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.

Historic Costume Preservation Workshop Final Report

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.

FYI: As of February 12, 2011, we will no longer be posting directly to this blog for the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop (HCPW). Since the bulk of this specific project is over, from now on we will post on the general blog for the Vassar College Costume Collection (VCCC) at http://pages.vassar.edu/vccc

There are still some HCPW posts yet to come, to share some final details, but we’ll post them in both places.

As a result, we are moving the RSS feedburner feed for the HCPW blog to now point to the VCCC blog.

If you have already subscribed to posts about the HCPW, you shouldn’t have to do anything – you should continue to receive posts from us over at the “new” VCCC blog.

Be looking for some posts about our latest project with the VCCC in the next day or two! If you are subscribed and you don’t get the new posts, please let me know so I can fix it.

costumeshop <at> vassar <dot> edu

It’s time for an update from the Vassar College Costume Collection!

You last heard from me right around our exhibition, “A Glimpse into Vassar’s (Secret) Closet.” So what has happened since then?

When the objects were mounted for the exhibition last spring, I was able to work with Charlie Pane ’10 to carefully photograph each full costume. Not only did we get high quality full length views of each piece, but each was placed on a turntable and rotated, with a photo taken of each different view. Charlie then worked with these photos to create a QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) file, which allows the viewer to rotate the object and better understand it as if in 3D. Stay tuned for more news about when and where these will be made available online.

Other than that, we haven’t had too much time to work with the collection this fall. Vassar’s new costume designer, Kenisha Kelly, is doing a wonderful job of helping us to recover from the blow of Holly Hummel’s retirement last spring, but we still are very busy with the productions in the Drama Department, and haven’t had much time for research or conservation projects.

But we’ll be sure to make time in the spring! “Glimpse” was such a success that we’re moving forward with another exhibition, from mid-May to mid-June in 2011 (probably 5/13 – 6/15), in the Palmer Gallery in the College Center (same as last year). This will be a part of Vassar’s Sesquicentennial Celebration (150th anniversary), and we will feature clothes that relate to Vassar’s history and to the history of women’s education. We’ll be working on this throughout the spring, so we’ll keep you posted as more details arise.

Hello, HCPW blog followers!

I want to apologize to our subscribers for a couple of items that got posted to the blog accidentally. I was able to quickly delete them from the blog itself, but they still got sent out to those of you who subscribe by email. Please excuse those mis-posts. But, the good news is that that mistake is prompting me to write! Another post will follow in just a minute . . .

Our local news did a short piece about the collection, the workshop, and the exhibition . . . take a look:


Many thanks to reporter Curtis Schick from YNN Hudson Valley for the time he spent with us and the wonderful coverage he provided!

I am very pleased to finally announce the dates and times of our upcoming exhibition, our conclusion of this semester’s work:

A Glimpse into Vassar’s (Secret) Closet . . .

An informal exhibition of final projects from the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop

Student work to preserve history and design from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries

May 21 – June 6
Palmer Gallery, College Center

opening on Friday, May 21, with a reception from 2:00 to 4:00pm

open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00pm
Sunday from 11:00am to 2:00pm
as well as by appointment by calling (845) 437-5250.

(having trouble viewing this slideshow? visit http://picasaweb.google.com/VassarHCPW/1992107# and click on “Slideshow” on the upper left, or just view the images one at a time, at your own pace)

ACCESSION# 1992.107
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.

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.

(having trouble viewing this slideshow? visit http://picasaweb.google.com/VassarHCPW/1992041# and click on “Slideshow” on the upper left, or just view the images one at a time, at your own pace)

ACCESSION# 1992.041
TITLE Black and gold beaded dress
BRIEF DESCRIPTION Beaded black netted dress over gold metallic organza lined with China silk.

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.

(having trouble viewing this slideshow? visit http://picasaweb.google.com/VassarHCPW/1992001# and click on “Slideshow” on the upper left, or just view the images one at a time, at your own pace)

ACCESSION# 1992.001.ab
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!

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