Wedding dress, 1920, Maker unknown. Gift of Mrs Tui Preston, 1984. Te Papa

Treatment of a wedding dress 

Wedding dress, 1920
PC003279 

In 2011–2012, Te Papa hosted the international touring exhibition Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. During the time of the exhibition, many of Te Papa’s wedding dresses were featured in weekly blog posts written by Senior History Curator Claire Regnault. This dress, worn by Tui Gwendoline Mabel McKinnon at her 1920 wedding, underwent conservation so that it could be safely displayed.

The damage to the silk fabric at the interior of this 1920’s dress (PC003279) prevented  the garment from being displayed on a mannequin.
The damage to the silk fabric at the interior of this 1920’s dress (PC003279) prevented  the garment from being displayed on a mannequin.

The dress is constructed of silk, and has metallic thread and ostrich feather decoration. The silk and lace waistband lining inside the garment was so damaged that the garment could not be put on a mannequin without doing more harm to the dress.

To stabilise the waistband completely, the conservator needed to remove it from the garment, and lie it totally flat. She made extensive photographic and written records before clipping the original stitching. Then she stabilised the waistband with an adhesive-backed layer of sheer silk crepeline. The adhesive used remains flexible and colourless as it ages, and has a pH that is not harmful to the silk that it is in contact with. Following the adhesive stabilisation, the conservator stitched the waistband back into the garment, in its original location.

The silk was stabilised using an adhesive that will remain colourless, flexible and stable over the long-term.
The silk was stabilised using an adhesive that will remain colourless, flexible and stable over the long-term.