This Natural Cream Colored Heavy Irish Linen Cutwork Lace Wiggle Dress is an Absolutely Amazing Example of This Rare Type of Hand Done Lace Which is Rarely Seen in Clothing!
I think it may have been made to wear as a wedding dress in the 1960s. It is a small size but has very wide seams (more than 1 Inch deep) throughout which would allow it to be altered considerably for a custom fit.
The hem is also 5 inches Deep! Therefore, upon close examination the dress I found that it could be let out 2 inches on each side and 2 Inches in the back! And made up to 4 Inches longer! Thus I wonder what its story is?
It is beautifully shaped and well made, but I have to wonder – given the wide seams and hem treatment – was it originally a somewhat larger dress that was expertly remade by a professional seamstress to fit some very small woman as a wedding dress? And wisely left in tact so that it could be altered back again for someone who was not so small Look at the 5″ deep hem in the photos below. And it is folded over an inch at the top before folding for the hem which makes a toal of 6 extra inches at the bottom of the skirt!
The fabric is really strong and tough as true untreated sturdy pure Irish linen is famous for. The fabric was made for a dress not for a table cloth or any such thing. You can tell this if you know sewing and fabrics because of the way it is cut and woven around the neckline, the armholes and the hemline. It is designed to out line the neckline and arm holes with strategically placed lace points that echo the flower petals. It is a fascinating example of its kind and absolutely exquisite! here are photos showing the neckline and armhole treatments from both the back and the front:
I am going to show the dress to a textile restorer who works at the Henry Art Museum to see what she thinks the histories of this dress and the cloth it is made from are and get her feelings on remaking and resizing it now are. I think it can be done and that may be a better option at this time! I will decide whether or not to keep the dress or sell it at that time.
Taking the dress apart to remake it would require hand picking out every seam including removing the metal zipper stitch by stitch so as not to break a single thread or fiber. There are darts in the front and back of the dress to mold it to the body around the bust and waist. These I would leave in because the cutwork is made around them and includes them. they cannot be taken out without ruining the lace. Darts also slant downward from tops of the armholes to shape them against the shoulders. The dress is essentially sculpted fabric – sculpted linen lace formed to cover a body. The more closely I inspect it the more amazed I am by the way in which it is made!
It would be a huge amount of work to take it apart and remake it – a real labor of love – but I think worth it in order to be able to wear it! I am now intrigued!
It currently measures 17 – 12- 17 flat. that is 34 inch bust, 24 inch waist, 34 inch hips at the seams allowing no ease for movement. Two inches should be allowed for movement which would mean the measurements of the wearer of the dress were 32 – 22 – 32 which is a very thin size. I advise 2 inches for movement because there should be no stress or strain put on the lace. The immensely deep seams, let out and carefully re-sewn could possibly increase the dress to a size 2 – 4 in modern day sizing. Now that I have determined that I can let my breath out! There is hope! I might be able to restore and remake this dress to the size it was originally designed to be and that might actually fit me! ( I am a modern size 4.) I hate my clothes to be tight. Tight is very uncomfortable!
All around the design of the lace and cutwork pattern fits into the shaping of the garment. There are no holes or defects throughout the piece. Currently there is one spot located at the waistline on the left side. I have not tried to clean it yet. I will take it to a professional to see what they advise. It is a brown spot. I have no idea what it is. It is about 3/8 of an inch and smudge like and it looks like it will come out. If it didn’t it could be covered by a belt. There is no belt, but a matching leather or self fabric covered one would look good.
There is always more to these vintage textiles and dresses than initially meets the eye! In this case the deep seams and hemline and the potential for restoring the dress to its originally intended size – the size the actual textile was made to fit exactly! And a more realistic one for today’s figures and wearability. I am intrigued and inspired! I have wanted to make some dresses from lace doilies and table clothes which I intended to use as decorative motifs – but this is way beyond what I was envisioning! It is really inspiring and special. I’ll post more when I know more!