1940s Navy Blue Rayon Crepe Dress

I think this dress is haunted. First of all, it was so rare to find a garment from the 1940s that fit my cushiony frame. Sure it needs some TLC (the decorative fabric-covered buttons are loose), but on the other hand, it still has it’s original belt.

It’s when I got it home that I started to get suspicious. This dress has resisted all attempts at photography. I had to photoshop the bejeezles out of the image above just to hint at the detail (padded shoulders and smocking). It had a faint perfumey smell and some dusty marks so I decided to give it a hand wash. This was a bad idea on two counts. Once immersed in water, mild soap and vinegar (to get rid of the smell), the water turned brown and a horrible stench rose from the sink. It was like cartoon demons were released from the very fabric.

When I pulled it out of the water (after several rinsings) the dress had shrunk to a doll’s size. I raced to the internet for advice on how to fix the problem. the first Google hit simply said “If your dress is from the 1940s it is most likely made of Rayon Crepe. Never wash Rayon Crepe.”

I spent the night puling and stretching and reblocking the dress but it is still way short. I read that steaming it can relax the fibres (and maybe even make it a little looser). I gave my mother my steamer, so I’ll have to wait until my next trip to K-W to see if it works.