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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Blue Dress Boogaloo?

by Obie Linn, Textile Conservator


CAMConservation , textile conservation , 1910s fashion

Remember the blue dress from a few weeks ago?

This week she’s back—with a secret.

From the exterior, she seemed to be in decent shape, but underneath was another story; the silk satin lining was in an advanced state of deterioration and would literally fall out in pieces under the dress when disturbed. That’s no way for a lady to behave!

The dress was requested for an upcoming reinstallation of Gallery 122 in the Cincinnati Wing where she will accompany some other artwork of this period (1900–1917). I needed to stabilize the lining and prevent further loss, but not overdo it when the dress essentially seemed fine when viewed.

The dress was turned inside out, allowing the extent of her “secret” to be addressed. She was outfitted with a “bag” of nylon tulle, which encloses the crumbling lining fabric, holding it in position and collecting pieces that may continue to break away. An overlay of tulle was stitched over the sections of crumbling lining in the bodice and around the skirt hem facing.

She doesn’t look much different! But her secret is safe with us now that it’s protected in a nearly invisible and conservation-safe enclosure. DON’T look for the tulle lining when you see her on display later this summer. (It’s hidden!) Help a lady keep her beauty secrets.