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Throwback Thursday: Keeping Up Appearances


Muslin, acid-free boxes, sturdy thread and heavy-duty sewing needles — all tools of the trade for preserving the most precious pieces in our Archives. And with a vintage collection spanning almost 140 years, conservation is a necessity. It ensures that our garments are sturdy enough to be used as inspiration for designers, that they look their best when on display, and that they’re preserved for future generations.

Our conservator, Stacia Fink, has years of experience rescuing pieces that were once soiled, smelly or pest-infested. She’s dealt with moth invasions, guano, candle wax and caked-on mud. Last year, she even tackled a thick oil residue while washing the New Nevada jeans. Stacia’s secret? Plain old San Francisco tap water.

Other conservation measures include monitoring temperature and humidity in our Archives, as well as regular visits by pest experts. Last year a moth infestation from clothes we acquired straight out of a mine could have wreaked havoc on the textiles — a hazard of the trade — but Stacia stayed on top of the situation.

To stabilize torn and shredded clothes, Stacia grabs a needle and thread. Repairs follow simple rules like using plain muslin or other natural materials for wrapping and storing garments and making repairs with contrasting thread and wide stitches. In short, all preservation is meant to stabilize the garment, not alter it, and can be removed or reversed at any time.

“I feel for the women who made our overalls back in the day,” Stacia sympathizes. “Denim is tough on the hands.”