March 2010

As shown in our last video, this ensemble is an interesting case for stabilization, thanks to its (perhaps) upside down sleeve.

From 1992.003

Some notes:

Bodice: Ivory silk satin with gold and pink floral metallic brocade; pink silk ribbon; metal boning; metal hooks and eyes; pink synthetic lining; pink silk lining; white cotton grosgrain ribbon waistband;

Fitted brocade silk princess-seam bodice with modified puff sleeves with gathers at the underarm and longer at the bottom of the sleeve than the top, and square neckline. Open at front of interior panel brocade with pink ribbon lace-up closure w/ hand-stictched holes. Six-piece paneled back with slightly curved boat-neckline at back. 7 pieces metal boning in back interior and interior grosgrain ribbon waist tape with hook and eye closures at front. Two hooks at center back of waist tape (to connect to skirt). Synthetic additions at center interior front and hem of sleeves.

Skirt: ivory silk satin with gold and pink floral metallic brocade; starched pink cotton lining; pink silk lining; natural cotton lining; tan grosgrain ribbon; cream silk chiffon ruched trim

full gored brocade skirt with back fullness and room for pad(?); longer in back; pink piping around waistband under grosgrain ribbon; one pocket on right hip; 6 gored panels and 3 godets; cream silk ruched trim at hem and one 2.5 inches up from hem

Shoe: ivory silk satin with gold and pink floral metallic brocade; leather; gold (leaf?); natural canvas; brass nails; pressed wood

two pieces of brocade on exterior; double bow at toe cleavage; pointed toe; Louis heel shape; 9 nails into heel

label reads: “Robes de Bal / Russell & Allen / Old Bond Street LONDON” printed on inner waistband
“Mrs. Crosby” handwritten on small hand sewn tag

“rip in fabric of bodice top right front, 2nd row of trim around hem partially detatched, fabric of skirt coming apart from waistband, silk of shoe worn on the back of heel and left side, interior silk lining of bodice shattered, original silk lining possibly entirely gone, leaving pink cotton lining unfinished interlining; natural linen original reinforcement for train safety-pinned to interior, pink synthetic additions to interior of bodice, brocade panel stolen from inside of skirt used as center front panel on bodice (because actors weren’t small enough?)

What do you think of it? Here’s a slideshow with more images:

Students from the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop at Vassar College examine the bodice of a two piece dress (which comes with one shoe), perhaps from the late nineteenth century, #1992.003

You may or may not have seen the video about this ensemble – but here are some images and notes as well:

From 1992.001

“pink and grey bustle ensemble
2 piece of grey silk taffeta, trimmed with pink silk taffeta and pink fringe
Bodice of taffeta
Skirt of taffeta
Fullness at back to accommodate bustle

pocket in right front of skirt”

Condition issues: “Perspiration stains underarms- starting to deteriorate
No tears
Missing 3 buttons (but only one would show)
Skirt- hand stitches (in blue thread) at back of skirt are attempted repairs. Placket doesn’t match up, perhaps as a result, altered for use as a costume
Tear in front second drape near CF”

This is a good candidate for stabilization – it’s not in horrible shape, but the skirt definitely needs to be re-draped.

We’ve always wondered about this dress – we refer to it as pink and grey, and have long wondered if that’s a connection to Vassar’s past school colors. Of course, the grey is somewhat blue-grey, and maybe it’s just a coincidence. We’ve also recently discovered that the ensemble may have been donated by someone from the Adriance family of Poughkeepsie – so there’s some provenance research to be done there. How do we know that? Sometime in the seventies, several of the objects were worn (gasp!) for a fashion show on campus, and photographed for the Vassar Quarterly. This was in that group, and the caption for the photo refers to it as “a gift of the Adriance estate.” Hmmmm.

Here’s a slideshow with more images, although it doesn’t show the 3rd outerwear piece that was recently reconnected with the rest of the ensemble (as shown in the video):

Here’s another candidate very much in need of stabilization:

From 1992.013

However, it might already be too far gone.
Here are some notes:

Silvery blue silk, diagonal weave taffeta, fish motif; natural polished cotton; green silk velvet; red silk velvet; red taffeta; periwinkle silk; white cotton waistband; hemp hem lining; metal hook and eyes, brass

Fitted bodice; full skirt

a. skirt: floor length; fitted at waist; five panels; two tiers of ruffles at hem; velvet at inner hem, lined with hemp; polished cotton skirt lining; one pocket on right hip; cotton waistband, later addition; hook and eyes at waist center back

b. bodice: waist length, five piece; fittled two piece full length sleeve, gathered shoulders, split cuff on either side of wrist; mandarin collar with inset periwinkle silk over center front of bodice extending to waist; red velvet lapels; red velvet waist band; 18 interior brass hooks and eyes to close center front, 3 to close neck; boning at waist; three tapered panels in back

Condition issues: Tearing at collar. Shattering. Staining. Fabric worn in skirt. Pin in hem (rusty).

and here’s a slideshow with more images:

Here’s another candidate for stabilization:
From 1992.007

Some notes about it:

blue and white striped fine silk; blue silk; natural polished cotton; natural square weave linen; plastic button; beige synthetic hem tape; beige synthetic bias tape.

silhouette: bustle

A. bodice: princess seamed, striped silk; knife-pleated blue silk CB panel, fishtailing at hem, split at one side, may have been attached originally; long sleeves, blue silk knife-pleated ruffle (R sleeve only); piping at mandarin collar in blue silk; knife-pleated blue silk CF panel, 12 buttons; piping all along hem

B. skirt: floor length, two-layered skirt; top layer has seven vertical blue silk appliques over striped silk extending waist to ruffle of overskirt; blue silk knife-pleated ruffle at hem of overskirt; underskirt has ruching; waistband of striped silk, button at CB, likely an addition; cartridge pleats in linen lining at waist in back; bottom foot lined in cotton

Condition issues: Shattering. Missing a cuff and some buttons. Staining. Discoloration.

Here’s a slideshow with some more images of this object:

As promised, here’s the first post of a series to share some of the objects that are candidates for our 5-day intensive stabilization workshop with Colleen Callahan, coming up in April.

From 1984.001

Here are some notes about this object:

This ivory silk taffeta bustle dress, trimmed with lace and satin ribbon, was worn by Sallie Tucker Blake at Vassar’s commencement exercises of 1879.

Bustled Bodice of ivory satin; fitted; with 3/4 length sleeves; lace ruffle trim at collar and down CF and cuffs;

Skirt of ivory satin; panel of lace at front, fullness at back to accommodate bustle; attached bustle drape of satin and lace buttons over CB; slight trim

Cape of ivory satin; fringe trim along CF opening edges, hemline, and edge of collar; back panels cut on the bias, diagonal striped pattern picked out

Small round buttons covered with off white crocheted trim
Straight seams machine sewn, all else = hand sewn
Thin pads of cotton batting at front edge of armscye,
Patches of jersey with pinched edges under arms
Approx. 6” wide stiff muslin (?) inside hem
Separate underskirt of dark tan polished cotton and overskirt of satin
Long hanging wide satin ribbon trim on skirt back to right of bustle (hanging almost to hem)
Silk twill tape to finish edges of inside seams

Condition issues: stain on front bodice; lace ripping on skirt, tears at center back near waist over bustle

Scroll down to see a slideshow of images of this object.

Should we stabilize this garment and exhibit it? Please leave a comment and weigh in!

Students from the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop at Vassar College reunite pieces of a bustle ensemble, #1992.001

Students from the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop at Vassar College examine a dress, perhaps from the 1930’s, #2001.020

Students from the Historic Costume Preservation Workshop at Vassar College examine a bustle cage with a patent from the 1870’s.

Working on this project has provided me with an interesting opportunity to consider the practical impact of using a digital collection in conjunction with a physical collection. The physical project is in an “awkward stage” right now – this is our opportunity to get objects out of boxes, see if they really are what we think they are, write better catalog entries and condition reports, and re-sort them into different boxes accordingly.

We can’t just sort by period, or by function, or by condition, or by fiber – all of those come into play. Up to now we’ve mostly been sorting by period – but then when a student is just interested in underwear, all of that comes out together. Then when we find several things with mildew, they have to go in yet another area, in quarantine from the other objects. Meanwhile, every available flat surface is stacked with piles of objects wrapped in acid-free tissue.


In my digital collection, everything’s so much more neat and tidy. With practically one click, I can sort everything by fiber type. I can sort everything chronologically. I can sort everything by function. If only it were that simple with the piles all over the costume shop!

Here’s where it’s so important how the digital and physical work together: once we have everything better documented in the database, then the database can help us to play around with different physical storage configurations and figure out what is most feasible. Indeed, that’s a major point of the current project. We can’t properly take care of what we have until we really know what we have. If we’re sorting by period, it’s very important that everything is properly dated. Perhaps more importantly, if we really want to preserve our textiles, we need to have some ability to store them by fiber type.

So what do we do with all the physical objects until then? I’m eager to buy some new storage boxes right away (and we have a tiny bit of grant money to do so), but our storage plan is still evolving as more documentation occurs. I’m afraid to invest in anything in case our plan changes dramatically. With all we’ve learned so far this semester about best practice for textile preservation, it’s heartbreaking at times for us not to be able to put some things properly “away.”

But I keep reminding myself – that is what this project is about. We’re figuring it out. By the end of the semester, we’ll have a better condition assessment in place, and we’ll be able to define our strategic plan, mainly regarding storage.

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