Conservation of a Vionnet Dress: Treatment begins…



August 25, 2014

The dress appears much dirtier in the bright conservation studio than in the dark store!  The first stage of any garment treatment is to assess the object thoroughly: by looking carefully, taking photographs and taking patterns and measurements.  A detailed treatment plan can then be formed.  Any testing and material identification can be carried out at this stage, as this will help to inform the treatment processes.

The dress in textile conservation before any investigation.
The dress in textile conservation before any investigation. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The net has greyed considerably and there is a great deal of fabric in the skirt.  The dress has been hemmed with a  thicker crin layer to make the skirt sit in place. Unfortunately this has caused the net to pull and tear in places and has stiffened during storage, causing creasing and deformation in the hem. The next stage of conservation is to take a pattern of the net overdress so that a support fabric can be made to fit.

The dress laid out in textile conservation.
The dress laid out in textile conservation. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The net has greyed considerably and there is a great deal of fabric in the skirt. The dress has been hemmed with a thicker crin horsehair fabric) layer to make the skirt sit in place. Unfortunately this has caused the delicate net to pull and tear in places. The crin has stiffened during storage, causing creasing and deformation in the hem. The next stage of conservation is to take a pattern of the net overdress so that a support fabric can be made to fit precisely.

The reverse of the underdress.
The reverse of the underdress. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

You can see how dirty the fabric is; the grey areas are ingrained, greasy soiling

Close up of the halterneck gather.
Close up of the halterneck gather. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is the only point in the dress where the net is stitched to the gold lamé underdress.

Close up of the halterneck gather.
Close up of the halterneck gather. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The gather is undone and its position marked with white polyester thread so that after treatment it can be replaced in its correct point on the tie.

Tear in proper right side of bodice.
Tear in proper right side of bodice. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The large tear in the proper right (PR) side of the bodice. This is probably the result of wear and is the point at which the net is under the most tension because the waist and back ties pull the net overskirt in at these points.

A close up of the PL net attached to the left tie
A close up of the PL net attached to the left tie. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The net has been stitched to a narrow piece of silk which has been made into a channel for the tie to be pulled through. You can also see the bright yellow thread used to make the gold appliqué elements is beginning to show through the gold thread. This part of the treatment is always interesting because as a conservator you begin to understand the object you are working on, and get a feel for the condition it is in. With an object as complex as a this, there is a great deal to investigate, which in turn helps to identify materials and manufacturing techniques which will inform the curators.

Find out what I decide to do in the next post.

3 comments so far, view or add yours

Comments

I would like to the remaining journey of the restoration of Vionnet dress. I find this very interesting, an topic that is of interest for me.

Wow, really interesting object! Good luck!

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