Tuesday, February 8

from start to finish

This past Saturday, just outside of Chicago, I spent a blissful day in the freezing cold attic of a house built in the 1860s surrounded by racks and racks of vintage clothing from the 1800s on through to the 1960s. The collection of a woman named Nancy Allen who lectured on the role of women in American politics. While she lectured she hosted a fashion show exhibiting the types of garments women were wearing during certain decades. Through the years Nancy became well-known in her town and people would donate vintage pieces to her to be used in these fashion shows. Needless to say the collection was mindblowing, I cried when I entered the attic. Much of the collection is Edwardian and 1920s handmade lace, which I don't even mind saying, is the stuff that literally starts my waterworks a' goin'. The attic is no place for these types of garments and they have suffered. Yesterday I began the effort of restoring one of these dresses, and it goes a little something like this...



A lukewarm soak of Palmolive & a small amount of bleach. Is it scary soaking an almost 100 year old dress in some bleach, you bet, but the dress had many stains and was ecru when it should be very pale ivory. Beware though, too much bleach can actually make the garment MORE yellow. The more dangerous issue is dealing with lace this old when it is wet. I took a lot of time and extreme care when rinsing the dress, needless to say. But honestly I love doing it, I feel like I am caring for a kitten or something, like the dress has a "life", as silly as it may sound.


Still not completely dry and pretty rigid from the washing. Not a pleasant thing to imagine wearing...




Dry & gingerly steamed the dress still has a few areas of stain/discoloration 
but is miles better, utterly beautiful & ready to wear! Voila!

32 comments:

Dashfield Vintage said...

Wow amazing! I have to admit I am more than a little bit envious!
x

Vintage Seen said...

oh good lord I want to cry myself. gorgeous and I have a few Edwardian dresses I didn't even dream of rinsing, I'm inspired and I will very carefully 'have a go' with the above ingredients...

Wild Tea Party said...

Oh that attic sounds amazing.... I mean, really amazing! That's kind of my dream, to find an attic full of clothes.

Zohar said...

oh my!! That dress is dreamy - I can believe you are surrounded by these!!! :D

NoirGirl said...

Love getting a peek into your restoring process. The dress is so lovely - great job! I don't blame you for crying at the sight of all those dresses - I think if I was ever in the presence of so much vintage, I'd be shook up, too!

Amanda / Rust Belt Threads said...

I love this post! It's so satisfying when you resurrect a dress from it's stained past. I've never heard of using palmolive for a soak...must look into it. Great job, that dress is a beauty!

archives said...

so amazing. so i take it you're keeping this one? lucky lady to get to dig through such a wonderful treasure trove of vintage. and knowing they're all in an attic so close to me somewhere- even more heartbreaking!

Alicia said...

How I would have loved to be in your shoes! Sounds like heaven. I'm among those who find your restoration process intriguing; I have a recently estate-saled Edwardian dress that I am TERRIFIED of cleaning - lace galore, and just a few scattered pesky stains down the front. And though the lace seems strong, my trusted dry cleaner refused to clean it for fear of dry rot... do you know how to spot dry-rotted lace, by any chance?

P U R P L E - D E E R said...

I love finding the history of estate sales, or house shopping. The clothes do start to carry lives once you know (Which surprisingly make them hard to let go of). But non the less also make them more beautiful once knowing the original owners story.

Kayla said...

How gorgeous is that?


Ramblings of a Small Town Girl

Lauren said...

Wow! What an amazingly beautiful gown!! Congrats!

BaronessVonVintage said...

how incredible! I loved seeing the process of the swan emerging from the foam of the soaking solution!

Whitney J said...

i would be way too terrified to ever try restoring something like that! you did an awesome job tho and i feel like that dress would be a perfect wedding dress for someone. very beautiful!

Jessica / Lola Vintage Clothing said...

glad you posted this, there are some vintage dresses I've ruined because I THOUGHT I knew how to clean them, but I found out I was so wrong. :(
I heard that woolite, because it's so gentle, would be a good soak too. p.s. any advice for rayon? Rayon hates me.

Em said...

What a gorgeous dress--glad you were the one that rescued it and performed the intervention. What a neat thing to do--the attic you described is my idea of heaven and it would bring a tear to my eye for sure.

Casey said...

Oh my goodness... what an amazing story of finds! I think I would have been completely overwhelmed in that situation (heck... I was overwhelmed when I went to an amazing estate sale last year that wasn't half as amazing at the situation you were faced with ;). That dressed cleaned up beautifully, as they say! I have always erred on the side of caution cleaning my Edwardian pieces with Oxyclean, but the idea of a touch of bleach could be helpful in particularly stubborn pieces...

♥ Casey

Traci said...

How often do you put up dresses like this for sale? Im looking for one to fit a M.

About Last Weekend said...

Thanks for doing this - I bought a 1950's handbag which is a little stained so will use this to try and revive. Plus its wrinkled ...not sure how to get that out..

knittinginatree said...

It's just stunning! Thank you for sharing.

Stella said...

Oh wow. That dress is truly impressive. I would wear that in a heartbeat.

Genna said...

Absolutely gorgeous. I know exactly what you mean about the dress almost having a life of its own; I work in a museum and when working with the artifacts I often feel the same way. Why? Because someone, long ago, loved that item. They loved it, cared for it, and it went with them as they pursued their hopes and dreams. Sounds like an awesome fashion show!

Are they going to wear the dresses? I'd be afraid of destroying them!

Jean Jean Vintage said...

I love this post Lauren. That dress is so much happier living with you now than it was in the attic. What a lucky dress indeed!

Bruklyn Belle said...

That is absolutely incredible! I was just talking today about the overwhelming feeling of being in a room full of vintage and wondering where each dress was worn to, for what occasion, etc. It's mind blowing. I always say that I wish dresses came with a book telling who they belonged to and what they were used for :)

AVY said...

The stuff dreams are made of.

Chelsea said...

wow, that is a wonderful love story with a happy ending! It is stunning. I will remember your method in case I ever get this lucky. :]

Teresa @ good-grace said...

Thanks for sharing the process, the photo's, the story. And you are soooo right ... attic's can be abstolutely *brutal* when it comes to the condition of clothing. Seems liek all of the stains are magnified (I suppose the heat is what really draws them out and "sets" them).

The dress is divine. (I've never used that combination to clean a garment - the palmolive and bleach -- glad to hear it works - I will definitely have to try it.)

Kristin said...

Its a very pretty dress.

Amber said...

This is BREATHTAKING! Thank you for sharing a bit of your process. You have so much to teach!

Yellow Rose said...

That's an amazing dress!

Liane said...

I love the story behind this dress. That fashion show sounded fun and informative. I am in awe of the whole restoration process. It looks beautiful!

Isaac & Andi said...

LOVE the "behind the scenes" of dear golden! you do amazing things in rescuing these lovely dresses!

andi
raleigh vintage

Anthea said...

Wow! I really admire the effort you take in restoring these dresses. It's really a beautiful thing.

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