Synthetic Coatings in Fashion Collections: Identification and Preservation Issues

Susana França de Sá, Kim Verkens, Adriana Rizzo, Glenn Petersen, Sarah Scaturro, Inês Correia, Madalena Carita

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Since the 1960s, garments made of plasticized poly(vinyl chloride) and polyurethane-coated fabrics have been an important and widespread element of fashionable dress, and garments of these materials are frequently found in museums’ costume and fashion collections. A significant proportion of these items are already showing signs of degradation, such as blooming, peeling, stickiness, and powdering due to the high instability of the materials. The generally short lifespan of these polymers and the broad range of aging characteristics make preserving these materials a difficult task for conservators, resulting in the possible total loss of important fashion icons from our cultural heritage. To address the lack of knowledge on conservation and preservation strategies for synthetic coatings on fashion objects, a 3-year funded research project, Glossy Surfaces, was initiated in 2020 by an international consortium of museums—Museu do Design e da Moda (MUDE, Portugal), Mode Museum (MoMu, Belgium) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET, USA)—as well as scientific partners—Department of Conservation and Restoration from NOVA School of Science and Technology (Portugal) and Centexbel (Belgium). Work carried-out during the first year of the project focuses on material identification of selected case studies by means of infrared spectroscopy and pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, as well as the condition assessment of the fashion objects. Awareness of the preservation issues posed by these materials in fashion collections (both in storage and display) is addressed, as well as some recommendations for their long-term preservation. Finally, from the main data collected, a damage atlas was produced as an easy tool for museum conservators to identify the damages most commonly found in items showing these two synthetic coatings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Museum Textiles
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 2: Scientific and Technological Research
EditorsSeiko Jose , Sabu Thomas, Pintu Pandit , Ritu Pandey
Place of PublicationNew Jersey
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-98338-5
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Fashion textiles
  • synthetic polymers
  • synthetic coatings
  • polyurethane
  • poly(vinyl chloride)
  • infrared spectroscopy
  • pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry


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