Finally, the dress is supported by the underlying georgette and can be hung up -- just long enough to take a photo. On the right is the inside view - most of the dress underlined with polyester georgette hand stitched in place.
Fortunately, two days before the San Francisco Art Deco Society Preservation Ball, I went to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and found some silk habutai in a very similar color that I used to cover the holes in the dress.
I cut the silk habutai to size and carefully stitched it to the front and back bodice along the beaded areas.
My professor gave me a surprise gift!! A plastic bag - inside I could make out sparkles from sequins and beads and scraps of persimmon colored silk georgette. She told me it was a 1920s dress that her mother bought at a yard sale long ago. It was made in France and totally stitched by hand.
Too fragile to wear or even hold up; the silk fabric would fall apart from the weight of the beads. I managed to carefully lay it out on a flat surface to take a photo.
The San Francisco Art Deco Gala was just a few months away - April 27, 2013 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. I was motivated to restore this beautiful dress to wear to the event. I accepted the challenge to make the dress wearable again - if just for one night.
1. Step One in the restoration
I needed to stabilize the fragile silk georgette that was shredding in front of my eyes. Chemical reactions taking place in the silk over time caused by the dyes and iron-based mordants used in them are often responsible for deterioration of the fiber. I purchased a light weight polyester georgette to use as a backing to the silk. I started with the area that was most damaged -- the back.
2. Thousands of hand stitches - I started by cutting a piece of the reinforcement georgette to the size of the back. I hand stitched along the edges of the neck, armhole and shredded areas.
3. Then stitched in the beaded area to give more support and to reduce weight on the silk. I reinforced each section on the dress with the georgette and my fine hand stitching. I worked on the process over a period of several weeks with the dress spread flat on a table. A cardboard box lid inserted inside the dress enabled me to make sure my stitched only went through one layer of the dress.
4. Finally, after hundreds of stitches and hours, I was able to hang the dress up and believe that my goal of wearing it to the gala might be achieved. See Restoring a 1920s Beaded Dress - Part 2