Violet’s gown: Restorations, repairs and alterations now available.

Recently a lovely lady brought us this silk gown – Violet, the original wearer wore it on her first date with her future husband in 1929. Over the intervening years, it was kept safe with other sartorial treasures like her wedding dress, shoes and stockings and the gown she wore when her son was married in the ’50s.

It’s always so special when you have the stories behind clothes and wherever possible, I like to be able to hand them on with the clothing, to their new homes.

Violet’s beautiful gown, like many of that era, was made of delicate fabrics and it was never expected that over eighty years later we’d still want these fashions! I’m pleased to report that with patience and skill, they can be restored.

This once grand gown looks rather shabby at the moment (apologies for the out of focus photo) but still full of potential. Let me take you through our plans – this is how the gown looks in the original, unrestored state before any work has been done. I haven’t even pressed it because I don’t want to damage it further.

The main part of the gown is a soft blue silk charmeuse, still in very good and mostly strong condition which is great news: as long as the fabric is strong, there is always something that you can do.

You can see that there was an insert into the top of the bodice and under the arms – remnants of chain stitch embroidery show where it sat originally, but the delicate silk chiffon has almost all rotted away.

Thankfully silk chiffon is still a popular modern fabric and it will be easy to obtain a similar colour, or could be dyed to match the original. The sheer effect could also be reproduced using a silk organza, which is more robust.

Here’s a better shot of the bodice, where you can see the ghost of the insert -it’s quite beautiful despite it’s unwearability.

Here, on the left side, the sheer panel descends all the way to the hips, where a silk ribbon gathers the panels together. The inside portion of the skirt at this point is a heavy silver metallic fabric – you can just see it there on the right side of the split.

The skirt is open on this side from the hips to the floor, suggesting that perhaps it’s an overdress? At the very least, a petticoat would need to be worn underneath to preserve one’s modesty – this is a very revealing dress without the proper undergarments, and far too racy for a first date.

On the right side, you can see how that large sheer panel shows off the curve of the young lady’s back – I’m sure it wasn’t too sheer though, you probably just saw the afore-mentioned petticoat, something like this one.

Isn’t that embroidery stunning? Chain stitch combined with lots of large sequins, probably made of gelatine and looking almost like fish scales – the colours so vibrant, perfect for a young lady set to impress (and I’m sure she did).

So after replacing the missing panels, we’ll ensure the sequins and embroidery are secure and re-apply the detailing on the new panel too. There may be some rips in the seams: this dress is likely to be sewn using cotton or silk, so we’ll use the same material in the closest colour possible (most modern threads are polyester, nice and strong but not authentic for this era).

You may have noticed a gouge in the skirt in the first pic, near the hem: this dress is very long, even for a ’20s dress and so we’ll probably sacrifice some of the length and shorten the hem. This will only minimally affect the sequinned design and the skirt will still be long enough for the era.

An alternative would be to patch it, but it’s in a noticeable spot and we’d have trouble matching the fabric without dyeing, although some fabric could be taken from the side gathered portion – diminishing that aspect but preserving the length.

More of the fabulous detailing: a stylised floral design with sequins in assorted shapes – and a huge stylised bird! You can see that hem gouge at the bottom.

I’m delighted to inform you that we can now offer this service to you for your vintage and antique treasures. Perhaps you’d like some assistance with preparing a family heirloom for your wedding, or an ancient christening gown that needs freshening up and rejuvenation for a new family member?

Bring us your favourite things and we can advise on the work involved and give an estimate of the cost involved. Repairs and alterations also available.

2017 UPDATE: we’re currently quite busy with projects so not taking on any more restorations at the moment but this should change once we’ve caught up.


  1. Hello
    I have two of my grandmothers beautiful dresses from the 1920’s in similar bad shape as Violets dress. One is peach crepe and lace, the other is her wedding dress…cream lace. They are both sadly falling apart. It may be too expensive for me, but what do you estimate it would cost to repair these? I am not sure where you are…I am in brisbane. They are (or would have been) stunning dresses. Jo

  2. Jo, are you able to send them to me to have a look at? We’re in Melbourne. It’s hard to know what’s required without seeing them. Older laces can be hard to repair, but I’d be pleased to appraise and advise my recommendations.

  3. Just love your craft. You do justice to these magnificant pieces and beautiful work and can see your passion. 🙂 Congrats and I will view often.

  4. Hi Nicole, I have a Norman Hartnell dress with some of the beading missing. Otherwise in good conidtion
    ( hem just needs doing) I am also in Brisbane. Could I snd it to you maybe to look and advise. Or is there anyone in Brisbane that you would recommend.

  5. Hi Marnie, I’d be thrilled to restore your dress – if you were happy to post it reg mail that would be great and I can send you an estimate. There are probably restorers in Qld too but I don’t have any contacts, sorry.

  6. Wondeful thanks Nicole. Is postage to the street address or is there a PO Box to send it too.

  7. The street address is good Marnie: Circa Vintage, level 1, 358 Lonsdale St Melbourne VIC 3000. I look forward to seeing it!

  8. I’d love to see the finished product. I can never get enough of looking at beautifully restored gowns.

  9. Dear Vintage fashion
    I have a family large lace tablecloth passed down from my parents. Unfortunately it got a small tear in it. I am hoping it can be fixed. Can I send you a photo to see? thank you


  10. Hi Vintage fashion
    I have a baby Christening gown and petticoat that would be around 100 years that was my father’s. I was wondering if you restored this type of clothing.
    Thank you Dorothy

  11. Hi Dorothy,

    We’re not taking any more projects currently but if you’re welcome to email some information and photos and we can discuss what’s needed – nicole at Thank you.

  12. Hi, I have quite a few pieces that I need altered and repaired. How do I go about making an appointment for consultation? Thank you!

  13. Hi Nicole.
    I have a beautiful pair of silk trousers circa 1950. I need to alter them as they are 2 sizes too big for me. I live in sydney though and need them for October. Would you be able to help me out or refer me to someone in Sydney please. I just dont trust just anyone with the fabric its too beautiful and precious.

  14. Hi Nicole,

    The dress is stunning! Just wondering if moth-eaten clothing can be restored. I’ve recently come into a bag of 1930s/40s and 50s clothing that hasn’t been stored very well. I hate to throw them out because they’re all so beautiful! Thank you =)


  15. Hi Jessica, thank you! Yes, moth eaten clothing can be restored. The first step is to make sure there aren’t any more moths or eggs in the fabric. You might like to read my blog post on the clothes moth – see here. Then the fabric can be repaired or restored. The techniques used will depend on the sort of fabric and how badly affected it is.

  16. Hi Nicole,

    Thank you so much for replying and so quickly! I just read the moths article and it’s so informative, thank you! I learned a lot. Most of the moth-eaten garments I have are riddled with large patches of small holes so maybe this means they are beyond repair? Either way, they won’t be thrown out.

    Again, thank you so much!

    Jess =)

  17. Hello, I te dntly loaned a 43 year old Christening gown to a friend for her granddaughters christening.
    Unfortunately it has been returned with some holes and one that has tried to be sewn.
    Could you give me an idea of cost of repair if I send photos.
    My friend said it was due to the age of the outfit
    Thankyou from a disappointed Grandma

  18. Hi Maureen, I’m not currently taking on any more restorations (until I catch up with the ones I already have) but if you can email me at nicole at with some photos, I can give you some advice. Sorry to hear about this, hopefully it can be repaired.

  19. Hi Nicole, I have my Grandmothers wedding dress circ late 1940’s. I am not 100% sure on the fabric but thinking silk. It’s still in pretty good condition apart from some yellowing. Do you have any advice on how it can be cleaned and restored to its original condition?Unfortunately it’s always just sat at the back of a cupboard in a bag. Many thanks

  20. Hi Sally, do you know what the fabric is please? If it’s rayon, you can probably get the yellowing out. If it’s silk – it’s a lot harder and you may have to accept the yellowing as treating it can damage the fabric. You’re welcome to email me pics if you’re not sure. Nicole at circavintage dot com dot au.

  21. Hi Nicole
    I have a forty year old Liberty patchwork jacket. The fine Liberty cotton has worn on the elbows. I would love to have it repaired/ restored. Is this something you could do if I sent it to you.
    Many Thanks
    Gail Pitt

  22. Hi Gail, your jacket sounds lovely! I’m currently very busy with projects so not taking on any more restorations. It sounds like a fun project though, and hope you find someone suitable to help.

  23. Hi Nicole I see that you are not currently accepting new clients, but may I ask if you restore old blankets? And if so, how long your waiting list is at the moment?
    This blanket is a knit stitch I do not recognise, with crossstitch and crochet work in the pattern.

  24. Hello. Could you please tell me where you’re located. I have a 70 year old weeding dress that requires some restoration. Thank you, Kate .

  25. Hi Nicole,
    I would like to have my father’s 80 year old christening gown restored. It is badly stained as it was not stored well. What is your waiting list for restoration?

  26. Hello to you. I have a VERY old christening gown which had been made in Ireland and came down my husbands family. It has a few tears and the fabric is very thin. Do you think you’d be able to work your magic on it. I’m in Melbourne and would love to be able to meet and show it to you. Is that possible? Carmel

  27. Hello Nicole I am nearly 80 and still very competent at sewing, pattern making, beading etc . Would I be able to watch you repair lace between heavily beaded motives as I have a top ( it was actually for my wedding in early 60s) with crumbling of the lace between.I realise it will take me a long time to replace all the lace but all I have is time and I can do most things in a craft nature just by a photo or watching some one do something.I would fine it very interesting to do to bringing it back to what it was in the hope that one of my Granddaughters will wear it at there wedding.I have a cork board to pin it to i just need a few clues as to what to do

  28. Hi Lorraine, at the moment I don’t have a workroom to show you the methods but this is something we should be able to arrange. Gaye at the School of Upcycling and Sewing is talking about doing a social session for people to sew and share tips: I’m keen to be involved and it would be a good place to show you the techniques. As you say, they’re not hard but take time and need patience. Stay tuned.

  29. Hi, Trish in NSW here. I have a handmade cotton and what appears to be very fine crochet work Christening gown that is is 116 years old. My Great Grandmother made it for my Grandmother to wear and every infant across 3 Generations has been Christened in it. It is naturally of deep sentimental value to our family. I believe the condition of the gown is remarkably good. There is no staining; a few very tiny holes in the fabric, but the major concern is the crochet is coming apart around the neck and a small section at the top part of the dress. I am interested in full restoration and stabilisation of this gown if at all possible. Have had a lot of trouble finding information on such repairs. Would you take a look at it for me? I would be extremely grateful.

  30. Hi Carmel, apologies but I don’t have a workroom currently so am not taking on any restoration projects. If that changes, I can let you know.

  31. Hi Nicole
    I have a dress that was made for my daughter about 30 years ago. it is a cotton dress with hand smocking around the yoke and has been worn by both my daughters and two granddaughters. I now have another granddaughter who I would love to wear the dress as well but unfortunately the smocking on the dress is damaged from all the wear and tear.
    I contacted a lady from the Embroidery Guild here in Adelaide but she is reluctant to undertake the repair It f the smocking as she said the threads are quite fragile & she would need to unpick several sections of the pattern & she was concerned the material might tear when she did.
    I understand that you are no longer doing restoration work but I am more so hoping that you might be able to point me in the direction of someone who might be able to do the repair of the smocking for me.

  32. Hi Janice, the lady in Adelaide is right; smocking can be difficult to repair and so it’s best if you can take the dress to someone for their inspection. If you search the AICCM’s Conservator list for SA/NT there should be someone who can offer the service you need.

  33. Hi Nicole, My mum many years ago gave me a christening gown worn by my two older siblings. My newphew is expecting his first child soon and I have now passed this gown to my sister who in turn is handing it on to my nephew and his wife. The gown would be 60 years old approx. and has been carefully wrapped in tissue and a box. There is some discolouration and a few marks (not sure of their origin though) and I am sure that the fabric will be quite delicate now. My sister and I thought if we could have it cleaned and perhaps lined to provide a bit more strength this family treasure could be used for a few more generations. Would you be able to help? Thank you – Tania

  34. Hi Tania, thank you for your enquiry. I’m not taking on projects currently but if it’s cotton, you should be able to safely soak in warm water and Vanish oxi-action. If it’s silk, a good dry cleaner should be able to help. Regarding a lining, a good seamstress should be able to sensitively add a lining, or create a separate petticoat. Back in the day, christening dresses usually had matching petticoats but these have often become separated over the years. Hope this helps.

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