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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Traveling in (Sustainable!) Style

by Obie Linn, Associate Conservator of Textiles


Ann Lowe , CAMConservation , 1930s fashion , textile conservation , Winterthur Museum

How would you like to travel in a custom “sleeping bag”? These three dresses designed by Ann Lowe (American, 1898–1981) are headed to the Winterthur Museum in Delaware for the exhibition Ann Lowe: American Couturier, snuggled in soft surrounds for a safe and comfortable trip.

When fashion pieces such as these travel, they are usually packed in archival boxes with pads of tissue paper or other material to soften the folds and help prevent damage from creasing or abrasion.   Here at the museum, we are always looking for ways to make our choices more sustainable, as well as provide the best care for objects. So instead of tissue paper, I made custom pillows, pads, and interleaving sheets from reusable and conservation-friendly materials.

These boxes are outfitted with cushions made of resin-free polyester batting covered in polyester lining fabrics. Shaped pillows inside each dress provide the same (or better!) support while they travel. Hemmed sheets of polyester fabric also interleave layers and provide a final cover on top. All the seams are double sewn (“French seams”) so there are no stray, catching threads from the padding to get caught on the objects.

When the dresses come home, the padding will be retained for future fashion loans—instead of thrown away like the tissue paper we used to rely upon. Snuggly! And more sustainable!