Little-Known Facts About Protecting Fashion Collections

The Dolce Gabbana gown donated recently to Woodbury University

Having a collection of vintage fashion pieces has its headaches. You can't just hang them in the closet.

There is a very intricate and meticulous way they have to be treated and preserved.

Take the fashion study collection at Woodbury University in Burbank, Calif. When a Dolce Gabbana evening gown was donated at the end of last year, Maria Carrillo, the collection's curator, froze the off-white gown for a few days to kill off all moths and bugs that might be lurking to nibble away at the masterpiece.

"We freeze our items after donation in our commercial freezer," Carrillo said, noting the temperature plummets to minus 30 Farenheit to do away with pesky insects.

Before entering the freezer, garments are wrapped in muslin and put in a box that is wrapped in polyurethane plastic to make sure no moisture enters the garment.

The Dolce Gabbana dress was frozen for at least 48 hours and then the temperature was slowly brought back up to room temperature over a period of several days. "This gown had feathers, so that was a concern," Carrillo said.

After that, the dress was vacuumed at a low setting and put in storage.

The designer gown, along with the other 5,000 to 7,000 pieces in the collection, serves as a hands-on resource for students who want to examine construction elements and design. Pieces of the collection are occasionally put on display at the university.

One of the collection's oldest items is a remnant of Incan fabric that was part of a tunic dating to between 1450 to 1520. Other notable items include a 1750 man's green silk waistcoat with embroidered flowers. There is also an early 18th century brocade gown.

All the pieces are stored in sealed, rotating metal units that protect the valuable collection.