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2016 iD Fashion Week: When Fashion Fails

 

As any lover of vintage fashion knows, historic costumes and textiles often show signs of their age. This gives them character, but it can also mean they are more susceptible to damage. The conservation team’s aim is to stabilise the objects in the collection and slow down the natural deterioration processes.

When we open a box in the costume and textile storerooms, or go searching for an object needed for research or display, we never quite know what we’ll find.

Sometimes the object appears brand new; sometimes...not so much. An object's condition depends on lots of variables, including its age, the materials it's constructed out of, and the environmental conditions it's been exposed to.

Here’s just a taste of some of the conservation issues that pop up regularly. All the images below are of objects from the Otago Museum Collection. As you can see, conserving our costume and textile collection keeps us on our toes!

 

Break
Damage to the object as a result of shock or strain.

Break

Detail of a feather hair ornament

 

Corrosion
Occasionally the metal components on costume and textile items corrode.

Corrosion

Detail of a leather shoe

 

Crease
Lines caused by scrunching or folding. 

Crease

Detail of a silk dress

 

Insect damage
Costume and textiles are very appetising to certain insects. While our Integrated Pest Management program means we are able to keep pests in the storerooms at bay, we often encounter objects that have been targeted by pests at some point in the past. 

Insect damage

Detail of a suede dress

 

Discolouration
A change in the original colour. Objects can darken, yellow, or discolour for a variety of reasons.

Discolouration

Detail of a pair of plastic sunglasses

 

Distortion
The object has been warped out of its original shape.

Distorted

Detail of a suede shoe

 

Dust
Dust particles often settle on the surface of objects.

Dusty

Detail of a leather shoe

 

Fraying
When threads have unravelled or worn at the edge and are now loose.

Fraying

Detail of a satin shoe

 

Hole
Any kind of perforation; they come in all different shapes and sizes, and varying degrees of difficulty in addressing.

Hole

Detail of a sock

 

Loss
An area where original material is missing.

Loss

Detail of a leopard skin coat

 

Scratch
A score or scrape on an object’s surface.

Scratch

Detail of a metal handbag clasp

 

Shattering
In the late nineteenth century it became common to add weighting agents, such as metallic salts, to silk fabrics during their production. This weighted silk tends to 'shatter' or split as it ages.

Shattered

Detail of a silk bodice

 

Stain
A substance within the fibres causing discolouration. There is massive variation in size and type. We don’t usually know what the stains are, which often means a number of (very controlled) tests when attempting to remove them.

Stain

Detail of a silk jacket

 

Stretch
A component has been pulled and no longer holds its original shape.

Stretched

Detail of a brassiere

 

Wear
Damage to the object as a result of use. This can tell us a lot about how the objects were used. 

Wear

Detail of a woman’s boot

 

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