Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dress in Distress

My mom just got me this wonderful dress as an early birthday present. Great mom, right? I think so. Anyway, it had one long thread running through it around the waist and down part of the back as a repair. It was a sloppy fix, and it threw off the original proportions because the thread was too short and gathered the skirt. So I cut the thread and freed the dress of its confinement.
Ca. 1900-1905 Lingerie Dress
Closer shot of the Bodice

A view from the back

Well, as it turns out, that one heroic thread was doing a lot more work than I realized. Eeek!

Aaaaaah! It's barely keeping together at one hip!
And it's even worse at the back. No, this is not supposed to have a slit like a hospital gown.

What to do? Well it just so happens that the same fabulous mom who bought me this dress also rescued a bunch of turn-of-the-century fabrics, laces, and trims for me from my great-grandmother's stash. Nanny had been a seamstress and a bit of a hoarder herself, but since she died in the 1970s, only the mice and the occasional bat had benefited from her collecting. Fabric and lace = nice comfy critter home. Rodent excrement and odor calls for harsh intervention, so my mom broke out the Oxy Clean (Gasp!). This is NOT recommended by costume conservators everywhere. Frankly, the stuff might have dissolved. Not a big risk though. It was already theoretically ruined, and not exactly worth the attention of a costly textile conservator. Besides, the goods didn't dissolve and are now mouse poo free! And it just so happens that one of the fabrics is a perfect match for this dress.
Nanny's old fabric to the rescue!

So here's the plan: Cut a strip of Nanny's dainty cotton to make a support for the waist. I'll hand sew it to the bodice and skirt and then tack the lace to the fabric. True, this dress would not have had fabric reinforcing the waist, but if I reconnect the rip without support it'll probably just pull apart at another spot and cause more damage. Stay tuned for results...

What am I doing here?

What I am doing here? Showing off, obviously. I have this collection of costumes and purses, mostly pre-1920, but it rarely comes out of storage. I collect because I love the workmanship and history in these items, and I've been acquiring things since I was ten years old.

Lately I've decided that just hoarding costumes is less satisfying than getting them out and studying them, so I thought, 'Hey, if I put my explorations in a blog, I'll not only have a website to go to when I want to make googly eyes at my pretty things, but maybe someone else will look at them and share their insights!'

I expect my commitment to this blog to be as sporadic as my commitment to getting things out and then cleaning up after myself; a constant challenge when costumes are big and stuffed with tissue. Sporadic is better than nothing though, right?