Restoring a 1920s Silk Georgette Sequinned Dress

This 1920s silk georgette sequinned dress is certainly a rare find

When Jo-anne Armstrong from Once More, With Feeling contacted me about restoring this piece I just couldn’t resist.

The dress even came in its original box with Made In Belgium written on it. The main issue with the dress was the dry rot to the underarms. The lining had dropped and there were quite a few sequins missing from the skirt as well as the bodice.

I started with the easiest task, taking up the lining. Whenever possible I don’t cut away vintage fabric, you never know when you might have to let something out or use the fabric to do a repair somewhere else on the dress. In taking up the lining I hand stitched the hem using the same technique that was used originally.

The most important part of this dress was to repair the underarms

As mentioned previously the damage here was caused by dry rot. Dry rot is actually caused by moisture. It would be safe to assume that perspiration from the wearing seeped into the garment. As garments in the 1920s could not be cleaned the perspiration has sat in the fabric all these year and eventually caused it to rot away. The damaged silk needed to be removed, fortunately the thread containing the beading and the sequins was still strong and intact.

In repairing the underarms I considered a couple of options. One was to use silk georgette in a like colour or to use a combination of silk georgette backed with pure silk. I decided to go with the latter. Given that I was going to need to anchor the existing fabric to it I wanted it to be sturdy enough to last another hundred years.

Every piece of added silk was stitched to the original dress using a blanket stitch around the edges and then carefully hand stitched in sections that corresponded to the pattern of the dress. You really need to see the photos to understand what I’m talking about.

Lastly was the skirt. This was the most difficult part of the job. The back of the skirt had the most damage as whole rows of sequins were missing, not surprisingly, as they would have been sat on by the wearer. There were the odd sequins missing here and there all over the skirt as well and by the time I finished replacing as many sequins as I could I had literally started dreaming about them. I would wake up in the morning remembering a section I had missed the day before.

I came to realise that unless I was prepared to replace every sequin on the skirt my job would not be finished. I spun that skirt around so many times it made me dizzy. I also had to be mindful that this dress was fragile and in the process of stitching on the replacement sequins, some of the older ones decided to fall off.

I sourced my vintage sequins from Maria’s Beads and Trims in Melbourne CBD and whilst they weren’t an exact match they were pretty darn close! Thank you so much Maria!!

I’ve included some before and after pics of the dress. I’m pretty pleased with the way this looks and I’m happy to say that this dress is going to be on parade at RipponLea’s Night Life: Fashion Show High Tea.






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