I managed to find some BEAUTIFUL vintage treasures while on holiday in the USA just a few weeks ago and one of my favourite items was this stunning dress from New Orleans.
When I bought it, I knew I would need to soak it as the skirt was slightly greyish in colour and there was what looked like dirt build-up on the flocked flowers. I had no idea just how gorgeous it would end up looking by the time I was done with it!
Firstly, I asked for advice on a local vintage lovers Facebook page since I’ve never soaked vintage before. I was warned against soaking or even washing the velvet as there is not only a high risk of the colour running, but also the velvet can be ruined if washed.
I decided to remove the velvet bows on the back of the skirt since that was easy enough and try just soaking the skirt to see what it come up like. The top didn’t look nearly as dirty so I hoped that I might be able to get away with just soaking the skirt and not needing to do the top.
To make sure that the velvet didn’t get wet, I hung it up to soak. I had initially worried that the water could soak and travel up but because the fabric is synthetic, it’s not super absorbent but be wary if you are doing this with anything like a cotton.
The first soak was with RetroClean and it was pretty mind-blowing. Within minutes the water had turned a icky shade of yellow and the smell was disgusting- like 50 years of cigarette smoke (which it probably is!). I let that soak overnight before removing the dress, mixing a fresh batch with Sard Oxyplus Soaker (I’d used all my RetroClean in the first soak) and put the dress in for another 12 hours. I repeated this process once more, making it 3 soaks total on the skirt.
By this time, the water was mostly clear and the skirt was looking AMAZING! I couldn’t believe how white and crisp it was and up against the bodice (remember that I’d initially thought this looked ‘clean’), which now looked like it needed to be soaked too… and that left me with a bit of a dilemma regarding the velvet.
I decided to take it down to my local seamstress Janette at Silver Needles who has a wealth of experience and also knows about vintage. She unpicked the velvet at the bust since I didn’t trust myself to do it and I took it back home for further soaking.
I made a paste with the Sard Soaker and applied it to the yellow stains on the inside and left it there for 30mins before popping the dress in to soak. It only need one long soak and the whole top looked a million times better especially with the yellow staining gone.
I quite liked the look of the dress without the velvet but played around with different ways it could be put back on. I felt like the original two velvet ribbons and off-centre bows were a little bit busy and so I ended up asking Janette to just add one single velvet ribbon and a centre bow.
The ribbons and bows were actually a little stained themselves which we only noticed when I took it all back in after soaking. Janette didn’t think that getting them wet would be a problem like I’d been warned against and so gave them a wash herself- They survived and looked a million times better, the colour brightened up and the velvet was lovely and soft.
I LOVE the look of it, the soft pink is so divine and I couldn’t be happier with the end result! Of course I had to wear it to the Blue Moon Ball on Saturday night, it was the perfect occasion!