Before beginning to prepare costumes for a display we must consider many factors, among which are the conditions of the objects, the consolidation treatments, the mounting, and the display conditions.
Stabilizing the object so that it will not deteriorate while it is exposed to the public is the most important goal. Textiles, especially costumes, are very fragile items because of their three-dimensional shape and often they are made of very different fabrics and other associated materials, like metal threads, sequins, glass beads and rhinestones. Because of light exposure and wear and tear the fabrics can become very weak and degraded.
The first steps of the conservation process are special moments in which the conservator carefully observes a work of art: taking photos of a costume on a mannequin, researching, measuring, studying the assembly techniques, and identifying the materials. If a costume needs to be displayed it must be supported by a mannequin to model with its silhouette following the fashion and customs of its period (Fig. 4). Preparing the necessary materials like fabrics, threads, dyes, and padding for the consolidation and the mounting processes (Fig. 5) is the second step. During the consolidation stage through a minimal treatment, we focus on the fabric’s mechanical fragility and we intervene by stabilizing the fragile areas (Fig. 1). A light stain removal can also be carried out (Fig. 2-3). By controlling and directing moisture using an ultrasonic humidifier, we can regain volume and release creases in the fabrics of a dress (Fig. 6). When all the precautions are taken and the gown fits perfectly on the mannequin, the last photo is taken and our mission is accomplished; this is always an exciting moment in the conservation studio.