Wednesday, May 1, 2013

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


  1. Thank you for posting these steps. I am linking your blog to mine while I attempt something similar. I wouldn't have taken on the challenge if not for your pages! Thanks :-)

    1. Hi Rose - I would like to follow your blog - is that possible? Thanks for your comment

  2. ! All of the pictures you´ve posted illustrate my point I think. Even black.
    Yasmin Sewell has been my style Beaded Party Dresses