“Each item in a collection has its own story, its own memory – the search, the day you bought it, who you were with, the vacation etc. A collection provides a special satisfaction and sense of achievement” – Tricia Guild

“Clothing is an exersise of memory. It makes me explore the past, how I felt when I wore that” -Loise Bourgeois

-My definition of  Textiles-

Textiles is anything that has been woven. The materials I consider to be textiles are: Felt, yarn, metal, fabric, glass, leather anything that could bend or woven or joint together.

A material is not textile when its not joint to create a bendable surface.

For this project I visited Newbury museum established in 1904, the museum houses various artworks and collections. One of the buildings is an historic cloth house built in 1626-1627 by Richard Emmes as a cloth factory.

After my experience visiting the textiles chapel I wasn’t expecting much but I was pleasantly suprised at how friendly and welcoming Newbury Museum is.

For this project I needed three textiles to research and find out as much as I possibly could. It was hard to take pictures without getting the glair of the camera and the glass but these were my best photos.

For my first item I chose a 1930 wedding dress.
This is a 1930’s empire line wedding dress featuring beautiful metalic thread embroidery. It was purchased from a charity shop in newbury in 1967.

Wedding dresses have always been expensive, apparently the amount of money we spend on a wedding dress has hardly changed since the 1930’s even in the depression era couples were willing to spend a quarter of their household income. 

 I do wonder how many brides have worn this dress. One Of the reasons I think it survived is because of the qualities of the fabric. In the 1930’s rayon was introduce to replace silk making it more affordable and more durable.

Brides in those days fancied a bit of glamour and elegance copying the actresses and being influenced by queen Victoria who was the first to be seen with a white lace bridal dress in the 1840’s.

Madeleine Vionrets 20’s and 30’s dramatic bias cut gowns had a huge influence on fashion. The features of a 1930’s dress was a cowl neck and draping.

Rayon was a strong fabric which was originally called artificial silk. Rayon is a naturally occurring, cellulose based raw material.

Rayon properties are similar to cotton or linen. Rayon is made from wood pulp a relatively inexpensive and renewable resource but processing requires high water and energy use and has contributed to air and water pollution.

The properties of Rayon are:

  • it has a lovely hang
  • It’s a Manmade fabric
  • Rayon has a wonderful weight
  • It was the first manufactured fiber
  • Cheaper than silk
  • It’s not synthetic
  • Lasts longer
  • Retains its rich brilliant colors
  • Easier to restore
  • Its moisture absorbent (more than cotton)
  • It’s very breathable
  • comfortable
  • Easy to dye
  • Doesn’t build up static electricity
  • Soft to the skin
  • It wrinkles
  • It may be attacked by silverfish termites but generally resists insect damage
  • It’s very versatile and able to blend easily with other fibers.

A recent ocean survey found that Rayon contributed to 56.9% of total fibers found in deep ocean areas (the free encyclopedia).

How to clean Rayon? Its best to hand wash and line drying. Rayon can strach when wet so its best not to mix with other items in the washing machine. I would imagine that although I have no access to a label the wedding dress above would be best dry cleaned.

Production facilities for Rayon can be found throughout Europe, the U.S and Brazil. Grasim of India is the largest producers of rayon in the world (claiming 24% market share)

In 1910 rayon was first produced comercially in the US.  I can’t know for sure the story of this wedding dress and how and why it ended up in a second hand shop.

We can imagine that it has been worn by more than one bride. Because of the chosen fabric it’s in good condition even though it looks worn.

There is no evidence as far as I can see of any alterations as Im not able to look inside of the grament.

I do wonder what made the owner or family member give the dress to charity? Many questions come to mind, I mean its every daughters dream to inherit a family air loom like your grandmas wedding dress. Did the owner die leaving no children? Did the wedding dress bring bad memories after a biter divorce?Maybe the owner sold or leant it to someone else?  Maybe it got lost in the war? Who knows!

I feel like this dress has a lot of nostalgia, just imagining how many brides felt glamorous and special in this dress and imagining the feelings the brides would of had, the grooms who saw them in their white bridal dress for the first time. I find it sad that this dress was found in a charity shop but at the same time grateful as it was preserved for many of us to enjoy.