Sunday, May 19, 2013

Communion Dress Disaster

Five years ago I made my older daughter's First Holy Communion dress. It was very pretty. It was ivory raw silk, had a sweetheart neckline, a full calf-length skirt, cap sleeves, tied at the back in a big bow and had a big ivory rose at the waist. The bodice was lined, it looked beautiful on Honor and all in all it was a great success. I put it away carefully for Liv's Communion which would take place in five years' time. I checked that it was clean before I put it away, and it was.

Or so I thought.

About three weeks ago - actually, it was more, but that is to my shame - I noticed that there were two roundish yellow stains on the front of the skirt of the dress. I made a mental note to clean them off before the big day, which was yesterday. Thursday came, and I figured with two days to go I had better not hang around any longer, and took the dress into the bathroom to clean off the stains.

They wouldn't come off at all. I used washing powder: nothing. Soap applied vigorously to the spot: nothing. So I thought, no bother, I'll put a little dilute Milton's fluid on the spots, that should do the trick. After going at it a bit I held up the dress, but to my horror the stains had only faded a bit, but the yellow mark had spread into the surrounding fabric. Cat in the Hat or what! So I freaked out and tried more Milton. Bigger yellow stain, but maybe a bit fainter. But since it was a bit fainter, I thought I would lay the skirt part of the dress in a shallow bath of very dilute Milton (ie. half a capful in a shallow bath).

Lucky I didn't put the whole dress in.

Later that evening I had a look at progress. I couldn't really tell if the stain was still there or not. I asked Cuthbert what he thought and he said "I don't see any stain."

Friday morning - the day before the Communion, when I had five years to prepare - I had another look. I realised, to be on the safe side, I would have to go into Hickeys and buy some little roses or something to cover the stains - just in case.
When I got to Hickeys, I had a look at the dress in the strong light there.

The entire skirt had turned a horrible patchy yellow and the silk had lost its lovely crispness. I held a piece of yellow, limp rag in my hands...with some parts worse than others. Completely hideous. What could I do? No amount of roses (which there weren't any of anyway) would fix this.

I don't know how I had the idea, but idea I did have. I asked the shop assistant Bridie (who is so lovely, really calm and knowledgeable) if I could put some net over the top. She suggested tulle. Off we went to the net-and-tulle section. They had all sorts of grades and shades. She thought I should go ivory to match the dress but I needed to bring in white anyway as the accessories were mostly white - the gloves, tights and hairband were all white. The bag was ivory, covered in roses (adorable). So I bought tons of tulle and a strip of beautiful ivory roses on a lace backing to cover the join at the waistband.

Off I went, calm, knowing it would work, but also knowing I had a very tiny window to sew all this. I got cracking the second I got home. I removed the big ivory rose that was sewn onto the waist, folded the enormous piece of tulle in half lengthways and began to gather it with a running stitch. I have always found gathering net really hard and tulle is not much easier - maybe a bit, as it's a good deal finer. I did it in sections which made it a tiny bit easier but I really should have done it differently (I thought I would end up with a neat, parallel bit at the end, but I had not kept the tulle straight so it was very tricky).

It worked.

I brought it with me to the hairdressers, and sewed the strip of roses on while the hairdresser mixed an elderly lady's rinse. I must have been wired as I talked the legs off the hairdresser.

As I drove up the drive to the house, it was really sunny and Liv was messing about outside. "Why is my dress in the car?" she said, through the open window. "Look," I said, holding it up for her. She gasped. "But...where's my dress?" she said. "That is your dress," I said. "I put this on to make it even nicer." I wasn't sure if she liked it...she was certainly surprised.

A few minutes later, Cuthbert came in from doing the lawn. "Dad! Wait till you see what Mum did to my dress! It's soooo beautiful! Let me try it on for you!" "I'm so glad, darling!" he said, "Let me wait till tomorrow! I would like to be surprised!"

Not half as surprised as I was by the recovery.

She was beautiful, of course. The dress looked far nicer than it had before the accident.

In the cinema, after the ceremony, she leaned forward to me in the gloom. "Mum!" she said. "Look!" The entire front of her dress had a huge dark brown mark on it - I had bought her a tub of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Whatsit and at least a fifteenth of it was now down her front. "Don't touch it!" I said. "Don't rub it, don't wipe it, just forget about it for now!" and back we went to the movie.

After the film, I took her to the ladies. She was mortified by the chocolate stain - there were lots of other little princesses in white there too - and clutched her little fur jacket to her chest with both hands, clearly at a loss. But I had planned the rescue. I put her in a cubicle, stripped off the dress and told her to wait in there while I sorted it out. I washed out the stain with plenty of soap and hot water and spent about twenty minutes drying it under the hand dryer. Thank God raw silk dries super-fast (especially once it's limp)!

I put a clean, warm dress on my little darling, and no one was any the wiser...

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