Monday, December 07, 2015

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Twenty-three years ago, I stood in a muddy field in  Western Massachusetts examining antique textiles from the trunk of a dealer's car at the Brimfield Fair. It was all in rather bad shape, but two items caught my eye. Ever the optimist, I bought them for a few dollars, and told myself I'd restore them at some point. What I know now, that I didn't then is that some things simply cannot be restored, and will eventually become even too fragile for display.

This isn't a dress, but a tabard. The sides are open, and there is a bit of a camisole at the top for modesty, but that's about it.

The lace, and the beading are so beautiful, but I don't dare try to steam out the wrinkles. I'm not sure it would survive a wash either, so I've tried to keep it packed away under good climate conditions, and hope for the best.

I'm sure it was a beautiful piece when it was new. It hasn't shattered much more in my possession, but I haven't taken it out for photos much. The gold fabric seems to have turned grey in areas-almost like it tarnished. There's no label, so I can't tell you much more about it.

The second item of clothing I bought that day was this coat, which I believe was ceremonial dress for some sort of Freemason group-I couldn't tell you which one. 

Label reads:
MCulley & CO. Columbus O. 
Military & Society Goods 

 The mettalic thread here has tarnished as well. I thought the snap-fastenings were interesting
My collection is filled with interesting, but unwearable pieces, and I'll be showing them here from time-to-time. If you know anything about these pieces, I'm always interested in hearing it. The seller thought this was a Knights of Pythias jacket, but subsequent reading has led me to believe that was incorrect. 

Next time, I have a pretty little velvet Victorian capelet to show (and that one's still in wearable condition). 


Bibi Maizoon said...

I wonder if that tabard was part of a costume or some other ensemble?
The beaded lace belt/sash thing is lovely too.

The coat almost looks like a Rajasthani men's jacket.


Strawberries, avocadoes, & oranges are in season here. YUM!

Beth Waltz said...

I've worked back-stage at small museums and learned -- the hard way --that conserving silk is difficult even for those who know what they're doing and have the resources to do it!

Sadly, I agree there's little to be done for shattered silk. It's an organic substance and it does decay. Those Fortuny pleats on the tabard add an additional complication. I'd be tempted to slip a layer of muslin inside the garment to help it "rest" and rotate which side upon which it lays. At the least, store it as flat and unweighted as possible, far, far away from sunlight and plastic containers.

Vix has published some cheap-tricks-that-work procedures. I remember her using hairconditioner to restore life to Victorian boots. Perhaps she'd offer an idea?

Sorry, can't help with the identification of the fraternal order that manufactured the other pretty piece of gilt. "Fancy dress" is how I'd label its box, circa 1900.

Vix said...

Two absolutely beautiful pieces which I'd want to wear at every opportunity. Damage seems to make things more endearing and give them some personality. My Great Great Grandmother's wedding dress is littered with moth holes which makes me love it more.
Dying to see the capelet. xxx

Goody said...

There were these funny little drop-slips people wore beneath tabards with a short skirt that would peek out at the bottom-I've forgotten what they're called. It was definitely intended to be a layered piece on the bottom.

@Beth I like that label idea!

I agree-not that I wouldn't love to have perfect pieces in my collection, but sometimes the damage reflects the age.

Beth Waltz said...

A delayed *aha* moment here: please have a look at the Fortuny Delphos gown on Wikipedia. A very nice find you have, indeed!

Goody said...

It was commonplace for designs to be copied in the US from the European originals (copyrights weren't what they are today)so perhaps what I have is a very nice fake.

Mim said...

Those are lovely pieces. The gold gown is really fascinating, it makes me think of Edwardian photos of dancers.

Goody said...

It does seem like something Pavlova would have worn, now that you mention it. I'm sure the woman that wore it had an elaborate headpiece as well.