanting a tan leather cross-body bag for the summer. I could have picked up a faux leather bag in stores for under $50 OR I could pay a little more and buy/restore a Vintage Coach bag. I’ve become a fan of vintage bags since acquiring my Chanel flap bag – they often feature better workmanship and higher quality materials, plus they have a slightly distressed, lived-in look that I love! I chose the Coach Willis bag – Style #9927 in British Tan because I knew I could use it for many years – and not have to worry about threads coming loose etc. from a “fast fashion” bag.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

shirt (similar) / vest (similar) / jeans / shoes (similar)

If you’ve picked up a vintage Coach bag at an Antique Market, or tracked down a classic style on eBay, you might feel like cleaning it before using it. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to restore a vintage coach bag.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

1) Before picture – The bag arrived in good condition, and I could probably have used it as is. But I wanted to make it completely fresh and “like-new”. There are some dry patches on the front, as well as a small mark on the bottom of the bag.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

2) WASH – I filled a tub with lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon Classic Dawn dishsoap. I completely submerged the bag, opened all the zippers and soaked every single part. I let it sit for 20 minutes, then turned it around and soaked it on the other side for another 20 minutes. By now, my tan bag turned dark brown, and the water turned brownish yellow from the dye. (I had read that some dye would come out, but not to worry about it.)

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

3) RINSE – I put the bag in the kitchen sink and rinsed out the soap. I used an old toothbrush to scrub the insides of the bag – especially the base. After washing out the soap, I filled my tub with clean water and submerged the bag for another 10 minutes. This was to ensure that all soapy residue was removed. (The white marks in the picture are from reflections on the water.)

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

4) DRY – I took an old, clean towel and used it to dry off the bag, trying to absorb as much water as I could. I positioned the bag to minimize creasing, and stuffed it with paper towel at the base (to help keep its shape).

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

5) ADJUST – I let it dry over 2-3 days, checking on it 2x a day. I would carefully move it around to make sure it was drying evenly and that there was no creasing.  This picture was taken after 24 hours – although the bag turned completely dark brown after the wash, it slowly turned back to tan as it dried.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

5) CONDITION – This is the most significant step in restoring a vintage bag – bringing the leather back to life with some moisturizing conditioner. Apparently Apple Leather Conditioner is the best choice – so that’s what I went with. I used my hands to slowly massage the conditioner on every leather surface, paying special attention to the handles and trim. The conditioned leather immediately became pliable and smooth- check out the difference between treated and untreated leather in the picture below! As I applied the conditioner, some patches turned darker than others, but it all faded evenly as it dried. You can apply conditioner 1-3 times on your bag, waiting half a day in between treatments. My bag only needed 2 applications.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

6) FINISHING TOUCHES – I trimmed any loose threads and added in a Coach hangtag. The original leather hangtag was missing, but if you call Coach head office (1-888-262-6224) with your bag’s style number, they’ll send you a replacement tag for free! I guess there weren’t any British Tan hangtags in stock – so they sent me this pretty gold one to match my hardware.  With regards to hardware, apparently you can polish it with some Brasso on a q-tip (keeping it away from the leather) or you could use a jewelry cloth. I just left mine as is.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

How do you think it turned out? The leather feels much creamier and softer – I love it! Here’s a peek inside my bag – it fits so much.

Since restoring it – I’ve been using it every day. Because it has a thicker shoulder strap, it’s very easy to carry around – unlike some of the newer bags with thin straps that dig into my shoulder.

How to restore a Vintage Coach Bag step-by-step instructions Coach Willis bag Style #9927 in British Tan

Carried: Cross-body / Hand-held / Shoulder (sweater / jeans / boots (similar)

Disclaimer: This is how I cleaned my vintage Coach bag – every bag is different and I can’t guarantee that yours will turn out the same, so please proceed at your own risk. Also – these instructions are for the older, unlined leather bags, and NOT for the newer Coach leather bags with cloth lining. If in doubt, you could always bring your bag to a leather repair shop and ask them to restore it for you! Alternatively, you could purchase the reissued Coach Willis here.

I hope you enjoyed my post on how to restore a vintage Coach bag – here are some helpful posts:

Do you own any Vintage bags?


  1. Rebecca Jane
    March 21, 2016 / 8:18 pm

    It turned out beautifully! I'm always adding vintage Coach bags to my favourites on etsy even though I have a couple of newer ones, but I wondered if it might be worth it. I might just bite the bullet and get one!

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      March 22, 2016 / 1:25 am

      You should totally get one – the older ones are practically indestructible LOL 🙂

    • January 26, 2020 / 11:40 am

      How would this work to get rid of odors in a bag? I jut purchased a vintage coach bag similar to yours, only black and the seller failed to mentioned it was from a home where they smoked. The seller was great and gave me a full refund and said to donate the bag…. I’m going to try and clean it before doing that. Would this work for odors?

      • Lauren
        December 24, 2020 / 1:00 pm

        Yes it mostly likely would by potentially increasing in small amounts how much Dawn soap you use.

  2. White Cabana
    March 21, 2016 / 8:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing this how-to. I have a Roots tote that I love, but needs a refresh. I never thought of trying something like this, but now I will. Roots customer service (a few years ago) was useless when I asked for help/advice about cleaning. I need to buy that Apple conditioner.

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      March 22, 2016 / 1:28 am

      Yes – the Apple conditioner is invaluable! I use it on many of my designer bags as it has such a good reputation. Unfortunately a lot of bag customer service departments are not good at offering tips on how to take care of a bag – I think proper care tips are essential!

  3. Anonymous
    March 22, 2016 / 1:20 am

    Wow what a great transformation! Sometimes vintage bags are great! A bargain and has a real lived in

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      March 22, 2016 / 1:29 am

      Thank you! It's nice that you don't have to worry about using/messing up a vintage bag 🙂

  4. blythediva
    March 22, 2016 / 5:52 am

    Thanks for this wonderful tutorial. Where did you purchase the Apple conditioner from? It says in the link that you provided on that it doesn't ship to Canada. I have not been able to find this in Canada so far…

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      March 22, 2016 / 5:57 am

      I bought mine a couple of years back (it works well on most designer bags so I knew I wanted it!). I think I found it on Amazon or eBay – with a seller who was willing to ship to Canada. Good luck finding it – it lasts forever and you can use it on multiple bags. Oh – mine came in a kit with a cleaner too, but I never use it 😉

  5. Beautygirl 24
    March 22, 2016 / 5:49 pm

    Great post! I would never think to do this with a bag, but I can see the difference and it's amazing! I love vintage bags too, although I have yet to acquire one. This style is timeless and so is the color. Great choice! Love it 🙂

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      March 26, 2016 / 5:32 am

      Thanks Noelle – I'm surprised at how much I'm loving vintage bags – they have a lot of personality and are a fun addition to the rest of my collection 😉

  6. Carylee
    March 23, 2016 / 2:34 am

    This was an awesome read! Except now I want your bag!! Ha! And I'm glad you added the disclaimer about the cloth lining. I was wondering how all that would work! It's a gorgeous bag! Awesome before and after photos!Carylee |

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      March 26, 2016 / 5:34 am

      Thank you! I've been wanting this bag for ages (saving pictures of it etc) – I'm so glad I found one in good condition – it's always feels risky buying a vintage bag without checking it out in person 😉

  7. Jessica
    March 26, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    I'd been toying with the idea of buying a vintage Coach bag for ages, and this post inspired me to resume my search! After careful consideration, I chose a black Rambler's Legacy that I found on Etsy, and it's now on its way to me. So, thank you for both the restoration guide AND the reminder!

  8. Unknown
    July 20, 2016 / 12:39 am

    Getting a new coach tag by calling that toll free number is NOT TRUE. You'll have to verify the purchase and the purchase had to be directing from coach. So think twice when you assume you could buy a 2nd hand bag and replace a coach tag.

    • Kathy Gutzman Dowdle
      May 15, 2018 / 4:51 pm

      No. I have received several replacement tags without jumping through ANY of the verifications you mentioned. I simply emailed them all my address info and the number printed inside the bags.

    • Kathy Gutzman Dowdle
      May 15, 2018 / 4:54 pm

      I restore vintage Coach bags too,and I actually just put my bags in my front loading washer on the gentle cycle. After that i use the same pro essential you do.

      • Mavis
        January 13, 2019 / 7:28 pm

        Did the dye stain your washer

    • Tina
      August 1, 2019 / 10:34 am

      They absolutely do send out replacement tags for free. This is a few years later and I have gotten two tags free from Coach recently. You can even just email them.

      • Johnna
        September 21, 2019 / 9:58 am

        Yes I second this. I just restored an old Willis bag and simply emailed customer service. They promptly replied and then asked me for what color tag I wanted, my address, and the serial number of the bag. They sent it out immediately. I got it much quicker than two weeks as well.

    • September 30, 2019 / 3:42 pm

      Actually I called coach about 3 was ago and told them I had bought a vintage bag and it didn’t have a hang tag. They sent me one, I had it within a week.

  9. Sandra D
    July 25, 2016 / 2:08 am

    Wow! It looks great!

  10. Aserussell
    September 9, 2016 / 2:16 am

    Your bag looks amazing! I just purchased the same one and it does need some TLC. I was wondering if you used the conditioner on the inside, or just the outside?

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      September 9, 2016 / 2:19 am

      Congrats on your bag – I love this bag and think it's a classic! You only need to condition the outside – the inside is a rough unlined material so there's no need to condition it.

    • Aserussell
      September 9, 2016 / 2:38 am

      It truly is a timeless beautiful bag. I will be so happy if mine turns out even half as nice as yours. Thank you so much for this post and your reply. I can't wait to get started on it now!

  11. Paula V.
    February 28, 2017 / 9:09 pm

    I am in the process of cleaning and restoring a limited edition Coach Stewardess bag. I did call Coach to ask if I could purchase a replacement hang tag and was told that Coach does not offer a replacement to buy, however, if you provide the serial numbers and they verify that the bag is indeed a Coach bag, they will send a replacement tag free of charge.

  12. Paula V.
    February 28, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    I am in the process of cleaning and restoring my Coach Limited Edition Stewardess bag using the method you described. I contacted Coach to replace a missing hang tag. They were extremely helpful and once my serial number was verified, they said they would send one out free of charge

  13. Sandy
    March 17, 2017 / 2:39 am

    It turned out beautifully! I just dragged out 2 of my vintage coach handbags. I have a dark chestnut brown bag just like your bag but in the mini style and I have another larger vintage bag. I'm glad I hung onto my old bags now. I was going to donate them but after seeing how good your bag looks I decided to try and restore mine. They sure don't make the newer bags anywhere near the great quality of the old bags! I ordered conditioner and leather cleaner from coach ad hopefully it will work.

  14. Katherine Nobles
    March 17, 2017 / 1:50 pm

    I have a number of Coach bags that are probably considered vintage. But, I bought them new! Thanks for the idea to help me renew them!

  15. Cc
    May 20, 2017 / 7:27 am

    I found a coach purse a few days ago at a local thrift shop & I absolutely love it. It seems sturdy & well made & I can tell it might've been a favorite of the previous owner. Thanks for the tips on cleaning it,it could use a good bath & look forward to using it as it has become a favorite of mine.

  16. Amack
    June 19, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    I am about to restore a 97 and a 94 coach station bag and wonder if the soaking method caused any swelling of the creed? If so, did it dry normally or was it altered? Thanks 🙂

  17. Amack
    June 19, 2017 / 4:30 pm

    I am about to restore a 97 and a 94 Coach Station bag (one is mahogany and one is British tan) and was wondering if the soaking method caused any swelling of the creed? If so, did It dry normally, or was it altered after? Thanks 🙂

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      June 19, 2017 / 5:30 pm

      It didn't for mine – and I haven't read about that happening….but perhaps to be on the safe side, restore your bags one at a time, and don't immerse it for too long?

  18. Unknown
    September 4, 2017 / 2:19 pm

    I have just followed your Instructions, and it seems to be working. However m question is do I wash the strap?

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      July 30, 2018 / 4:17 pm

      Hi! Yes, I did wash the strap using the same method!

  19. Marianne Campolongo
    September 9, 2017 / 12:37 am

    I wanted to restore a Coach bag I have from the 1980's that's been sitting in my closet for too many years. I read that saddle soap might not be the right choice to clean it before I condition it. Many years ago a hi-lighter opened and leaked all over my Coach briefcase, causing a horrible stain. When I called Coach, they told me to use Ivory Dishwashing liquid and while it took some effort, it worked perfectly. The briefcase still looks great today, 30+ years later. Both that briefcase and the bag I want to start wearing again are full grain unlined British tan. Glad I found your blog via Pinterest. I look forward to wearing my bag again this fall. Thanks.

  20. Liz Lex Events
    January 13, 2018 / 5:21 pm

    When you called Coach for a new tag, what "Color Code" did you have to give them for the bag. I called and the rep said just knowing the color wasn't enough. She needed the code. 🙁

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      January 13, 2018 / 11:15 pm

      If you look for your bag on eBay – they often have the codes listed – and maybe that could help you?

  21. K Nieves
    February 23, 2018 / 10:27 pm

    Hi, thank you so much for sharing this information. I was wondering if this will help the corners of my bag that are scuffed and faded? Or do I need to add dye?

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      July 30, 2018 / 4:16 pm

      I think adding the leather conditioner should help make it look its best – but if it still looks faded, dye may be necessary. I personally haven’t tried dye myself though, so am not sure of the technique- perhaps a bag repair shop would be a good option

  22. Unknown
    March 14, 2018 / 2:11 pm

    I am so glad to know this simple but worthwhile cleaning method. Thank you for posting this info. I hope to use it on s couple of my vintage bags.

  23. Hope B.
    March 17, 2018 / 9:29 pm

    Hello! What is the full tag number? I am looking for the largest 9927 I can find and was wondering what this bag is …

  24. Julie
    April 16, 2018 / 9:25 pm

    You inspired me! Great article and blog. It took me 6 months to find a Willis bag in British tan and in mint condition… for $50. I love it and now you have me hooked on Coach vintage bags. I owned my first Coach saddle bag in 1987. Hard to hear these bags are vintage, but then again, so am I! I also bought a Coach Sheridan Roswell bag for $25, because the person selling it had no idea what it was and neither did the seller of the Willis bag. These kinds of listings get lost on the internet and you find them by accident in searches. I guess when I was young, owning the Coach saddle bag was a big deal for me. It was a gift. I didn't have money to buy Coach bags then. Now I do, but I still prefer the bags from the 80's and 90's. You have great taste and I love reading your blog. I have washed Coach bags in cold water with Ivory soap. The only thing I'd warn folks about is losing the serial number. If it's not well stamped it, it could disappear from the bag swelling in water. However, sometimes you don't have a choice. My original saddle bag lost it's number, because after 30 years and two kids, it needed a bath. Cold water helps the dye not to run and Ivory soap is what Coach suggests. I guess it could be gentler then other dish detergents. Not sure, but keep up your great blog. Always interesting. -Julie

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      July 30, 2018 / 4:13 pm

      Sounds like you have some amazing classic bags! Thanks for sharing the tip about using ivory!

  25. Unknown
    July 29, 2018 / 5:03 am

    Hello!I just recently found and purchased a vintage Coach Willis bag in the color black at Savers for only $1.99. I was so excited when I found it! But it was pretty beat up looking (Scratches scuffs everywhere). I followed your directions exactly, washing the bag with Dawn soap and using the Apple Conditioner, and my bag looks practically brand new! Thank you so much for sharing this! I am so happy with the results :)One thing I do have to add as advice to anyone else, the hardware on my Coach bag was REALLY dingy looking, so I purchased some Brasso (metal polish) from Home Depot for around $4 and I polished the brass hardware before I washed my bag and my hardware looks SO much brighter and shiny!

    • Ella Pretty Blog
      July 30, 2018 / 3:34 pm

      Wow what a bargain find! And I’m so pleased that you were able to restore your bag. Great tip about applying the brasso before washing – thanks for sharing!

  26. Lee Aldrich
    August 24, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    FYI – it looks like somebody on PoshMark (@gj1990) is using your pic from your 3/21/16 blog to sell a similar coach bag but without the strap.Lee

  27. Brunnettedessert
    September 10, 2018 / 4:39 am

    Hola! Thanks for articule… I have two white hobo mini bags that aren’t white anymore. Leather has stains that make them look dirty, do you have a recomendation to restore white leather? I already clean it! but wasnt enough thanks beauty

  28. j v
    October 28, 2018 / 7:28 pm

    I confess to being horrified when I first read that you soaked it in Dawn. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Color me astonished. I just won a box of old Coach leather bags at auction. I'm going to do as you did right down to the conditioner. Thanks for posting.

  29. Ana Ramirez
    November 14, 2018 / 9:21 pm

    Does it work for black bags?

  30. Marlies
    November 20, 2018 / 12:01 am

    Firstly I love your bag, it turned out so good. I’ve recently purchased a Willis bag in British Tan. It is in need of some restoring, and i think i May have bit off more than i imagined. I’m nervous about the washing, and also wondering how to restore the edges if they are too worn. Help, any suggestions would be appreciated. Also how can I restore the brass on the bag.

    • Robin H Simons
      August 14, 2022 / 10:14 am

      I’m wondering this too. I have a beat to hell old coach bag with worn corners.

  31. Barbara Hobson
    December 31, 2018 / 11:46 am

    Your bag is beautiful. I have several vintage coach bags that need to be restored, thank you for the great information.

  32. Donna
    January 7, 2019 / 5:07 pm

    Can I use this treatment for green coach bags?

  33. Mavis
    January 13, 2019 / 7:18 pm

    I just purchase a saddle vintage coach purse a few months ago. I’m glad I saw your blog. I have to purchase the conditioner and will try to restore my purse. Thanks for the advise.

    • ellaprettyblog
      January 13, 2019 / 8:24 pm

      Hope your restoration goes really well 🙂

  34. Ron S
    March 23, 2019 / 6:23 pm

    Thanks for your description/encouragement. Think this will work with other leather bags as well? Do you have ANY tips for getting ink marks out of the leather? Also, I am trying to figure out how to get ink marks out of a bag with canvas lining (Gucci). I’ve tried nail polish remover (nix), oxi-clean (nix), about to give up. Congrats on putting this together and out here for readers!

  35. Tricia Erby
    May 15, 2019 / 7:49 pm

    Woooww! What a beautiful job! It turned out beautifully!! Congratulations!

    P.S. Does it have to be Dawn? 😀

  36. Mary-Jo Kelley
    June 16, 2019 / 5:30 pm

    Hi! I just found your article on restoring your vintage Coach bag. I was wondering if the same could be done with a Coach wallet? I have a smooth leather, black French wallet and would love to freshen it up. Also, would the Coach leather conditioner work as well as the Apple one?


  37. Kim
    September 19, 2019 / 7:43 pm

    Can you use this method on a coach leather handbag with lining?

  38. November 19, 2019 / 12:52 am

    Iam so glad I did a little research on cleaning coach bags’I would of never guessed the simple process.
    I bought a few vintage bags to resell. I love them so much I started collecting them for myself.
    Thanks for all the tips.

  39. Virginia Cochran
    December 11, 2019 / 6:34 pm

    This is the best article I’ve ever read on Pinterest, I wish all of them were like this. They should take note. I own a lot of vintage hand bags, I clean and condition but I have never thought to do this. I am going to try it. You really could do this on any leather bag. Thank you so much Virginia

  40. Alex
    April 22, 2022 / 4:22 pm

    You might’ve just saved my coach bag my cat peed on. I substituted dawn for an enzyme cleaner. Crossing my fingers

  41. Lynn
    June 27, 2022 / 2:52 pm

    I purrchased my first rehab WILLIS bag, and it’s fair to say I am equally excited and apprehensive to try this process- but I am very much looking forward to show off this beauty in all its glory! Thank you for the well written, easy to follow post!

  42. Kathryn Dillon
    November 27, 2022 / 4:43 pm

    Thank you so much for this helpful tutorial, esp the information about replacement hang tags. Your step by step procedure is far more helpful than the many YouTube tutorials I’ve watched. As I’ve progressed through the rehabbing of many from my ever-expanding vintage collection, I’ve applied my organic cleaning methods to special problems I’ve encountered & I share below. Hope these help.

    White vinegar does wonders to eliminate odors. As an aside white vinegar is also a highly effective, non-toxic disinfectant & boosts the cleaning power of any detergent, including Dawn. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the “Dawn soak in the tub” phase & increase the soak time by 10-15 minutes depending on the severity of the odors. To be certain of full rinse, one may want to add a second 10 minute post-suds soak, though the 1 recommended clear water soak should be sufficient. The light scent of vinegar, if any, will dissipate over time taking ugly odors with it. Another effective method for eliminating odors is to dilute 10 drops of Sweet Orange Essential Oil in 1 pint of water in a small misting bottle (Dollar Tree sells small spritzing bottles that produce the perfect mist.) A quick spritz inside a bag is sometimes all one needs to eliminate all but the most imbedded odors.

    Another helpful tip to remember: Orange Oil is the key ingredient in Goo Gone. Instead of buying the latter, I use a drop or two of pure Sweet Orange Oil to remove tape & other gummy/sticky residue from vintage Coach bags I’ve purchased. Dawn detergent will take care of oily stains😎✌️

    Thanks again for your tutorial❣️

  43. Emmy
    October 9, 2023 / 12:50 am

    How long did you let the purse dry before beginning to condition it?

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