Magnets for Mounting

Magnets for Mounting, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA)

Increasingly, magnets have been utilized as a primary attachment method to support a costume on a mannequin. In order to film the interior structure of the lobed petticoat of a Charles James ball gown, a support that would be unobtrusive and nearly invisible from both inside and out was required. Glenn Petersen (Conservator) constructed a compound hoop to support the hem, which was held in place on the exterior of the petticoat with small magnets that were colored to blend with the fabric. The hoop was composed of ¼” steel corset boning, which provided the springiness needed to prevent collapse, was able to form smooth curves, and provided a flat surface on which the magnets were able to sit securely. This was paired with aluminum armature wire, which is easy to form into a static, controlled shape but added minimal weight to the hoop. The wire and boning were inserted into bone casing ribbon with flat ring-shaped 10mm neodymium magnets placed on the hoop at regular intervals (about 6” apart) and sewed down to the casing. These magnets then mated to matching disc magnets on the interior of the petticoat, effectively securing the hoop on the exterior without pinning into the fragile fabric.

In another application, magnets were used to avoid pinning a fragile 18th century stomacher into a painted silk gown. A support in the shape of the stomacher was constructed of buckram covered with muslin, with ½” steel corset bones stitched at the two sides. This support was stitched to the mannequin and the stomacher placed over it and secured at the sides with strips of flat bar neodymium magnets encased in cotton twill tape. Similar steel bones were slipped down inside the fold of the front borders of the gown bodice, which then allowed the gown to be securely attached along the edges of the stomacher to the same strip of magnets.

—Joyce Fung, Senior Research Associate; Glenn Petersen, Conservator; Cassandra Gero, Assistant Conservator; Laura Mina, Associate Conservator