The Textile Department conserves fine art, ethnographic, sentimental, and domestic textiles. This department aims to preserve each item to ensure its long-term stability.

The Textile Department at The Conservation Center specializes in the preservation of a wide range of fabric and fiber-based items which include tapestries, embroideries, flags, samplers, costumes, quilts, and weavings.

Most damage to textiles is age-related; over time, works may discolor, fade, darken, and deteriorate causing splits and losses in the material. The conservator stabilizes the textiles using delicate stitching and conservation mounting, where applicable. In addition to stabilizing works, the conservator cleans textiles using appropriate methods and materials for the medium. 

Following treatment, custom vitrines and displays can be designed by the Framing and Display Department to ensure attractive and proper long-term display of newly conserved textiles. Items can also be boxed for long-term storage using conservation techniques and archival materials.


Treatment Gallery


INca Feather Weaving. Feathers and Wool. Age-Related Damage. 

Christening Dress. Cotton. Age-related Damage.

Torah Cover. Embroidered Silk.  Age-Related Damage.

Sampler, April 22, 1836. Wool Thread on Linen. Age-Related Damage.

stories related to textile conservation:

nobody better lay a finger on my butterfinger dress




They say “fashion is cyclical”—trends from each decade have re-emerged one way or another on the major runways around the world. The 1960s, in particular, featured a number of diverse trends. It was a decade that broke many rules and traditions, mirroring social movements during the time. In the middle of the decade, the modish (and not terribly functional) culottes, bikinis, go-go boots, and PVC clothes were all the rage. And what about those “Paper Capers”? One such rare, never-been-out-of-the-box Butterfinger paper dress from 1966 was recently unfolded at The Conservation Center, and our textiles conservator collaborated with our custom framer to properly showcase this très chic item from the Swinging Sixties.

Unzipped: Solving an Issue with a Jean Paul Gaultier Prêt-à-Porter Piece


It is not very often that the Textiles Department at The Conservation Center resembles the racks of a high fashion atelier, so when Columbia College Chicago contacted us regarding an iconic piece of French fashion from its Fashion Study Collection, our interest was immediately piqued. Instantly recognizable because of its cone-shaped corset top, the dress, designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, arrived at our laboratory with a damaged zipper that posed a threat to the integrity of the outfit as a whole. Because this dress belongs to an academic institution and is used as part of an active study collection, even something as seemingly minute as a damaged zipper could render it useless as a teaching device. As our textiles conservator began to work, she quickly understood that, due to the very technical method in which it was hand-tailored, repairing the zipper was not going to be an easy task.

Bringing a Grand 17th Century Tapestry Into the 21st Century


When Marshall Kath, a private collector in Dallas, took note of a 2009 Sotheby’s Fine European Furniture and Antiques auction in New York City, he was looking for a piece that would spark conversation. Mr. Kath eventually purchased an attention commanding, 10 ft by 9.5 ft historic 17th-century tapestry that does just that. Titled A Brussels Old Testament Tapestry Depicting the Joseph Interpreting the Pharaoh’s Dreams, From a Series of The Story of Joseph, the tapestry was commissioned by either a royal family as a way of depicting a peaceful, serene life, or a church as a visual representation of significant elements of a particular faith; in this case, Jewish or Christian.     A Brussels Old Testament Tapestry arrived at The Conservation Center in very fragile, yet relatively good condition, considering it was produced in the 1600s.