December 29, 2011

Ask The Vixen: Antique Dress Display

Q: I recently received a dress that belonged to my great-great-great grandmother. I would like to know the safest ways to display or store these items. I was thinking of having it put into a large frame. What do you think would be best?

A: To display the dress, you could have it framed with two caveats - first, make sure there's only indirect light (at most) if it's going to be displayed every day. Light destroys fabric over time, by weakening it as well as fading it. Second, make sure the frame is not airtight, and that you can gain access to the dress fairly easily if need be. Natural fibers need to expand and contract with changing temps, so airtightness is bad.

On the other hand, pests can travel into a frame that's not airtight, so it's helpful if you can "evacuate" the dress should it ever attract pests. If it's clean of body oils & other residues it should not be a particular attraction to pests; silk & wool are more predisposed to pest damage than cotton or linen, but with an occasional visual inspection you should be fine.

Additionally, you should affix the dress to an acid-free backing by hand-tacking it with unbleached cotton thread. Distribute the weight of the dress by having a strategy for spacing the sewing before you begin.