Monday, June 1, 2009

Brocade Evening Dress

Accession Number: M.80.185.1

Label 1: 1 Piece Dress, USA, c.1952

Label 2: Mrs Chas Swett, Poss Gift, 8/27/80

This floor-length, form-fitting dress is made of a green, pink, and orange check silk with a silver brocaded pattern of stylized birds, flowers, and crabs. The check of this fabric is uneven, with up to ½” variation in the width of the stripes. The garment has a boned lining of darker green silk with three hanging straps; it fastens up the back with a series of hooks, eyes, and a zipper.

When this dress was deconstructed, it proved to be primarily made of three large pieces of fabric, one for the left side of the dress, one for the right, and a third for a short train. The shape of the garment is primarily achieved through a series of long darts. There was also a large amount of hand work evident: e.g. hand-rolled hems, hand-sewn closures, hand-finished edges, etc.

A period umbrella was obtained. The damaged canopy was removed and disassembled. One section of the canopy was then traced onto a piece of paper to create a pattern. Using this pattern, ten identical pieces were cut from the brocade fabric, being careful to match the pattern as much as the uneven stripes of the weave would allow. When sewn together, these pieces formed the new canopy. The outside hem was then hand rolled and the center of the canopy was re-inforced with extra rows of stitches before being threaded onto the end of the umbrella. Tips were hand-sewn onto the hem of the canopy and these were attached to the end of each umbrella rib. In addition, several stitches were made to secure each seam of the canopy to a corresponding rib. This prevents the canopy from shifting during the opening and closing of the umbrella. A snap from the original garment was attached to a section of one of the hanging straps to secure the umbrella closed.

The accession number has been embroidered onto the lower left-hand corner of one panel of the canopy.


  1. I love this one. What a great project.

  2. This is yet another piece of yours that I'd love to own. I like how meticulously you matched the pattern of the fabric on the umbrella. I'm interested in what else you'll do with such a beautiful fabric.