Vintage Beaded Collar Shawl — Fix It or Nix It?

Posted by on May 25, 2011

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Whether you are the “lazy Sunday afternoon” browser or the primal “don't get in my way” hunter, every vintage shopper has to frequently choose between sense and sensibility: is the “love at first sight” garment worth the ripped seams, gunky stains or undefinable odors? While shopping on a cloudy Tuesday morning at the Old Glory Antique Mall in Vancouver, Washington — a suburb of Portland, Oregon — I was forced to make such a frightfully fraught decision.

I saw her across the room, a vintage beaded collar shawl. She was hanging on a rack, smashed between faded sheets and a gravy-stained tablecloth. Retro, perhaps Victorian? A cross between a lavish necklace and a sensuous shawl, the collar screamed party dress glam. I suddenly visualized myself in a slinky LBD strutting into a swankified party. A sudden craving for pulsing music and fast-moving dance steps that — in my head, at least, I performed beautifully  —  took hold of my imagination. The $45 price tag could not stand in the way of true love.

But the closer I walked, the sooner I realized that my love affair might soon evaporate. The silk fabric lining was torn and frayed along the back and front seams. Also, a few glass bead fringes were missing. Would I be able to find matching beads to fill the gaps? If I could find them, plus some matching silk fabric, both flaws were relatively minor repairs for a confident seamstress.

Then, however, I met my Waterloo: the beaded netting that would have draped so elegantly over my bare shoulders was frayed. The crisp lines completing the rest of the cape panel were pulled out of shape in spots along the bottom fringe. While unnoticeable on a hanger, on a body the broken strands would have stood out. Could I fix this? 

I embarked on a thorough internet search on my Blackberry for advice on repairing beaded netting — nothing. I couldn't even find an example of my garment's detailing, let alone a repair how-to. With a tendre for a garment I could not heal — a bit like a Lurlene McDaniel novel — I had a terrible decision to make: keep the garment I loved, despite its fragile condition, or take it home but never be able to give it the attention it deserved? 

A spendthrift to the core, I had to leave my beloved beaded collar behind. Sometimes love just isn't enough.

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