Costume Modeling with Ron: A Good Send-Off to an OLD dress

Dec 14, 2010 9 comments
Ron's painting, and yours truly.  Photo by Ron Spears
This past weekend I did some more costume modeling for Ron and company, this time wearing an original silk dress from we think c. 1919.

The story of this dress is fantastic.  Several years ago my mom and I attended a Gatsby Picnic sale, where we shopped various vendors for dresses, patterns, table settings, picnic baskets, etc., to prepare for the famous Gatsby Picnic in Oakland, CA, in September.  Somehow my mother found, crumpled in the bottom of a paper bag, this wad of mint green silk.  The wad had interesting trim, and the vendor thought it could be salvaged, so sold the wad to Mom for $10.

What it turned out to be was an incredible soft green, very early 20s or teens dress, made of creamy silk charmeusse (that's a guess on my part), and silk chiffon.  The sleeves were shredded and appeared to have already been altered at some point, and the entire thing was absolutely filthy.  Mom gave it a good cleaning, and removed the sleeves.  She stabilized some of the silk on the inside, where it was beginning to shatter, and took the stress off the shoulders by pinning ribbons to the staybelt (yes, it has a staybelt!).

Here's the dress, worn by Mom (right), to the Gatsby 2005.
Mom wore the dress to the Gatsby back in 2005, but never after that.  It's just too fragile, and the silk is in a really precarious state.  She gave the dress to me, and I plan on studying it and taking a pattern off it to make a reproduction, but after that, we don't really know what to do with it.  That being said, Mom and I both thought that it would be a wonderful thing to "memorialize" this 1919 gown in a painting, and so I wore it to my 6 hour sitting with Ron Spears and two other artists.  Here are a few photos from the day - these were taken by Ron.
The dress fits Mom much better than me.
Ron's painting in-progress


  1. What a fabulous dress! Great find! Love the portrait too!

  2. I'm thinking some Steampunk outfit next time :-D

  3. Send it to a museum! FIDM has a wonderful museum and can restore garments.

  4. That's a great idea! I've had some trouble getting museums in this area to accept the dress because it's not local (origin unknown), or there is one collection but the garments are not treated very nicely, so...

    FIDM sounds like a great place to donate it, so it gets proper care. I've thought about keeping it, passing it on, but I'm afraid of what will happen to it over the course of my life, nevermind the next whoever ends up with it. FIDM is a good place ... but only after I make my study and pattern of it :-D

  5. How fun! The dress looks amazing on your Mum, and you look adorable in your white 1930s! You really can't tell how old and fragile it is!


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