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Friday, February 25, 2011

Vintage Dress Restoration Project: Part 1

Well the reason to get up early today was the LOVE VINTAGE FAIR held at Byron High School, not only was it a chance to meet some wonderful vintage sellers, see some beautiful clothes and treat myself to a little something!

A few of the best stalls....
First off with a stunning 60s daisy maxi dress is Tracy ( who had a beautiful selection including some wonderful 50s pieces(I loved the Hawaiian one) and gorgeous bags,one of which I had to snap up as my treat of the day (see below). Then is the amazing vintage sewing shop run by Julia, I found the cutest little vintage smocking book for $3 which I will send to my mum who is currently learning about making 30s and 40s dresses! Then finally for the fans of everything colourful, 80s and very well priced was the loverly Rebeccka of Trunk Vintage, although I love everyone there you do get the odd seller who likes to be bossy and talk down to you like you have never heard of ebay, overall there is a fantastic friendly range of different sellers and they have a few antiques too for the boys.

This is my little prize! So pretty and colourful it is really heavy, I think there are layer of other fabrics incl leather inside the bag.

The inside looks spotless! With its old label too! I dont think I have ever seen a bag quite like this. I just like unusual things so kept getting drawn back to this one (along with most people there so had to be quick!)
and finally, the good weather and promise of a vintage fair got everyone garage sale-ing! The first sign I saw I followed and found this stunning piece. A 1930s? silk satin wedding dress (the lady thought it was pre 1900,I would be interested to hear what you think as I think its 30s ish)! Okay it did set me back $40 but I'm a sucker for anything cut like this. It has only 2 small repairable holes in the huge train and is quite discoloured but here the restoration starts!
You cant really see it well, which is good, its just a light aging colour all over, a few tiny spot marks but nothing major. I have had a dress in much worse condition, much more fragile silk with seriously bad dark stains on it so thought I maybe able to revive this back to its former glory.... I am no expect, its been trial and error, and I never enter into it without fully expecting the worst case a)I will not be able to do anything with it. Its why pieces like the ones I have tried are good, a 40s majorette costume or old wedding dress would make the most amazing Halloween costume at worst, and people spend more than $40 on a new outfit for a partyand the b) If I totally destroy the fabric, say it shatters ( but I learned quickly with that one) then my mum would love to deconstruct it to copy the pattern. However I hope for more so step one:

Fill a bath with hot water and heaps of Martha Gardiner Wool Mix detergent. I laid the dress in the bath carefully, and although fabric and construction are solid, I would rather be careful and press it down into the water every hour or so. I pour some of the detergent into my hands and press it on to the more dirty spots. The hardest things about stain removal is not this part, its rinsing and drying.

Be very careful doing this, old fabrics do not have colour fast fabrics which is why best with pieces like this which are one solid colour. If it has a mix of different coloured fabric try and test a small area with a slightly soapy cottom bud (inside hem) and if colour comes away maybe leave it to your dry cleaners. It could easily run and stain other parts when drying.

Rinsing has to be done with as much care as possible, working down the dress gradually, I have a bucket ready to put fully rinsed sections in. Be sure to remove all traces of detergent else the fabric will not be as nice. As there is so much fabric it holds lots of water so will be very heavy, its best to let items dry hanging but when something like this its often best dried flat, at least until it looses some of the water. If a dress has shoulder pads be really careful especially pre 50s when you dont know what is stuffed in there and dirt can gather over time. If you have shoulder pads turn the dress inside out, dry flat over a line with pads hanging away from the dress so no water can run down and mark the shoulders. Dab as much water as you can out with a cloth too. Remove if possible.

Here is my dress getting a bubble bath...
Keep posted to see how I go (fingers crossed) and check back tomorrow for my finds of the week!
Thanks again for stopping by its always so nice to I'm not doing too bad, not for an ego boost,more of a business one seeing as I want to have my own vintage shop, as an ecologist its a bit of a career leap and when things are not going so well it stops me from giving it up and makes me work harder so thank you!!!!


  1. Oh what fun,Wish they had those fair back when I lived down that way.LOVE the wedding dress I have a few as well cant resist and cant sell them lol
    Cute bag too.Shame that there are some people that like to make others feel small Least you know who to avoid next time.

  2. That dress will be stunning (fingers crossed). I would have guessed 30s if you hadn't said anything, but am no expert. Thanks for the tips on cleaning - I'd never really thought about shoulder pads or anything like that staining fabric.

    Love the bag. I just read an article on old Palestinian embroidery which was in a similar style.