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October 25, 2016 AT 1:00 am

New Brunswick Museum preserves rare gown made of glass #ArtTuesday

Glass dress

Via CBC news

A 116-year-old evening gown in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum exemplifies cutting-edge fashion.

Made of glass fibres interwoven with silk, the floor-length, pale green gown is one of only four dresses in the world made of so-called “moonlight cloth.”

The dress, originally made for the the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris, showcased the sophistication of contemporary glass-making techniques.

While manufacturers had experimented with drawing glass out into long, thin fibres since the 1780s, Peter Larocque, the New Brunswick Museum’s curator of cultural history and art, said the 1900 dress would have been a marvel of its age.

“Turning it into something wearable, bendable and so fine,” said Larocque, “stretched the limits of the path of the material.”

Charlotte Holzer, a PhD candidate at the Technical University of Munich, has travelled to Saint John to study the dress.

She said the example at the museum is unique in that manufacturers “worked with the glass fabric and not in a traditional way of tailoring, which is why it’s in better condition,” said Holzer.

That being said, the dress is still extremely fragile.

Although the thin, hand-drawn glass fibres are flexible, “they are brittle when you apply pressure at one point,” she said.

Holzer, and conservators at the New Brunswick Museum are studying how the the dress might be displayed “in the way it was intended to be worn,” said Larocque.

It’s unknown if or when the dress will be displayed.

The dress is both an aesthetic feat, and an attempt to “stretch the bounds of technology,” said Larocque.

“It speaks to establishing a challenge, and attempting to fulfil it,” he said.

“It also talks about innovation, and new ways to use materials, and stretching the boundaries of what a material is capable of.”

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