It's time now to think about the lace. Last week in Ottawa the Fabric Flea market was held. If I can get out of there without buying something, I am lucky. It's a great place to find my sewing and fiber friends. I went to see Margaret Ruhland, a lace collector and expert.
The lace on the dress is rather gray, so I was thinking I wouldn't be able to use it. However, after talking to Margaret, I have changed my mind. There is a debate in costuming circles about using old lace again, taking it off the original dress. One school of thought says that it should be left with the dress. The other camp says since the dress is in such bad shape, the silk being in shreds in many places, why not save the lace? I was in the first camp, but now, after talking to some colleagues I met at the sale, I have changed my mind. After all, the dress will be de-accessioned from the collection because of its condition. The lace, the unique medallions and buttons are in good condition.
Using them solves another problem: finding duplicates of these. If I use the originals, one search is over. I still have to find lace and buttons for the bridal reproduction. using the original lace on the museum copy will tie it to the original dress rather nicely. The other issue I was struggling with was that new laces are so stiff compared to the 1885 lace.
In the box with the original dress is a section of lace that is loose. it may have been used to fill in the neckline, as it has a hook on one tapered end. I took this to show Margaret. She identified it as Brussels lace, with needle lace additions. I am no specialist with lace, so this was news indeed! The lace is also made with linen thread. It is very fine. In the picture, you may observe the lace has been joined down the middle.
Margaret had brought along another piece of Brussels lace, also from the 1880's. It was pretty close in width and style. Naturally, I bought it. Margaret told me to soak it in Oxy Clean and set it out in the sun to dry. this I have done and it is whiter now. The lace has a few brownish spots which may be rust, so I will have a go at these with lemon juice and salt on the next sunny day. Not so many of those lately!
Another costume expert I know pointed out that this much hand made lace on a gown must have cost a pretty penny. I came away from the sale with much to ponder and do. If I get the rust spots out, I will use this on the bridal gown.