>Edwardian White Dress Restoration

> A conglomeration post of previous posts having to do with this.
When I went to the vintage expo a while back we stopped in Paris 1900 in search of the perfect wedding gown. The vintage expo was extremely overpriced and nothing screamed at me to be mine, and when we went here things certainly screamed as lovely, but with high prices accompanying them. After pestering the lady she came out with this dress and I knew I had to have it, even if it wasn’t going to be my wedding dress. I knew it was a project dress, but it was the “just in case I don’t finish/find a dress”, plus it’s gorgeous and the lace is brilliant. At the store it looked fine- the price was reasonable, and I figured I could make a go of it. Over the last four or so days (exculding weekends) I’ve been plugging away at restoring it to wearable condition- I want it to be my going-away gown. So just so you know, when I was mentioning the “backup wedding gown” this was the one.

Mr Charles helps.

The dress is too big and it was too short. I found the other day, with Addi’s help, that it had a double ruffle at the bottom. I found I could detach the under ruffle and add it to the outer ruffle for length- the cotton batiste I have is just too stark white to match and has too much of a sheen, which was my original idea in how to lengthen it. Of course, it wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated. The double ruffle was actually sewn together before it was attached to the lace, so I had three rows of tiny little stitches to undo, as well as gathering stitches. The longer I went along the more issues I found- the lace had obviously been stepped through and there were long sections that had been whipped shut where the lace bridges had been broken siginificantly. The lace in the ruffle length also had larger holes- one-two inches by 1/2 inch, and there are areas of spotting or tiny little holes. Friday and yesterday were devoted to hours and hours of unpicking ruffle, mending ruffle, removing lace, reattaching lace, and replacing where necessary (the removed lace will be saved for restoring the bodice).

The dress, while too big, upon closer inspection was actually smaller. There are rows and rows of pin pricks where little darts went all the way around the waist. I also thing this had a train at one time, since the darts shorten in size until they are minuscule- I usually have seen them with darts of the same length all the way around and not graduating. The cut is also sort of dipped, when I removed it yesterday from the waistband to start redoing all the darts. I think I need to re-do these by hand since I don’t want the machine to gnaw through the fabric.

This is a much larger project than I anticipated. It’s a gorgeous dress, but I’m 7 hours in and have only just reattached the ruffle. I also need to get more lace if I want to cover some areas on the ruffle which have holes… I’ve been trolling ebay and etsy and found one auction ending today I’m going to snag and this one from etsy I got last night.

First side of darts finished. It’s a good thing I’m doing these by hand- the fabric has a memory of these and folds back on itself where the darts were. It’s kind of like magic, the way fibres remember. While doing these I noticed a line across the width a few inches from the edge of the tuck where there were bigger pinholes in the fabric- seems that someone had gathered it right there and there’s still remnants of gathering thread. I wonder how on earth that would have worked… it’s at the back of the gown. Why would someone run a gathering stitch six inches from the waistline? It’s a mystery… I just wish they had done it with a finer needle and thinner thread so it wouldn’t have shown as much when it was let out. You can see on the left side where the fabric goes in that strange curve I was mentioning and then the darts get really short- I have a feeling it was cut at a curve to form more of a train from the waistline, then chopped off later. The bodice is somewhat more blousey, so this could very well have been the earlier, more S curve shape and that could have accommodated that, then cut down as corsets got straighter. Or that’s my guess, anyways.

Here’s the comparison between how it was/how it’s getting to be:

I’m out of long enough lengths of lace at the moment and all that’s left on this part is hand sewing so this is officially on hold until I feel like hand sewing/the lace gets here. I think I’m not going to trim away behind the insertion because I don’t want to cut into the fabric- but as it is it is covering the largest holes or spots of wear on the self, with the exception of places which will need longer lengths. They were simply put on to help protect against the holes spreading. And check out all my little tucks around the waist! I’m really proud of those.

I think the most exciting part is that I’m starting to discover how it originally was supposed to look.

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