I am very pleased to share the final report from our NEH grant funded “Historic Costume Preservation Workshop” at Vassar College in spring 2010.
Including all the appendices, it is rather lengthy, so I certainly don’t expect you to read through every word – but it’s a great reference to flip through and see just how much we accomplished, both during the project itself and in the year since. If you’re interested in doing a similar project at your institution, this could be a handy reference.
In addition to the narrative about the project, the appendices include the syllabus, sample reports, workshop schedule, links to resources and publicity, and our general preservation assessment report.
TITLE Brown silk dress with v-neck insert
BRIEF DESCRIPTION Dress of rust colored satin. Empire waistline. .75 length shirred sleeve with hanging cuffs. Full length skirt with train.
CONDITION OF ITEM
Lace added in between neckline and original lace inset
Chiffon ruffles and sleeves shattering
Chiffon portion of sleeves missing a china silk lining
Stays detaching from collar
Ribbon trim beginning to shatter and detaching from neckline
Reinforcement glued and tacked to skirt front bottom
Train hemmed up
Missing some hooks and eyes
Let down train to original length
Remove added lace at collar
Reattach stays to collar
Back lace collar with conservation net
Put dress on form to asses lay of neckline/and reattach lace as appropriate
Make replacement lining for chiffon portion of sleeves
Steam out ruffles and reinforce with conservation net
Retack trim to neckline
Replace missing hooks and eyes
Will not attempt to reverse the reinforcement glued onto skirt front
Removed added lace at collar. Put on form and discovered that the collar fit neatly with the original lace remaining inside the neckline. Surmised that the lace had simply been
cut out. Backed original lace with conservation neck, leaving enough extra conservation net around the edges so that the lace collar could be stitched back into the neckline
abutting the original lace inside the dress. Covered silk band at top of collar with net.
Replaced missing hooks and eyes and reinforced hooks and eyes that were coming loose.
Put dress on a form again to pin the collar into the neckline as it originally lay. Stitched the lace collar back into the neckline.
Discovered some tearing in the silk by the front hooks and in the sleeves along the armscye. Used hair silk to sew up tears.
Discovered alterations in bodice. Was taken in at side seams and darts were added at center front. Let out one dart at center front and found that the needle had left
significant holes in the silk. Decided with input of Colleen Callahan that the benefits of restoring the garment to its original state did not outweigh the downside of unsightly
needle holes, and restitched dart. Noted that the front bodice piece had been gathered into the waistband creating somewhat of a pigeon-breasted effect, but that the dart
eliminated that portion of the bodice.
Let down the train where it had been hemmed up.
Put the dress on the form again. Noted that the center front was mostly covered by the collar and ties and the underarms were mostly covered by the sleeves. Determined that
the dress’s later alterations could be let out without detracting from the overall look. This would have the added benefit of restoring the original pigeon breasted silhouette.
TITLE Black and gold beaded dress
BRIEF DESCRIPTION Beaded black netted dress over gold metallic organza lined with China silk.
CONDITION OF ITEM
1. Gold netting deteriorating and falling off around neckline, under arms, and on back of bodice
2. Piece at right shoulder detaching
3. White beads breaking at discolored
4. White and gray beads fallen off
5. Gold organza and lining torn at bottom left side seam
6. Organza frayed at bottom hem
7. Staining on inside of lining
8. Silk shattering inside skirt
9. Staining on organza near center front waist band
10. Holes in the black net at the bottom of the skirt
11. Wrinkles in the gold organza
1. I will stabilize the areas detailed in #1, covering them with gold netting and stitching in place.
2. I will reattach the area detailed in #2.
3. I will not attempt to fix the broken and discolored beads detailed in #3.
4. I will tack on the loose strands of beads back on the dress.
5. I will re-sew the area detailed in #5.
6. I will cover the areas detailed in #6 with gold netting at stitch in place.
7. I will not attempt to remove any of the stains detailed in #7 and #9.
1. I removed tacking stitches at both sides of CF at neck to have better access to the netting of the modesty piece.
2. I tacked down the gold netting of the modesty piece and sewed a layer of netting over the original netting.
3. I tacked down the gold netting on the back of the bodice.
4. I removed a snap at the back left shoulder (to be reattached).
5. I sewed a layer of netting over the gold netting that I tacked down at the back of the bodice.
6. I reattached the snap at the back left shoulder over the netting.
7. I sewed in a few stitches of black thread and tied the thread to loose pieces of thread on the dress where bead strands were coming
8. I took off the snap at the top left shoulder on the back of the bodice, moved it over, and re-sewed the snap to the dress in its new
9. I took out the stitches at the right back of the skirt where the net wraps around from the front and attaches to the back and sewed on a
black snap in this location.
10. I took out the stitches of the right side seam in the gold organza of the skirt and re-sewed it.
11. I used black thread to re-stitch the hem of the bottom layer of the black netting of the skirt, stitching about every half inch and going
back on the stitch every other stitch.
12. I stitched up a big hole at the bottom of the black net with black thread.
13. I steamed the bottom of the gold organza of the skirt to try and remove some of the wrinkles.
14. I covered the bottom hem of the gold organza in the skirt with conservation netting and sewed the netting on, coming up about a half
inch on either side of the skirt.
15. I reattached the loose piece at the right shoulder.
TITLE Pale Salmon and Gray Bustle Ensemble
BRIEF DESCRIPTION Pale salmon and gray silk taffeta bustle ensemble, trimmed with pale salmon taffeta ruffles and white and gray tassel trim, swags, bustle, and train; fitted bodice with 3/4 sleeves, square neckline and triple button closure up front.
After thoroughly looking over of the garment I made a list of the most important areas of damage. I focused on the skirt because it seemed to be in the most need of repair.
1) There were small splits in the skirt waistband at the side-back and center-back. The fabric was disintegrating probably because the waist band holds so much weight.
2) The buttonhole at the back of the waistband had a split extending through it and much of the reinforcing around the buttonhole had has fallen apart. The button was also missing.
3) The fabric at the back of the skirt was splitting just below the waistband.
4) Several buttons on the bodice were loose, 3 were missing, and the crocheting on one button was coming loose.
5) There was significant staining on the underarms of the bodice and slight fabric disintegration.
6) The pink pleated trim in the back-right neck trim of the bodice was fraying.
7) The boning was protruding from one section at the base of the bodice at the left-front
I decided that the most important region to stabilize on the garment was the waistband because in order to mount the garment (the ultimate goal of our workshop) the waistband needed to be strengthened. I also wanted to fix any issues with the buttons on the bodice because they’re necessary for proper mounting. I proposed the following for treatment:
-Release waistband back and sides from skirt, stabilize waistband with conservation net stitched in place with hair silk, and reattach waistband.
-Stabilize slits below waistband conservation net and stitch with hair silk.
-Restitch loose buttons on bodice, possibly move buttons from less visible locations to front panel, repair button with loosened crocheting
-Once repairs are made, skirt and bodice will be mounted on dress form to determine style and decide if any further repairs are necessary.
I made several changes in the implementation of the plan.
1) I colored the conservation net and hair silk using an acid-free, archival quality green marker. This allowed the net to blend in more easily with the dress, rendering it practically invisible.
2) I doubly reinforced the split int he back of the skirt by stitching the rip closed once the conservation net was sew on.
3) I wrapped certain portions of the skirt’s upper edge in conservation net so that the fabric would not disintegrate when I reattached the waistband.
4) In covering the waistband with conservation net, I wrapped it around all 4 sides of the waistband so that the net completely surrounded it, giving it greater reinforcement.
Though we didn’t have time to reattach the button, we were still able to mount the ensemble and it looked beautiful. It has a waterfall bustle and now that it has been mounted we’ll be able to make some smaller tacking adjustments to make sure it looks great for our exhibition!
We’ve finally had some time to collect our thoughts and we’re ready to share our recent work with you. Over the next few days, we’ll be sending out a post about each of the objects we worked on during our stabilization workshop with Colleen Callahan. Each post will include the student’s treatment report, and a slideshow with images to show their process. Enjoy!
Our five-day intensive workshop is underway! Colleen Callahan, of Costume and Textile Specialists in VA, arrived on Thursday and began our workshop on Friday. We’ve already accomplished a great deal – I can’t wait to see how much more we get done in the next two days!
Here are all of our finalists, each of which is getting a “makeover” so that we can exhibit it:
(if you want to see more pictures of any of these, click where it says “From” . . . under the photo to go the the Picasa Web Album for that object.)
It’s hard to believe, but our second workshop has already come and gone! On Friday, February 12th, we welcomed Jessa Krick to lead our workshop about cataloging of historic costume. Ms. Krick currently works with Historic Hudson Valley, and was formerly a Senior Research Assistant for the Costume Documentation Project for the Brooklyn Museum.
After a brief round of introductions, Ms. Krick shared her presentation entitled “Object Cataloging: Idea and Practice.” She provided some background about the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, and then described the process undertaken for the Costume Documentation Project. Her presentation included many images of objects selected as highlights of the project, and photographed and documented for ArtStor. She provided several very helpful examples of catalog entries for objects in the Brooklyn collection, to help guide our process.
Next we took a brief cookie break, and then returned for some hands-on work with object cataloging. Ms. Krick worked with a two-piece dress from our collection to develop a catalog entry, getting students involved along the way, both in terms of remembering the best practice she had indicated in her presentation, and examining the object in detail. The piece chosen was found to have been significantly re-styled for use as a theatrical costume before it was removed from the theatrical stock and placed in the historic collection. While this aspect was frustrating at times, this made it an excellent subject for thorough investigation.
In the days since Ms. Krick’s visit, we have already implemented some changes in our procedure, as inspired by her presentation. We have started cataloging the more recent objects in our collection, and plan to work backwards in time, as Ms. Krick explained they had done with the Brooklyn project. This is a very helpful approach, allowing all of us to take some time to perfect our cataloging technique with more familiar objects before moving on to the many complicated late nineteenth and early twentieth century pieces we have in the collection.
We all learned a great deal from Ms. Krick, and we’re very appreciative for the time she spent with us.
Now we have several weeks of cataloging and condition reporting ahead. Please “stay tuned” to see what objects we unearth in the coming weeks!
On Wednesday, February 3rd, we were very lucky to have textile consultants Jonathan Scheer and Rebecca Chartier (of J. Scheer and Co., Rhinebeck and New York) present our first “formal” workshop. First, we met around the big table in the Design Room to introduce ourselves, and then Mr. Scheer spoke about the care of textiles. His talk included an introduction to the factors of textile deterioration, characteristics of fibers, best practice for handling historic textiles, and strategic planning for the care of collections.
His assistant, Rebecca Chartier, also added a great deal to the discussion, particularly concerning environmental issues affecting collections, and how to mitigate some such problems. She also shared a sample condition report and treatment/mounting plan for an object she had worked with at the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian).
Then, after a short break, we moved downstairs to work hands-on with objects from our collection. Participants were divided into seven pairs, and each pair was assigned an object with a particular condition issue. Each pair worked on filling out a condition report worksheet, with close examination of the object. Mr. Scheer and Ms. Chartier circulated around the room to see what the students were discovering, offer guidance for their descriptions, and help with analysis and terminology.
Finally, we brought the group all together again, to talk about how some of the objects on display represented specific condition issues and terms. Mr. Scheer and Ms. Chartier both provided thoughtful answers to student questions, including interesting anecdotes from their personal experiences working with a variety of textiles at a variety of institutions.
The time went by far too quickly, but we are very grateful to Mr. Scheer and Ms. Chartier for this informative presentation!