Picture Framing and Art Preservation/Christening Dress/Shadow Box


dress laid out full
dress laid out full  

dress made smaller
dress made smaller  
Hi David: I want to put my family's 100 yr old linen/lace christening dress in a shadow box, but the dress is 38" long and 40" wide.  Here are my questions:
1. Would it be best to fold the dress or compress the dress to about 32" in length, having "poofs" in the skirt?
2. Would it be ok to sew the dress with invisible thread or cotton thread to a Crescent Select Suede Mat board?
3. Should I insert a Cotton Rag board inside the dress or use 1 between the dress & suede mat board as a barrier?
Any information you can give me will be very helpful.

Thanking you in advance for your help!

Hi Julia,

I'll do my best to answer your questions in order.

At 38x40 (or 40x38) the dress is sort of pushing the limits of your materials. Are you considering making the dress smaller to fit a 32x40 mat board? If the mat you want is available 40x60 (sorry, I don't have a Crescent specifier handy) then you could display the dress fully laid out. But just for the sake of argument, I don't see any reason not to display it with some natural folds and "poofs." In fact, some people prefer that sort of presentation. I would just be sure that it looks natural and flowing, not forced.

I would stitch this with 100% cotton thread. Remember, use like to like, and if in doubt cotton is always good. Use plenty of stitches to make sure that the weight, and therefore stress, is evenly distributed across the dress and no one spot is carrying too much weight. This could lead to tears developing at the stitch.

As for the mat, the concern, albeit pretty small in the big scheme of things, is the possible interaction between the suede fibers of the board, its colorant, and the dress. It's generally considered a very small risk but if you want to do what a conservator would do for something meant to last essentially forever, you would use a natural cotton or linen fabric on your mat instead. Otherwise, you could cut a piece of Mylar to fit behind the dress to serve as something of a barrier between the mat and the dress with less bulk.

Finally, putting a rag board inside the dress would make things pretty easy for you. If you cut it in the shape of a form, closely following the size and shape of the dress, it will help hold its shape. Then when you stitch through it and the dress you will be able to use fewer stitches since the form will be pressing against the dress over its entire surface area, not just in a number of small spots.

I hope this is helpful, and this should be a wonderful heirloom project. By the way, do you have any photos to include in the frame with it? That's always a great touch.  

Picture Framing and Art Preservation

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF


I can answer questions about all aspects of framing, with special emphasis on preservation framing. Categories of artwork include works of art on paper, needlework, textiles, paintings on canvas and three-dimensional objects. Components of framing includes frames, glass/glazing, mats, mounting, their features and how to select them.


I have been a professional picture framer and educator in the field since 1994, including framing education for a major franchisor encompassing three brands and the Professional Picture Framers Association, and writing and teaching for DECOR Magazine.

Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) > Board member, PPFA > Member, Certification Board > Member, Chapter relations Committee National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR)

DECOR Magazine, 2005 - 2010 PPFA For Members Only newsletter Member of the PPFA Guidelines task force, assisted in writing PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas, and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Textiles and Needlework. Picture Framing Magazine, 2012

Georgia State University, many classes as a student and educator through the Professional Picture Framers Association and DECOR Magazine. Current member of the PPFA guidelines task force and certification board.

Awards and Honors
Earned Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation in 1996, Master Certified Picture Framer (MCPF) designation in 2004 and Guild Commended Framer (GCF) status in 2008.

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