Precision dyeing and color-matching is an important part of textile conservation and this week, we have a dyed-to-match success to report for this silk Argentine flag from the Elizabeth Hawes Flag Dress. The dress was covered in silk flags of various countries, and each one is currently undergoing its own, unique conservation treatment. The Argentine flag (a variation that doesn’t use the central sun), unfortunately, exists only as threads and fragments, as you can see behind the dyed samples shown here. The fragments can’t be safely returned to the dress, but they can tell us the exact colors and dimensions of the original flag they represent. Using this information, silk samples are dyed to exactly match the cream and blue of the deteriorated flag, tweaking the recipe over and over to achieve the exact shades of blue (seen here) and cream silk. Some earlier, not-quite-matched blue samples are visible on the right edge. With the perfect recipe in hand, the textile conservator will dye pieces of silk to use as the color blocks of the lost flag, piecing it back together with matched patches.
Elizabeth Hawes (American, b.1903, d.1971), designer, Flag Dress, cotton, silk, Museum Purchase: Fashion Arts Purchase Fund, 2011.31.