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On Wednesday, 20st May 2020, Willem Vogelsang wrote about an unusual type of face veil from nineteenth century Afghanistan:

Some weeks ago I wrote a short blog about a type of face veil that was worn in eastern Afghanistan by a slave woman from the Persian Gulf, around 1880. It was a battulah, the mask-type contraption that is sometimes called a Zorro mask and is still widely worn along both sides of the Gulf. I wrote about it mainly because it is so very different from the almost iconic, all-enveloping burqa type of veiling that by the late nineteenth century had become commonly worn by Afghan women and is still regarded by Muslim fundamentalists in the country as the age-old traditional, Islamically correct form of outside clothing for women.

Yet, the one-piece burqa as we know it today is probably a nineteenth century innovation introduced to the country from India, and, as it often goes, at first worn by the wives of well-to-do Afghans, and later adopted by their less fortunate sisters. During the early nineteenth century, the burqa as a one-piece garment replaced a set of garments, often also called a burqa, that consisted of a head cap, a face veil, and a body covering. This was until the early twentieth century still the normal set of clothing for a woman in Iran when going outside.

 “Cabul - Afghan and Kuzzilbash Ladies.” Coloured lithograph by Charles Haghe, after James Atkinson. Plate XIX in Hart 1843. Original size 25.5 x 38.5 cm.“Cabul - Afghan and Kuzzilbash Ladies.” Coloured lithograph by Charles Haghe, after James Atkinson. Plate XIX in Hart 1843. Original size 25.5 x 38.5 cm.

On Saturday, 16th May 2020, Beverley Bennett and Susan Cave wrote a blog about a particular American quilt in the TRC Collection (TRC 2019.2291) that testifies to a humanitarian disaster that took place almost 150 years ago.

Every now and then the TRC is fortunate enough to receive a quilt that has a provenance. Although many family quilts from the 19th century survive, the descendants have few clues unless a written account came with it. Our Rolling Star is a quilt we would describe as in ‘Fair’ condition. The back is rather ragged, the quilt has been cut down and re-bound in more recent times and it looks, well, brown, as though it has been in a river. Indeed.

A Rolling Star quilt, USA, c. 1870, a survivor of the disaster of 17 May 1874 (TRC 2019.2291).A Rolling Star quilt, USA, c. 1870, a survivor of the disaster of 17 May 1874 (TRC 2019.2291).

On Saturday, 16th May, Susan Cave writes:

The TRC is lucky enough to have a quilt (TRC 2018.2623) we know all about, that is, except for the name of the maker of the actual quilt top. With the calamitous economic downturn in the late 1920’s, quilt-making enjoyed a new revival and the TRC has a large collection from that era. We tend to think of feed-sack quilts being the prime examples, but lots of breezy pastels became very fashionable for those who could afford them. The ‘Jazz Age’ of the 1920’s prompted one Dr William Dunton, a self-described ‘physician to nervous ladies’, to advise that quilt-making was the ideal prescription for high-tension nerves. Perhaps this explains why so many quilters pieced blanket chests full of quilts their entire family could never sleep under during their lifetimes.

A 'sweet pea' quilt, USA. The top was made in the 1930's (TRC 2018.2623).A 'sweet pea' quilt, USA. The top was made in the 1930's (TRC 2018.2623).

The corona crisis and the enforced (but temporary) closing of the TRC to the public have had one advantage: time to reflect. We have been busy thinking and talking on what the TRC is doing, why and how we can improve things. We did so while, on a more practical level, getting things online, adding more and more books to the library, tidying up, writing blogs, and generally looking forward to reopening on the 2nd June (to a limited number of people at any one time).

Early 20th century sheet of mother-of-pearl buttons with metal shanks, Europe (TRC 2020.2446).Early 20th century sheet of mother-of-pearl buttons with metal shanks, Europe (TRC 2020.2446).

Talking about the blogs, you may have noticed that just about everyday there was a new blog on a different aspect of textiles and dress and in particular on the historical and social context of items from the TRC Collection. These were all passed on to our Facebook page, which by now has more than 10,000 followers. We also, as reported earlier, have put together an impressive programme of activities, starting soon after our opening in June. Click here for the programme, and make sure to register in advance. You only pay for participation on the day itself.

Portuguese postcard from the mid-20th century, showing an elderly fisherman wearing a long black cap with tassel (TRC 2020.0004).Portuguese postcard from the mid-20th century, showing an elderly fisherman wearing a long black cap with tassel (TRC 2020.0004).Amber Butchart, a British textile and dress historian, BBC presenter and TRC ambassador, wrote on the 12th May:

Souvenir postcards have taken an heightened resonance at a time when so many of us are restricted in our travel. They capture a fleeting moment, but many also represent a certain timelessness in dress, featuring local examples of ‘traditional’ or ‘national’ clothing as part of the tourist experience. A case in point is a postcard in the collection of the Textile Research Centre in Leiden (TRC 2020.0004) that features a Portuguese fisherman wearing a mariner’s pea coat and the stocking hat characteristic of the Nazaré region, which is usually paired with checkered clothes.

Romanticised images of fishermen became popular at many of Europe’s seaside resorts, helping to chart the transition of picturesque coastlines from fishing to fashionable playgrounds. From the 19th century, fishermen and fishwives were popular subjects for picture postcards for urban visitors who were keen to sentimentalise their pre-industrial way of life. This nostalgia commodified and sanitised treacherous working life, while spreading the distinctive dress of fisher families even further.


Dress designed by Karim Adduchi. Photograph by Shelley Anderson (2019).Dress designed by Karim Adduchi. Photograph by Shelley Anderson (2019).I first heard of Karim Adduchi (1988--) last year, when I saw some of his striking dresses in a fashion exhibition at the Amsterdam Museum. The dresses incorporated traditional Berber and Moroccan materials and motifs. Born in Morocco, Adduchi moved to the Netherlands to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. He graduated in 2015, when he garnered praise for his collection “She Knows Why the Caged Bird Sings” during the annual Fashion Week.

Still based in Amsterdam, Adduchi works with immigrant and refugee women, learning traditional embroidery to use in his designs. During the recent lockdown he and the World Makers Foundation started a collective embroidery project, called Project Social [Distancing] Fabric. Adduchi hand drew a design, which was sent, along with needle and floss, to participants to embroider at home and to asylum reception centres. Once finished, all the contributions will be stitched together and displayed at the Amsterdam Museum in September. The invitation to join the Project stated “Even in this period of isolation, we will have a shared memory of connection, colour and hope, a story we are all part of”.

Hand drawn design by Karim Adduchi, for the Project Social [Distancing] Fabric (2020). Photograph by Shelley Anderson.Hand drawn design by Karim Adduchi, for the Project Social [Distancing] Fabric (2020). Photograph by Shelley Anderson.

In a previous blog (Dusty the Cowboy, and other clichés), I briefly looked at a series of Sea Island Sugar sacks from the 1930’s and the cliché clothing of the dolls portrayed on the sacks. The Scots wearing a kilt, the Dutch wearing clogs, etc. In this blog I want to have a look at one particular sack with the image of a  Chinese boy.

Cut-out printed toy in the form of a Chinese toy, USA, 1935 (TRC 2019.2907).Cut-out printed toy in the form of a Chinese toy, USA, 1935 (TRC 2019.2907).

Gillian Vogelsang wrote on Monday, 4 May 2020:

During the 1930’s the American company of Sea Island Sugar (based in California) produced a series of cotton sacks to contain 10lbs of pure, granulated cane sugar. These sacks were decorated with the outlines of various animals and figures taken from historical events, stories and from around the world. Other firms followed suit, and produced comparable sacks with the depictions of toys and dolls.

These animals and figures printed onto the cotton cloth were intended to be cut out and made at home into soft toys for children, as well as being “educational cut-outs” (text on bag TRC 2019.2890). The TRC in Leiden is fortunate to have acquired a small collection of these sugar sacks with the help of the American author, Gloria Nixon, who wrote a book on the subject of these and other dolls called “Rag Darlings” (2015).

Printed doll: "Dusty, the cowboy." Sugar sack, USA, 1935 (TRC 2019.2906).Printed doll: "Dusty, the cowboy." Sugar sack, USA, 1935 (TRC 2019.2906).

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TRC Gallery tentoonstelling, 6 febr.. t/m 27 augustus 2020: Amerikaanse Quilts

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