Late last year I was commissioned by a friend to make cyanotypes of an antique lace christening gown. I was very honoured to be asked to do this. It isn't something I had done before but it was an exciting prospect. The gown is over 90 years old and my friend's mother was christened in it, it consists of two layers an under petticoat and a top layer of a more lacy fabric.
As cyanotypes are made at life size I could only just fit the garment onto my largest sheet of paper 56 x 76 cm. Rinsing had to be done in the shower as it is way bigger than my largest tray. I used my UV light for the exposure and made a couple of small experimental pieces to gauge exposure time, which was 15 minutes for optimal results. I didn't have a large enough piece of glass but realised that the fabric was best left loose rather than being pressed flat which looked more artificial and crumpled.
My first attempt at the full size undergarment was quite a moving experience. As I started to rinse the chemicals away and the blue started to appear I was taken aback by how three dimensional it looked. Part of the lace hem wasn't flat on the paper and the curl gave it a sense of movement.
I made a separate cyanotype print of the top layer which has quite a lot of gathers in the fabric and it took a couple of attempts to arrange the fabric in the most pleasing way. Once again the three dimensional effect was quite breathtaking.
Finally I started to experiment with combining both layers in one image. My first experiment using both layers in one exposure didn't work.The fabric was too thick in some places and the thinner parts over exposed with a longer exposure. I changed plan and made another shorter exposure of both layers together and rinsed as usual. Once dry I coated the main central section of the dress print, which was still white, with fresh chemicals and exposed again with just the top garment in place. It took a couple of attempts to get the best result but it was worth the effort!
The finished piece has now gone to it's new home and I can finally reveal the end result in the short slideshow below. I hope you agree that it is a very beautiful image and a perfect way to preserve the memory of a very special garment and a good way for it to be on display when the original christening gown has been stored in a drawer, out of sight for may years.
If you are interested in commissioning something similar then please do contact me to discuss your requirements. It's a lovely way to preserve memories from a special day such as weddings, christenings or just a special item of clothing that you love but no longer wear.