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parasolInherent Vice

This parasol (c1885) suffers from what is known as inherent vice. The silk fabric was dipped in a bath of metallic salts to give a shinier and fuller appearance. This process, known as weighting, accelerates the splitting of the silk fibers.

Many objects have this "inherent vice"; which means that the original material will decay even under the best possible conditions. Textiles are especially vulnerable to inherent vice. All natural fibers are hydroscopic; which means they react by expanding and contracting in response to humidity. As fibers age their physical structure changes, and this affects moisture absorption, resiliency, and elasticity. Thus, storage and handling techniques that were appropriate when the fabric was new will sometimes cause severe damage as the fibers become older. Sharp folds, which can cause breakage and loss of fiber, are one example of what can happen. Chemicals used in the manufacture of the cloth can drastically reduce inherent stability of textiles and hasten the degradation process. Finally some garments are constructed of incompatible materials. For example, the beading, found on 1920s "flapper" dresses is often attached to a fine mesh or net fabric. The mesh becomes more fragile as it ages and eventually can no longer support the weight of the heavy beads.



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