I saw these amazing Before and After photos by Lei of Corsetsandcrinolines.com, and I just had to feature it here. I have seen so many people turn up their nose at antique clothing that is not in the best of condition for years. And I have seen and been part of some amazing restorations. This is one of the best, certainly in the 'Dirt' category.
It takes a special person to see an item as filthy as this corset is to see the possibilities. But for Lei, this would have ended up in the trash, I am sure. And that would be a shame.
I asked Lei if I could share these photos and her techniques. They are not for the faint of heart, and indeed are not for the amateur. Lei has been collecting and dealing in corsets since the 1990s and is truly expert in both dating and handling. And I recommend her Antique Corset Gallery as a gold mine of all things corset: http://www.antiquecorsetgallery.com/
"I acquired this c. 1905- 1907 corset from a builder who found it bricked up behind a wall in a house he was renovating. He said the house dated from the 1880's.
Here is the before pic of the corset covered in mould, soot and dirt from being hidden away for about 104 years....I had to vacuum it first as it made me sneeze when I took it out of the parcel. My vacuum has a "soft" setting on it so it doesn't suck as hard. Then I let it soak in detergent for wool in lukewarm water carefully scrubbing the dirt off of it with a sponge. I had to do this three times before the water ran clear. I can tell that the boning is watch spring which sometimes reacts with detergent turning the bone casings yellow which is why I decided to use a neutral cleaner like one for wool. It worked a treat. I made sure there wasn't any verdigris on the busk loops as I have had them break off when washed so you really have to proceed with extreme caution when a corset has verdigris.
Then I rinsed it off, towel dried it to prevent tide marks and let it hang out in the sun to kill any mould spores left and to bleach it. Once it was dry, I sewed the lace back on with silk thread on the same stitch line as it was originally sewn on, ironed it and put a ribbon in as the original corset lacing it had, was knackered."