Friday, August 2, 2013

Another Extant Treasure Found at the Thrift

I have some explaining to do.

But first (and again), please pardon the quality of the succeeding photos, taken by my ancient cellphone camera. I do have an excellent digital camera, but I do not carry it around - this morning, I was pleasantly caught off guard at the thrift store by another wonderful discovery.

Now, why didn't I buy the blue wool Edwardian dress (in the preceding post)? Because I shouldn't own it (and it's not for lack of wanting it). Many dressmakers have their own extant treasures that they covet and use for personal study - I have a couple pieces of my own (inherited), but have no intention of keeping them or passing them on to any one person. The reason for this is complex. To begin, these extant items only have an intrinsic value to me and to people like me, and their worth is relative to their historical significance, rarity, and condition. As a collector, my main focus is not to possess, but to preserve. I know that I do not have the means or ability to preserve certain items in my possession for any extended time without jeopardizing their integrity and condition, and I have made arrangements with a repository for their eventual storage. I don't want to give the impression that I am ripping family heirlooms from the hands of my children and their descendants, but there is a reason why that lovely blue Edwardian dress ended up in a thrift store - because eventually, no one wanted it. Garments constructed from organic materials are in a state of perpetual decay, and how these pieces are handled and stored will determine how quickly they rot (there are other variables to this, but preservation, or lack thereof, is the main cause of accelerated deterioration). I feel a personal responsibility to rare and wonderful items in my care, and if I know that I cannot adequately preserve them, then I do not want them in my keep.

However, I returned to Saint Francis this morning with intention to buy the blue wool dress and donate it to a local museum, but the manager had been misinformed by her night staff - the dress had sold last night and she was deeply embarrassed by the over site. I'm sure the dress's  new sponsor will care for it well! Wouldn't it be wonderful if out there in the blogosphere detailed pictures of it popped up? Here's to hoping! 

But the morning wasn't lost! Sure enough, another beauty caught my eye - a girl's white silk dress (c. 1900-1910), most likely made for a special occasion, in fair condition. I didn't buy it, but the manager was very gracious and allowed me to examine the garment extensively and take pictures, which I did with great care.

~Dress front~
~Bodice detail~
~Bodice up close~
~Sleeve (top) gather detail~
~Sleeve detail~
~Dress back~
~Dress back open~
~Waistband (inside) and shirring detail~
~Armscye and front bodice seam detail (inside)~
~Extended view of dress back~
~Skirt hem from the back (inside)~
~Dress front (inside out)~
~Dress back (inside out)~
~Back closure, shirring visible (from the inside)~
~Skirt back, lapped placket~

Some notes on the construction of the dress:

The dress is made of a fine white silk; the overall condition of the dress is fair - there are a few pinholes, ripping, and significant thinning (wear) in key areas. The basic dress is straight line stitched by machine, but all finishing work is hand stitched (underside of the cuffs, underside of the collar, shirring at the waist, shirring at the top sleeve gather, bias on the armscye seams, lace trim on the collar, embroidered netting and its attachment to the front and back of the dress, etc.). French seam construction is used on the side seams of the bodice and skirt, but oddly nowhere else on the garment. The skirt hem is machine stitched; silk bias is hand sewn over the armscye seams. The remaining inside seams of the dress are raw and there is no indication they were ever pinked or finished. Dress closes in the back by four steel eyes and hooks (hidden by a lapped placket).

Another wonderful historical costume inspiration! Blessings and happy sewing!

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