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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Miniature Textile Conservation

by Conservation


behind the scenes , conservation , textiles , miniatures , fabric

A visit to the workbench in textile conservation today might feel a little like visiting a fashion studio--in miniature.  The textile conservator is treating a set of doll clothes.  This bodice and skirt ensemble belongs to one of the Dollyver family of dolls in the museum’s doll and toy collection.  In order to treat it, the doll had to be undressed.  The purple silk fabric is in poor condition and much of it has been lost.  The skirt has been treated by almost reconstructing it, a panel at a time, with dyed-to-match fabric that is adhered to the back of the surviving shreds of the original skirt.  Seams are hand-stitched together.

The waist will be re-pleated to the doll when it is redressed.  The bodice is up next for treatment!  There’s not much left of the original upper sleeves, so much like a clothing designer of normal-sized clothes, the conservator will create a pattern of them.  The pattern shows how to cut the fabric and construct new sleeves to fit the bodice armhole and meet the original cuff sections. New sleeves will be made using the matching dyed fabric and eventually, the doll will be redressed in her "new" ensemble, fresh from her "dressmaker."