Stop, before you decide not to read this blog because it doesn’t have any antique quilt photos! Take a deep breath and consider your love of fabric. Consider that dating a fabric in a quilt in many cases occurs because of the fabric is in a “costume” in a photo with a date on it or a designer’s notes. There is much to be learned and enjoyed from a costume exhibit.
For the Fashionistas of the past, the textiles in their closets were one of their more valuable possessions. The New York City Museum at FIT, was the perfect place for the exhibition “Fabric in Fashion.” According to the FIT brochure, “the stylish eighteenth-century woman new the high cost of silk brocade imported from China, the difference between wool fabrics appropriate for menswear and women’s wear, and that most colorfast cotton calicos came from India.”
The exhibition chose to focus on the four most common fibers in Western woman’s fashion: silk, cotton, wool, and synthetics. For me, I chose to focus on the costumes from which I could learn something related to quilts. For instance, when a designer used a “trapunto” look for a garment. Or a silk knit jersey from c. 1810, sometimes we forget that silk was used in quilts!
Finally, one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit was a mid-18th century white formal dress with video projections of different fabrics. Because formal gowns were slow to change in style during the 17-19th centuries (typically measured in decades instead of the current seasons), the fabric is what made the obvious statement of the period of the gown. A perfect reminder that the fabric makes the fashion and the quilt! If in New York, the exhibition is on view through May 4th.