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Rough handling/Insensitive Alterations

Both this 1902 pink silk brocade ball gown and the 1890s blue velvet evening dress on exhibit are very good examples of poor handling and ill-advised attempts to alter them from their original sizes. A professional conservator has examined both garments and submitted the following outline of work that will need to be completed to return these garments to even an approximation of their original condition.
1902 Silk and Beaded Ball Gown

This is the only true ball gown in the Museum's collection, but alterations that were made to make the dress larger have destroyed its original shape and design. The areas most severely damaged are at the waist, the neckline, and the back. Gussets (triangular shaped pieces of fabric) have been sewn into the waistline in order to make it nearly 6 inches bigger. Removing the original gathers and lengthening the shoulders have created a false lower neckline. The bosom, originally designed as a monobosom (a softly pleated area disguising the chest area) no longer has fullness and sags over the waistline. The original back darts, as well as a large double box pleat in the back, have been taken out to accommodate the expanded waistline.

Fortunately, many beautiful aspects remain. The metallic embroidery and crystal and pearl beads used for the tracery are in good condition. The delicate sleeves of silk chiffon and the many ruffles in the train are intact.

Although restoration will involve some educated guesswork, repairs are possible.

Restoring this dress could cost from $1000 to $1100, and all repairs would be made by hand, using silk thread.

If this gown were in mint condition its value would be $3000 to $3500.

ball gown


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