Friday, January 16, 2009

Fashion Surgery: Mending Torn Lace

As much as I love Google, sometimes it promises more than it delivers. In preparing this entry on how to restore the lace sleeve of a vintage dress, I wanted some backup, so I did a search on the subject. One result looked promising, on Answer.com: How do I repair torn lace on an evening gown? Here, the sole answer provided: "probably sew it yourself or ask a professional to sew it back on or just buy another one."

I ask you. What kind of an answer is that? Why even bother? Why hedge with "probably", since it is absolutely comprehensive in its lack of helpful advice?

Anyway. Here's what I did, to the delicate Argentan lace sleeve of a vintage Hardy Amies cocktail dress.

Arms and shoulders of lace dresses are especially prone to tears. The wearer may have been ever so careful getting in at the beginning of the evening, but toward the end, getting out, other priorities may have resulted in a rushed exit, and consequent rips.

Vintage buyers should be aware that tears such as these are easy to miss, especially when buying on the basis of scans. Always ask specifically about flaws in lacework before purchase. The main issue in repairing lace fabric is seeing the damage accurately. You need to put something underneath it to heighten the contrast--a white background for black lace, or black with white. I made an arm-diameter tube with thin dry-cleaners cardboard and tape, then covered it with a couple of my husband's white tube socks (he doesn't know this). 

The tube, slipped into the sleeve, made a workable mount to pin the lace to. Then, using fine black thread, I bridged the gaps in the net with a series of loose stitches roughly imitating a spider's web (rather than a straight line of them, which would have resulted in a visible scar). The mend isn't perfect but it's good enough to minimize the large gaps; plus reinforcing the lace in this way will keep it from tearing further.  

Now that it's back in form I can't wait to wear this dress to a nice cocktail party. But no matter what, I'll take care getting out of it once the party is over. 

16 comments:

  1. Thank you for this very practical and pragmatic approach to mending a tear in a lace sleeve. I shall now attempt a repair to the bodice of a late 1930s/early 1940s lace evening dress which I've had for sale for ages. It's a gorgeous deep sea green with a matching silk underdress. I can't understand why it hasn't sold - it would be such a gift to a redhead or a black-haired Irish pale-skinned beauty and is modestly priced to reflect the damage. I like to imagine that the gently torn lace holds a secret from its former life (I had several pieces from this lady's lovely wardrobe)and I only wish I could fit into it. But now after your example, I shall attempt a spidery repair!

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  2. the same thing happened to me... but with a dress that is all lace... there were two holes in it, and using your blog, i was able to repair it with simple thread and needle and it looks liek nothign happened at all. thank god, because i called al the stores that would sell the dress adn they did not have any more left or did not sell it, and when i bought the dress it was the last one left in the store - this was a life saver. i love my lace dress!

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  3. Happy to help! Live and learn with lace, and enjoy that dress.

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  4. I will def be trying this! I have already attempted to fix a lace dress and made it slightly worse :( I love the dress and thought with it being lace it had a short life span. Thank you so much!

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  5. Thank you so much for this! I have a noticeable tear in a sweater with a lace back and was wondering how I'd mend it!

    Thanks again, it's one of my favourite tops and I can wear it again!

    Shannon

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  6. Thank you for this. My girlfriend bought a lovely bustier yesterday, and it ripped a bit when she wore it that night. i told her I would fix it, so thanks for teaching me how!!

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  7. Aiden you are a keeper!! Thanks for posting.

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  8. I have an old deco lace over dress with huge holes on the middle of it. I will use your backing tip and get myself a lacemaking book and see if i can learn some techniques, as I am not going to get away with small repairs as the pattern is repeating and there is no quick fix, but thats fine as I adore art deco clothing and in this rush around world these skills are being lost which is sad.. the old saying of paying less and getting less very much stands, clearly demonstrated by the rubbish coming out of the far east that some call clothes.
    thank you

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  9. If the damage to the lace is just a tear, as opposed to a hole, try using clear nail polish to bind the two pieces together. This has worked successfully for me in the past.

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  10. Thank you! Just ripped a hole into a brand new lace dress. Very helpful.

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  11. Great post! Thank you.

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  12. thankyouuu :) this post helped me loads and saved my top :) now able to wear to my event. hehe thankyou :))

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  14. Thank you so much for this! You saved me one of my favorite tops! :)

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  15. Great tips! Thank you - saved my grannie's 1920s flapper dress I managed to put a hole in at my hen party.

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