Throughout the fall season we were able to work on the extraordinary wedding gown of Amacette Laidley Summers. The dress itself, to say the very least, stunning… It is made from a cream colored silk faille and silk sateen with cheesecloth lining. The gown is floor length silk, with long slender sleeves extending from underneath two billowing puff shoulders. Each edge of the dress is charmingly scalloped and a series of applique of silk petals and vines cover line the cuffs and skirt.
Surviving since 1833, the dress needed the nimble fingers in our studio to help it out. The silk was very brittle and also had acidic soiling throughout. The entire hem was split from the permanent crease and from contact with the floor. Below are some pictures of the dress before and after conservation. We used treatments old and new, a few we borrowed from other conservators, but nothing blue!
Left, the back waist silk is shattered and fragile. Right, the silk is secured with a Beva adhesive patch and covered in netting for added protection.
Left, damaged and vulnerable cuff. Right, cuff and diamonds are covered in silk crepeline.
A small and tender surprise, awaits anyone lucky enough to see the inside of the dress. There is a small patched stitched into front of the dress near the neckline. The name “Lewis Summers” is written in iron gall ink. We believe it is the name of her only son to have lived to adulthood (named for her husband George’s brother, Judge Lewis Summers).
Amacetta Laidly Summers and her beloved husband, George W. Summers were married in 1833 a few months after Amacetta’s 15th birthday. They made their home for many years in West Virginia, at Glenwood. Today, the house is a historic home, Glenwood Estate.