What are Heirloom Garments?

When I think of the word “heirloom”, I immediately think of something old that’s been in a family for a long time.  In fact, when I searched for the definition of heirloom, here’s what I found: a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.  But it took me a number of times trying several different combinations of words to find that definition of heirloom.  That’s because heirloom is also a type of sewing that uses fine fabrics and delicate sewing techniques like lace insertion, tucks, and embroidery.  These terms were once used to refer to French hand sewing; however, those techniques are now done on a machine.

Here are more fascinating facts about heirloom garments:

  • Heirloom is one of the oldest specialty styles of sewing.
  • It began in the late 1800’s when French nuns hand-stitched lace onto delicate fabric for royal families.
  • Because the work was so lovely, families preserved and handed these garments down from one generation to the next.
  • While this type of stitching isn’t found on everyday garments, you can still sometimes find it on custom and couture pieces, wedding gowns, christening gowns, and fine table linens.
  • They are no longer able to support this industry via hand stitching, so most garments are created using the sewing machine.

Whether a garment handed down through generations or a garment with custom stitching and fine fabric, an heirloom piece is one that requires special care, and Shores is just the place to provide that special care.  Below are some tips for heirloom garments that have been passed down through generations.

  • Shores recommends that heirloom pieces be properly preserved to ensure they will continue to last for generations. That means they should always be hand cleaned, stored at room temperature (not in a basement or attic), and be wrapped in either muslin cloth or acid-free museum quality tissue paper. If this seems to be daunting, you can always bring it to Shores for a professional preservation.
  • If an heirloom piece is removed from preservation and worn, it needs to be preserved again. Perspiration, body oils, dead skin cells, and sugar stains can damage the fabric.
  • If an heirloom piece hasn’t been properly preserved or stored and someone wants to wear it, it should first be examined by a professional who would look for light damage, brittle fabric, mildew, and insect damage.
  • Most of these issues can be repaired though you cannot reverse brittle fabric. There are occasions when the fabric is so brittle that cleaning it could cause further damage.

If you have a family heirloom that causes you concern, bring it by one of our three convenient locations.  Our trained staff will examine it with the upmost care and offer suggestions on how to bring it back to life.