by Lauren Klamm
Padded, stuffed, tied down, encased, or rolled, much time and energy is spent on devising the best way to keep beloved garments and artifacts safe for the next generation. Particularly in museums, objects will live most of their lives in storage, so proper packing directly prolongs the life of any artifact.
In many ways, the preparation for storage is turned into a religious ceremony, a rite of passage, as textiles transition from being worn or displayed to entering long-term storage. One such “ceremony” is described at the storage for Haute Couture house Balenciaga, as the conservation team prepare another masterpiece of couture for storage:
In this space, these humble garments are transmogrified—from contemporary clothing to preserved specimens. The archive team discusses how to stabilize specific pieces: for instance, by running threads from waist to hem to support dresses with unusually curved skirts, which threaten to buckle and distort if they’re not held in place. Those that can be laid flat, are — in one coffin, billows of tissue cosset one of Gvasalia’s evening dresses, a silver strapless style in a sequin-embroidered fabric created by the Swiss textile company Jakob Schlaepfer. Matching boots are stored in another room devoted to modern accessories. The Sisyphean task of the conservation team is to ensure Balenciaga’s clothing — past, present and future — survives, even as time conspires against it.”¹
Each piece is unique and each presents its own challenges for storage; there is no one size fits all method. Tried and true principles of storage consider the type of textile, the material of the textile, its condition, size and the storage space available, and then the best materials.
From preserving haute couture to great grandmother’s sampler, archival and acid free materials are essential to the life of the piece. No brown cardboard here!
Boxes are constructed so that the artifact is not squished; today’s creases and wrinkles can become tomorrow’s splits and shreds, so they are carefully supported with either the softest or crispest tissue.
Custom padded hangers allow stable garments to be stored hanging.
Heavy uniforms, fragile quilts and large textiles, often require the construction of a padded insert or pillow. Formed to fit the inner dimensions, it gives a firmer and consistent support, rather than piles of crushed up tissue.
How do you store a super fragile flat textile that cannot be folded, rolled or padded….and that needs to be stored long-term and displayed one week per year, without handling? Create a custom mount that doubles for storage and display!