Friday, March 31, 2017

Second Life For Dresses

Back in another lifetime, I loved sewing beautiful lacy dresses for our two little girls. And they loved these dresses that twirled out wide when they would spin around and around. Many, many hours were invested in making sweet garments for my sweet little girls. So as you can imagine, when my girls outgrew the dresses about 30 years ago, I couldn't bare to part with them. They were carefully packed away.

Now I have two more little girls—our granddaughters—who love to twirl in pretty dresses. So this week I pulled out the dresses that I think might fit them now. And I got them ready to take with me when I head that way this weekend. (There is a birthday party for a certain 3 year old happening!)

You rarely see dresses like these any more, but this was the typical Sunday dress for little girls at our church back then. As I ironed for hours, I thought about why little girls don't wear these to church any more. And I think it's because I had to iron for hours. No one wants takes the time any more for that. It is a labor intensive process to iron miles of lace and ruffles. Moms are busy elsewhere.

I also wondered how I found the time to do this kind of sewing with young children in the house. No social media? No text messages? No smart phone with beeps and whistles that requires attention? No Pinterest boards to follow. No blogs to read? Or write? Maybe. Whatever the reason, life is different now. But I'm delighted that, at that point in my life, I had time to make these precious dresses. And even happier that I saved them for this generation.

It is likely that these dresses will only be worn one more time. My own little girls wore them to church every Sunday, but now the two that fit might be worn on Easter. And then we'll pack them away again. Who knows? Maybe there will be more little girls to wear these in years to come.

Of all the objects that we might want to save, textiles are particularly fragile. These dresses are made with batiste fabric that is as thin as tissue paper. And the threads in the lace are as delicate as butterfly eyelashes. So as I ironed, I found a few spots where the lace had simply given way to age. A basic whipped stitch with a single fine thread made a presentable repair.

If you have keepsake garments—like baby clothes, christening gowns, etc— that you want to keep for years, here are some steps you should take before storing them. Understand that these are not true conservation techniques. But these basic steps will help your stored clothing survive longer than they might otherwise.

Clean the garment before storage. Even oil from your hands can show up as yellow spots years later.  I hand wash these dresses in cold water, using a gentle detergent such as Delicare. Rinse in cold water and repeat until rinse water is clear. Do not wring out. Hang to dry. Do not iron until ready to wear it again.

Once a year, check garment for any discoloration. Wash again every year or two (or 4 or 5) to keep them fresh.

If storing in a drawer or box, wrap in acid-free tissue paper. If possible, don't fold the garment. If hanging, make a cover with an old, well-washed 100% cotton pillowcase to keep the dust off the dress. An old pillowcase that has been washed many times should be pretty much chemical free. Don't use metal hangers because they can rust. I like padded hangers.

Store in a dark, dry place with a moderate temperature. That means not in a hot attic or in a damp basement.

And then if you save some special dresses like I did, you'll be lucky and your grandchildren will be girls!


Missy V. said...

Thank you for these wonderful tips. The dresses are just exquisite. How on earth dd we do it back then? I am thinking about your comments about the cell phones, all the social media, etc...... and I think you might be on to something. Thankfully we will still see lots of batiste here on Easter morning!

goodnightgram said...

What beautiful dresses and good advice about keeping the garments. GN lucked out because of something my mother kept from her own childhood. GN was the 4th generation to wear the delicate lace garment my mother had saved. I still have it and my mother got to be at the event. So that wee little grand is going to be three?!!! Wow! Happy birthday to her.

janie said...

I LOVED this post! Heirloom children's sewing is my love language.

Barb said...

What precious heirlooms! Any little girl would feel quite special wearing your creations. I still have the feedsack dress with hand-tatted lace that my mother wore as a baby. My oldest granddaughter wore it for a photo when she was 6 months old.

Mimi said...

It couldn't possibly have anything to do with being 30 years younger, could it?

Mimi said...

Saw a christening on Sunday and the pastor announced that the christening gown had been worn by the baby's mother. So much history in these garments.

Mimi said...

Good to know you and I speak the same language.

Mimi said...

We have a knitted cap that my aunt wore before my dad was born. And both of my granddaughters wore it at their christenings. Love the history in such things.