more thoughts on starch!

Just received the following email

I hope you don’t mind my contacting you with a question.  I have discovered your site (obviously) and am looking forward to exploring it!
I have a lovely c. 1880 – 1890-ish (I think) christening dress.  The fabric is a very sheer white lawn.  It has many, many tiny pintucks.  I’ve ironed it before, but recently, had to soak it because I accidentally splashed coffee on it (which came out right away, thankfully), so now I have to iron it again.
Someone online who deals in vintage pieces told me that she starches her christening gowns, and that it would enhance the look of my dress if I sprayed starch on the underside before ironing.  (I have to iron this one on the “right” side because of the pintucks, rather than ironing inside-out.)
Previously, when I’ve ironed this dress, I’ve used a dry iron and lightly sprayed the dress with water as I ironed, but I have not used starch.
I was wondering if you might be willing to advise me on this.  In your opinion, is it a good idea to use starch on a fine lawn antique garment?  Would it enhance the garment, or would it not be a good idea?
I display this dress on a padded hanger.  It’s sooooo lightweight that I don’t think it causes any weight damage to hang it — and I do check it from time to time to see if there appears to be any pulling on the seams.
I’d greatly appreciate any advice you might have about starching vs. not starching.
My philosophy regarding old pieces is that they should be used in whatever way gives their current owner the most joy!

In some cases, this means storing them tucked away in acid free tissue only to be pulled out on occasion to be admired thoughtfully and purposefully; in other cases, it means cutting them up and turning them into paper, art pieces or quilts. I think that people who choose to display them have an especially wonderful approach because the items are seen and appreciated. (but it’s no more valid than the other approaches; everybody is different)

Therefore, it would be totally a matter of personal taste as to whether you starch your lovely treasure. (it sounds to me as though your other friend prefers things to be starched and is trying to persuade you to join her camp) it used to be that starches were cooked up using foodstuffs such as potatoes or sugar and therefore would attract insects that would chomp up the starched items making it unwise to store an item with starch in it. over time, the starch also yellows. today’s starches don’t attract insects; I don’t know if they turn yellow but if they do, one needs only to soak the cherished object again. A dress will get dusty and more limp after several years on display and will need relaundering anyway. You will be so accustomed to its gradual decline (dustiness) that you’ll be surprised how fresh it will be.


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