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Preserving a vintage silk blouse

Dianna | Posted in General Discussion on

I have a vintage silk blouse I need to mount and display in a frame.  Does anyone have any background info on what decisions to make:

-wash/don’t wash (will gently hand washing do more damage?)

-repair/ don’t repair/ repair minimally

-how to mount and display.

The blouse is the wedding blouse from my 86-yr-old aunt’s mother.  It will get handed down to her hiers, so the effort and expense budgets are pretty robust.  I’m a fairly skilled seamstress (about 40 years experience) and have made 5-6 wedding dresses, so I think I’m up to the task.  $50/yard lace didn’t stop me in my tracks, but this blouse has.  Help!



  1. User avater
    fashionlizard | | #1

    Be VERY VERY careful if you decide to wash. Sadly, I can tell you from experience that washing can be too much for an old silk garment. I had a silk dress from the 20's. Supposedly the wedding dress from my grandmother who died when my mom was born. I washed it in the sink.... and lots of dirt came out. I was happy about that... but as I finished gently squishing the soap out and rinsing, the satin silk started to shatter in places. The shear gauzy silk was fine. I should not have used any soap at all...and certainly not something like synthropol. Since I had used it on new silk, I thought it would be safe. I was really wrong! Too bad I didn't read up before doing this!! I am wiser now. (I hope!!)

    There is a site that has info on this sort of thing... vintagefabrics.com or something like that. I don't have the link handy, but do some research online with vintage in the search and you should be able to read up on it before taking ANY action.

    1. softfurn | | #2

      I would suggest you contact the fashion/textile department of a museum such as the Metropolitan,Cooper Hewett, Kent State . Based on what the fibre is, and condition, etc, they can give you proper restoration guidance as well as names of  restorers, should you wish to have it professionally done. They can also suggest the proper way to mount and display.

      1. User avater
        Dianna | | #5

        Thanks for sending back your recommendation.  I do believe I need to do some more research.  The discussion group has sent some great info.

        Thanks again!

    2. User avater
      Dianna | | #4

      Thanks for taking time to share your experience, even if it was bad.  I'll do some more research and price out having it done professionally.  I suspect I may end up trying to wash it, and may end up mounting it on batiste to stabilize it.

      Thanks again. Your comments have been a good reference point.


  2. User avater
    paddyscar | | #3

    Dianna:  You've had very good advice from fashionlizard and softfurn.

    I wouldn't do anything until you speak with a professional conservator about the garment. 

    I would suggest you contact  one of these textile museums.  If none of them are near you, they may recommend an expert who is within travelling distance.

    Hope this helps, Frances










    1. User avater
      Dianna | | #6

      The links are great!  Thank you for the info.

    2. ixs | | #8

      I collect antique clothing and antique photographs (1850s). If you were to buy a piece of antique clothing that was clean, you would pay more money for it if it was a good piece. Washing or dry cleaning is ALWAYS precarious. Ask me about the perfect blouse I washed that disintegrated. And remember, that mounting in a frame might cause condensation that would further the garment, and any light falling on the piece would also do damage. However, I do hang garments for display, but I keep them out of direct sunlight, dust them with a natural bristle brush, and rotate them so they are rested. But remember, material/garments are always deteriorating. Museums have special environments that cost a lot of money for storage.

  3. Fruzzle | | #7

    With respect to mounting, if you are going to use paper or card backing, you should look into finding acid-free papers or card.

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