Is it vintage silk velvet?

Antique Black silk velvet
The best estate sale I ever found was a house full of luxury goods dating anywhere between the late 1800s to the 1970s. It was a place seemingly unaffected by time; it was vintage galore.

In the bedroom closet I found clothing for sale dating all the way back to what the elderly lady beside me called “stagecoach days”. I bought the best of what was left, including some “stagecoach” clothing and some amazingly luscious velvet dresses.
Amazingly soft silk velvet black dress

Amazingly soft velvet?

These velvet dresses were gorgeous, and I realized immediately upon touching them that there was something unique about the feel of them. It was a rich feel far more soft and light than any other velvet I’ve ever felt. It felt, in a word, silky. So, happy as a lark, I merrily skipped along to the worldwide air library (i.e. the Internet) to find out more about my silky soft velvet fabric find.

Turns out there is velvet, and then there’s silk velvet. Most “silk velvet” fabric is only partially silk because 100% silk velvet is more expensive and harder to find. I found a great discussion on mothering.com about conducting a “bleach test” to tell if you’ve got 100% silk velvet or not.

Silk velvet bleach test

**After 30 min in bleach** Left bowl: silk velvet, Right bowl: other fabric

The late night silk velvet bleach test

Basically, if you put a piece of the fabric in a dish of chlorine bleach and it dissolves completely, you can be sure it’s 100% silk. So, at approximately 12:15 AM last night my poor husband had to put up with me while I conducted my official, highly scientific, “silk velvet bleach test”.

I snipped off a small portion of my velvet fabric from an inconspicuous place on the dress and put it in a small dish filled with chlorine bleach. Then I snipped off some fabric from an old sock and some thin silky fabric from an old rag and put those pieces in a separate “control” dish, just to be sure that all fabric doesn’t dissolve in bleach.

A Watched Pot

Though it was hard to resist watching, I know a watched pot never boils, so I distracted myself for about a half an hour and then returned to my experiment. Sure enough, the bowl with the velvet fabric had almost completely dissolved, leaving a cloudy liquid, while the fabric pieces in the control bowl was still completely intact; not even the color had changed. And so, I am now closer to being convinced the dresses were made from 100% silk velvet.

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