Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Restoring a 1920s Beaded Dress - Part 2

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.

One day and many tiny hand stitches to go!

Saturday, April 27, 2013 
The Art Deco Preservation Ball at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California!
My restored dress even hits the dance floor!

Restoring a 1920s Beaded Dress - Part 1

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