Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Displaying dress

Displaying dress

From: Sharon Manitta <manittas<-a>
Date: Monday, November 7, 2005
Andrea Tritton <trit0006 [at] algonquincollege__com> writes

>My item to conserve is an early Christian Dior day dress, designed
>for his 1947 Fall Winter collection.  My aim is to focus on
>conservation requirements for the display of this dress. It is made
>of black wool crepe, and--here's the tricky part--weighs just over
>3kg, most of the weight of which is in the extremely voluminous
>skirts (over 26 metres of crepe de laine was used in the dress'
>...  How would you approach the display of a dress that heavy?

You didn't mention the condition of the dress that you wish to
conserve and display.  How sound is the structure of the material
and the garment?  This will certainly affect how the dress will be

Things to take into consideration:

    *   Because of the "crimp" in the material, it can be a bit

    *   Also, wool crepe can be woven to be somewhat course or to be
        very diaphanous.  How sheer is the material?

    *   Like many materials used for clothing, the quality of wool
        crepe has changed over the years and may have different
        tolerances than modern wool crepes.

    *   Of course the deterioration of the wool over the years will
        probably weaken the material.

Once the dress has been treated, the display should be in a form
that has the closest shape to the garment.  The form has to be
modified to fit the dress rather than the dress to fit the form.  It
is best to start with a smaller form and build it up to get the
correct shape for the period.  It is important to remember that
hemlines went down to the low calf/just above the ankle at this

Underwear was as critical in the 1940s as it was 100 years before.
It is advisable not to use original garments because of the stress
put on deteriorating objects.

Petticoats were used a great deal at the time.  Are there any
attached to the dress?  The look in 1947 wasn't voluminous but the
skirts still had a certain amount of fullness.  The woman wearing
this dress would have worn a girdle and possibly a "waspie" to hold
in her waist.  Narrow waists were a feature of this period.

How long will the garment be on display?  The longer it is on
display the more substantial your mounting will have to be.  This
dress will need a solid, sturdy form to take the weight of the dress
and the necessary support.  The form should be as inert as possible
and have a fabric covering to stitch into.

I would approach the mounting by using a fairly rigid material for
the skirt support.

Materials like heavy weight non-woven interlining or buckram may be
useful in supporting the skirt.  Once the correct shape is
constructed, make sure any rough edges of the support work are
covered with a smooth material (like undyed cotton) so that it
doesn't catch on the dress.

Make sure you allow plenty of time for the display work.  It can a
few days to properly mount a garment.

Sharon Manitta
Textile Conservator
(Former dress designer and lecturer in fashion history)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:25
                Distributed: Thursday, November 10, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-19-25-005
Received on Monday, 7 November, 2005

[Search all CoOL documents]