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Fowler Museum, Los AngelesFowler Museum, Los AngelesFor the last week or so I have been in sunny Los Angeles, soaking up ..... textiles. I was asked by the Fowler Museum, UCLA, to comment on a collection of Syrian garments they are in the process of being given by a private collector. The garments are a spectacular group and all being well will feature in an exhibition at the Museum in about 18 months from now.

I left Leiden on the Thursday in order to get over jet lag in time for work on the following Monday and to see some friends. Friday saw a visit to the Getty Museum, and the chance to see four hundred years of European paintings. Including some, but not as many as I had hoped for, with embroidered garments. It was worth it though, just to experience the Getty and its architecture.

On Saturday afternoon, I gave a lecture about embroidery in the Arab world to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) based in Los Angeles. Despite a change of venue and time there was a full house and extra chairs had to be sought. The lecture was called "1001 Embroidered Tales" and looked at the social and economic stories behind individual pieces and groups of embroideries in the Middle East. At the end of the meeting various members of the public displayed and talked about items they had brought with them. It was great fun. I also had the chance to talk about the work of the TRC and several people offered their help in obtaining pieces and thinking who might be willing to financially help the TRC. A special guest was Professor Olaf Kaper from Leiden, board member of the TRC, and presently in Los Angeles upon the invitation of the Getty.

We later also briefly discussed the possibility of setting up a non-profit society called "American Friends of the TRC." More about this in due course. One lady in particular, Marge Gajicki (The Folk Motif) went out of her way (literally as she lived in Long Beach about 50 km away) to get items of Hispanic and Western clothing, including a bolo tie that was given by her brother-in-law and several shirts of different styles, including Western, Hispanic and Hawaiian forms. Many thanks Marge! It means that I can face Shelley and Maria (two American volunteers at the TRC) with a calm heart when I get back as they want to build up the American dress collection at the TRC and I was given a shopping list, always an interesting moment.

Monday saw work start on the collection at the Fowler and the next few days were spent in photographing, cataloguing and A woman's outdoor coat from Uzbekistan, donated to the TRC by David and Elizabeth Reisbord.A woman's outdoor coat from Uzbekistan, donated to the TRC by David and Elizabeth Reisbord.discussing the collection, as well as talking with the exhibition and the publication committees. On Wednesday evening I gave a talk to the Fowler Textile Council at the Museum, with the chief curator of the Museum, Matthew Robb as my 'assistant'. One of the guests was Willeke Wendrich, now Professor of Egyptology in Los Angeles, who was one of the first Board members of the TRC in Leiden. She and her husband have been friends of long standing ! My talk was about the garments I was working on and the audience was given a sneak preview of an exhibition that does not (yet) exist. All I can say is that if and when the paper work is in order it will be a colourful and surprising display of Syrian garments, most of which date to the early 20th century.

While at the Fowler Museum it was mentioned that they had a series of books about textiles and clothing (well worth looking into). So on behalf of the TRC Library I went into begging mode and Marla Berns, the director of the Museum, very kindly agreed that the TRC could have any books on textiles and dress in their various series. This amount to 22 titles! Not only that, but the Museum paid for their postage to Leiden as they were far too heavy for me to take back in my (small) suitcase. This is a very generous gift and one which is greatly appreciated. The books will appear in the TRC Books Showcased over the next few months, we may even have a special issue dedicated to Fowler books.

The next few days prior to leaving were spent with friends, David and Elizabeth Reisbord, looking at their textile collection and dreaming of what the TRC could and should do in the future. They very kindly gave the TRC a group of Guatemalan textiles and garments and Indian embroideries. The latter will be used in the TRC's forthcoming encyclopaedia about embroideries from Iran, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In addition, the TRC was given several textiles and a woman's coat from Uzbekistan, which can be seen in our forthcoming exhibition called "Dressing the Stans" that opens in September 2017 at the TRC Gallery.

Before signing off I would like to thank various people for making my trip to LA particularly memorable, notably David and Elizabeth Reisbord, Marla Berns (director of the Fowler Museum), Matthew Robb (senior curator of the Fowler Museum), the dedicated members of the TMA/SC and those of the Fowler Textile Council, many of whom belong to both groups. There is certainly a lot happening within the textile and dress field in the LA district and more is coming. Well worth keeping an eye on.

And the highlight of my trip to LA? Paddling in the Pacific Ocean with Elizabeth….

Gillian Vogelsang, 9th May 2017

Watteau in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem.Watteau in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem.“Watteau” is an exhibition now at the Teylers Museum in Haarlem. There is much to interest anyone with a love for fashion and textiles at this exhibit. Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) was an influencial French painter, famous for his depictions of prosperous people enjoying themselves at the theatre, dances, hunts and in nature. Watteau himself was fascinated by costumes and fashion. Clothing is prominent in the many prints and chalk sketches on display.

During his life time, French dress was changing from a heavy and ornate style, espoused by King Louis XIV, to less restrictive and simpler wear. This trend was influenced by a revival of interest in ancient Rome and Greece—and in what 18th century Europeans thought the ancients wore. Silk, velvet and brocade were popular materials in 18th century France and a lighter material, a mix of silk and cotton called bombazine, was also coming into fashion.

Watteau’s passion for dress is clear from the dozens of etchings, prints and paintings on display. He drew peasants and soldiers, but also Persians (an official Persian envoy reached Paris in 1715), merchants and aristocrats, always highlighting their clothing. Watteau also drew fashion plates himself. These were commissioned, not by fashion houses, but by publishers who wanted to profit from the public’s eagerness for fashion.

A very clear idea of contemporary French style emerges: men in flared coats and breeches, women in long gowns with wide hips made using metal paniers or hoops. Both men and women’s clothing is beautifully embroidered, details which Watteau meticulously represents in his work. The patterns reminded me of many designs in TRC’s Van Gerwen collection of 16th to 18th century European silks and velvets.

Fortunately there is also a real 18th century woman’s dress on display at the exhibit, loaned by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This is a beautiful cream-coloured silk dress, dated around 1760, worn for both day and evening wear. The dress is damask, with woven stripes and tendrils, and decorated in a multi-coloured pattern of flowers. There are deep box pleats from shoulder to floor at the back. Watteau painted this type of gown so often that this style is actually called pli Watteau.

In an age without mass communication, Watteau’s paintings and drawings helped to spread ideas of fashionable wear. Also on display are masks and costumes, futuristic and whimsical in turn, created specifically for the exhibit by fashion students of the Rietveld Academy. Watteau is still inspiring fashion today.

“Watteau” is on until 14 May at the Teylers Museum: www.teylersmuseum.nl

Shelley Anderson, 25th April 2017

British wounded soldiers sewing for Syrian/Palestinian refugees.British wounded soldiers sewing for Syrian/Palestinian refugees.We just came across a remarkable photograph housed in the Library of Congress. The photograph is particularly poignant considering the current situation in the Middle East. But it also illustrates an old relationship between sewing, embroidering, and the military.

The Red Cross caption card tells the following: "British soldiers sewing for the Syrian refugees. A favorite pastime which has excellent results is the work of the convalescent soldiers now recuperating in Egypt... The men are busily making clothes for the destitute inhabitants of Palestine." The photograph probably dates to the period 1917-1920.

Sewing and working embroidery were often used in the past to help soldiers recovering from war-time wounds and traumas. TRC Needles provides some examples. Compare for instance the Bradford Khaki Handicrafts Club, which was established in 1918 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK, to provide occupational therapy and employment for men returning from the First World War (1914-1918).

Another example is a piece of embroidery made by Major Alexis Casdagli during the Second World War (1939-1945). He was captured in 1941 and remained a POW until the end of the war. While in The Casdagli sampler, 1941.The Casdagli sampler, 1941.captivity, he worked an embroidery that contained hidden messages worked in Morse code ("God save the King", and "Fuck Hitler"). During his captivity, Casdagli also ran a needlework school for other officers in the POW camps. He later said that the Red Cross saved his life with food parcels and letters, but his embroidery saved his sanity: “If you sit down and stitch you can forget about other things, and it’s very calming.”

Finally there is private Thomas Walker, who was wounded in 1854 during the Crimean War. He was painted by Thomas Wood while sewing triangles from pieces of military uniforms. The Morning Chronicle tells us the following:

Tuesday, December 25, 1855: The Queen has forwarded to Private Thomas Walker, 95th Regiment, a present of £10. On her Majesty's last visit to Fort Pitt she was struck with a quilt brought to her notice as the work of Walker, and desired that it might be forwarded to her Majesty, which has recently been done through Colonel C. B. Phipps.


Private Walker, by Thomas William Wood, 1856.Private Walker, by Thomas William Wood, 1856.Monday, March 3, 1856
: An artist is engaged in the Military Hospital, Fort Pitt, Chatham, completing an oil painting of Thomas Walker, 95th Regiment, who has been an inmate at the hospital for fourteen months, during which period the entire top of his skull has been removed by skilfull operation at different periods by Mr. William Perry, surgical operator. The painting, which is intended for an exhibition, represents Thomas Walker in bed, busily engaged sewing together pieces of different coloured cloth, for the purpose of making the quilt which the Queen, upon seeing, was pleased to order to be sent to the palace. A part of the pattern is represented in the picture lying outside the bed. It was at the battle of Inkerman this youth received his wound, by a shell bursting directly over his head, which it fractured in the most extraordinary manner, causing insensibility for several days, until a piece of bone which pressed on his brain was removed.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 25th April 2017

 


Detail of a cowgirl shirt embroidered with horse rider. TRC 2017.0267Detail of a cowgirl shirt embroidered with horse rider. TRC 2017.0267Pepin van Rooijen of Pepin Press, Amsterdam, recently donated many boxes of textiles to the TRC. Among them are some welcome additions to our North American collection: cowgirl clothes. Sometimes called Western wear, these items include long sleeve, plaid shirts (TRC 2017.0252 and TRC 2017.0253) and shirts with distinctive piping around the yoke and snap buttons (TRC 2017.0269 and TRC 2017.0264), sometimes embroidered with horses or red roses (TRC 2017.0257, TRC 2017.0267, TRC 2017.0253). There is an iconic buckskin-like jacket with fringes and an accompanying leather skirt with fringes on the hem (TRC 2017.0274 and TRC 2017.0275).

 

Western wear evolved during the nineteenth century in the American West for work in harsh conditions. There were many influences: buffalo skin coats, moccasins (worn before the mass production of boots) and decorative fringes on leather garments came from Native Americans; broad-brimmed hats, heavy belts decorated with silver, and leather chaps originated from Spanish and Mexican riders, as did the custom of embroidering red roses on shirts. Chaps evolved from a sort of leather apron, split in half in order to wrap around the legs to protect valuable cloth trousers from being damaged by cacti or dirt.
Leather and snakeskin 'cowgirl' boots. TRC 2017.0272a-b.Leather and snakeskin 'cowgirl' boots. TRC 2017.0272a-b.

The story of Western wear is also the story of American business: the use of plaid, or tartan, supposedly arose from Scottish
traders exchanging such cloth for goods by Native Americans. The iconic ten-gallon hat was invented by a hat maker from New Jersey, who moved to the West for his health. John B. Stetson fashioned a felt hat with a wide brim to keep off the sun; he gave his hat a water proof lining so he could also use it as a water bucket. Westerners liked his invention: he started mass producing hats in 1865. Shoemaker Charles Hyer of Kansas is said to have created the cowboy boot in the mid-1870s, getting inspiration from the boots that soldiers wore during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Also in the 1870s, a German immigrant named Levi Strauss started marketing tough work trousers made of blue denim, reinforced with rivets for more strength.


Detail of a cowgirl shirt embroidered with horserider. TRC 2017.0267Detail of a cowgirl shirt embroidered with horserider. TRC 2017.0267Last but not least, many of the Western wear garments recently acquired by the TRC carry the brand name Roebuck. This brand was launched in 1949 by one of America’s biggest retailers, the Sears Company, to advertise their blue jeans. By the 1950s, films and television Westerns had made cowboy wear popular in all parts of the USA. The Sears’ jeans were advertised as “friendly fittin’ as a western saddle.” The brand continues today as Sears’s line of work clothes. You can see more images of the TRC’s collection of Western wear at the TRC’s on-line catalogue.

Shelley Anderson, 12 April 2017

 

 

 

In the March 2017 issue of TextielPlus there was a long article about the TRC, its origins, work and the people who run this amazing place (if I may say so myself….). TextielPlus also helped organise a special day (8th April) at the TRC for its subscribers. This event consisted of two groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, of textile lovers, who had the chance of a guided tour of the TRC and its latest exhibition about dress and identity in the Middle East.

Both sets of visitors were very enthusiastic and enjoyed the visit to the storages, workshop, shop, as well as the exhibition. No one within the group had ever been to the TRC before, so it was a welcome opportunity to get to know each other. People had the chance to see some embroideries from the recently acquired Pepin Collection, which have featured in an earlier TRC Blog, namely a First World War flour bag embroidery, and a Gudetenland [sic] embroidery dating to the beginning of the Second World War. Two embroideries with two very different stories behind them.

The forthcoming Banjara Embroidery Crowd Funding was also discussed (starting on the 10th April 2017) and the ‘thank you’s’ were shown, including various examples of hand embroidered panels made by a group of nomadic Banjara women in southern India. These are beautiful pieces and are definitely textile ‘wants’. I suspect several donations will be coming via this talk!

A wide range of questions were posed about the running of the TRC, donations (object wise and financial) as well as its future. A number of people also signed up to become Friends of the TRC and offered help in various manners, which is much appreciated.

It was fun having the TextielPlus visitors, a group who are very familiar with the world of textiles and use this medium for various art forms. It was clear that they also understood and appreciated the TRC and what we do. It is our intention to have more open days at the TRC in the future. The next one will be on the 28th May 2017 and is being organised with the Dutch group Merkwaardig and will be about samples and samplers.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 9th April 2017

Machine embroidered memento of the German annexation of Gudetenland. TRC 2017.0423Machine embroidered memento of the German annexation of Gudetenland. TRC 2017.0423A few months ago we were given a large collection of textiles and garments by Pepin van Rooijen of Pepin Press, Amsterdam. We are slowly going through the many boxes, photographing, cataloguing and numbering the contents. Various pieces and groups are now online, including Lebanese fashion garments, cowgirl outfits and garments (part of the USA collection), as well as many items of hand and machine lace.

The last few days have seen us looking at the embroidery boxes. One box in particular contained many examples of machine embroidery that represent various techniques and machines types. The box also included some surprises, such as a skilfully worked piece of machine embroidery depicting the mythical phoenix bird and the text "Gruss aus Sudetenland!" Sudetenland used to be part of Czechoslovakia and consisted of a German speaking enclave. In 1938 it became part of Germany following Hitler's annexation of Austria, Sudetenland and the Polish Corridor. After the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), Sudetenland was once again made part of Czechoslovakia, its name was changed and most of the German population was forced to emigrate.

The use of a German text and the image of a phoenix (a bird image relating to re-birth and resurgence) suggest that this embroidery dates to the late 1930's or early 1940's and reflects the annexation by Hitler's Germany of parts of what was then Czechoslovakia.

A second embroidery from one of the boxes is also related to war, but this time the First World War (1914-1918). From October 1914, various American and Canadian charities purchased food, including flour, for sending to Belgium. The flour mills started to send their flour in cotton bags to the Netherlands (which was neutral during the war). This vital commodity was then sent onto war stricken Belgium. Many of these bags had printed designs wishing the Belgian people peace or with patriotic symbols and messages. See also the TRC Needle entry on this subject.

Embroidered flower bag, First World War. TRC 2017.0422Embroidered flower bag, First World War. TRC 2017.0422These bags were re-used for a wide variety of functions, including garments, curtains, bedding and so forth. Many were also cut up and the printed sections were embroidered in Belgium and some of them then sent back to Canada and the USA as souvenirs, to raise money and as a way of saying 'thank you' for the flour.

Among the collection we were given by Pepin there is the front section of a flour bag that has been hand embroidered. The embroidered flour bag includes the texts "Campbell and Ottewell Peace Maker Patent Edmonton - Alta Bemis Winnipeg". There is also a large image of a flying dove (symbol of peace) carrying stalks of wheat. All of this indicates that this is a WW1 embroidered flour bag. The bag was produced by the Canadian flour milling company of Cambell and Ottewell of Edmonton, Alberta. The company was founded in 1899 under the name of the Dowling Milling Company by Ezia Dowling (died 1907). Its general manager was A. G. Campbell. In 1906 the company was sold to the partnership of Campbell and a man called Richard Phillip Ottewell (1848-1942). The mill was initially called the City Flour Mills and shortly afterwards re-named Campbell and Ottewell Co.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 5 April 2017

Publishing an on-line digital record of a collection allows the public greater access. That’s why the TRC has its entire collection of over 14,000 textiles, garments, accessories (headgear, footwear, jewellery, walking sticks, etc.), plus textile tools involved in hand spinning and weaving, on-line. While not every item has a detailed description or photograph yet, it does allow the interested public, including researchers and collectors, access to our international collection. This includes fragile items that might be damaged by light or moisture if put on public display.

Twelve Dutch museums for these same reasons joined hands in 2015 to share their collections via the on-line platform www.Modemuze.nl. A small but interesting display of real-time textiles and fashion accessories from this collaboration can be seen in Amsterdam’s Central Public Library (OBA). The handful of dresses chosen for display range from the traditional to the futuristic. The ‘traditional’ includes an evening gown of Queen Juliana (1909-2004), made in 1948 by the Swiss designer Erwin Dolder. It was worn on several occasions by the Queen, including during her first official visit to France in 1950. What intrigued me was that Princess Margaret wore the same gown in 1983, during a visit to Canada.

A more futuristic dress was made in 2015/2016 for the ‘Velero’ collection by designer Jef Montes, in cooperation with the Textielmuseum Tilburg. This was a floor-length, voluminous garment made with a mix of gold metallic thread, carbon and glass fibres. My favourite is a dress designed in 2002 by Dutch textile artist Claudy Jongstra. This is an elegant, strapless floor-length dress, made of felted wool and silk. It was commissioned by a Japanese woman for her wedding dress. It’s an off-white colour, which makes the vivid red phoenix stitched on the back even more striking. The large felted bow on the back is reminiscent of the obi on a traditional kimono. Interspersed between the dresses are displays of purses and hats—and lap tops where the visitor can access thousands of more textiles.

The exhibit is on until May 31. A series of lectures has also been organized: see www.oba.nl for more information. And don’t forget to look at some of the textiles in the TRC’s on-line collection at www.trc-leiden.nl/collection/. Every week new information is added to the database by a team of dedicated colleagues.

Shelley Anderson, 4th April 2017

His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), talking with one of the young guests.His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), talking with one of the young guests.Yesterday (1st April 2017) His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), opened the TRC’s latest exhibition, From Kaftan to Kippa: Dress and Diversity in the Middle East. This crowded, colourful and varied exhibition is one of the most complicated (and full) exhibitions ever attempted by the TRC.

And it works! The exhibition is based on the PhD thesis of Tineke Rooijakkers (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), who has been a TRC volunteer since she was a first-year archaeology student. It also forms part of a larger scale project (Fitting in / Standing out) of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The aim of the project, and the current exhibition, is to show how people use clothing to express their desire to stand out in a crowd, and in some cases the exact opposite, to blend into a crowd.

The exhibition includes historical pieces, modern Islamic dress, Coptic outfits for the laity and clergy, Druze, Palestinian, Samaritan, Jewish, Syriac Orthodox Christian, as well as Bedouin and Kurdish garments. There are over eighty outfits for men, women and children, as well as accessories and textiles.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by over sixty people, who mingled among the mannequins to create an even bigger crowd. The opening welcome came from Dr. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, who was followed by Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny, who gave details about the history of the main project and how Tineke’s work fitted into the research programme.  Tineke subsequently gave a more personal view of her work on dress and diversity in Egypt and, more specifically, among the Coptic community. Prof Romeny presented His Excellency Mor Polycarpus with the first copy of the booklet accompanying the exhibition. His Excellency spoke some warm words of appreciation and expressed the wish to work with the TRC again in the near future. He thereupon officially opened the exhibition.

The Kurdish part of the exhibition was partially organized by the 'Federatie Koerden in Nederland' and it was only fitting that following the official opening Kurdish snacks and sweets were provided for the guests. The snacks were made by a Kurdish baker here in Leiden and were greatly appreciated by all.

The exhibition is open until the end of June 2017. It is then available to other institutes or museums for loan purposes. Every Wednesday afternoon at 14.00 there will be a guided tour of the exhibition. This will cost €7.50 pp (inc. tea/coffee) and will take about one hour. It is not necessary to book in advance, but if you are coming with a group it would be appreciated if you ring to make sure there are enough spaces free on the tour.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 2nd April 2017

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Hogewoerd 164
2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
+31 (0)6 28830428  
info@trc-leiden.nl

Open on Mondays - Thursdays
from 10.00 - 16.00.

Bank account number:
NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59,
Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome!

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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Donations

The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
 
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
 
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: