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Hand embroidered bride's dress from 19th century China, decorated with wisteria flowers woven in a delicate tapestry weave (TRC 2018.2840).Hand embroidered bride's dress from 19th century China, decorated with wisteria flowers woven in a delicate tapestry weave (TRC 2018.2840).Saturday 8th September. Gillian Vogelsang, director TRC, writes:

The last two weeks has seen a very diverse group of textiles and garments being donated to the TRC Leiden. These include nineteenth century Chinese garments, some of them for court officials, another for a bride, and also a number of Zoroastrian textiles and garments from Yazd in Iran and dating to the early 20th century (see below). The Zoroastrian garments are part of a donation by the Katayoun Keyani and Mehraban Bondarian family in America.

There is also a group of Peruvian hand knitted caps form the 1970’s (compare TRC 2018.2913). Some of these will appear in the TRC’s exhibition about hand knitting, planned for the autumn of 2019. And from the Indian subcontinent we received a donation of ralli quilts from Pakistan/western India, and these date from the 1960’s and 70’s (compare TRC 2018.2896, TRC 2018.2897, TRC 2018.2898 and TRC 2018.2899).

Setting up the quilt exhibitionSetting up the quilt exhibitionThe last few weeks have been dedicated to getting the TRC’s latest exhibition ready. It is called Sherry’s American Quilts and is a ‘thank you’ to Sherry Cook for donating over 25 American quilts, tops and related items. It runs from 20th August until the 18th October 2018. On Thursday afternoon we started to take down the feedsack exhibition, which was a sad moment as we all loved this colourful and intriguing exhibition. Then we started to put up the new display with initially 25 items, but it was increased to over thirty objects as we changed position, proposed order, colours, etc.

Work continued on Friday morning and then, all of a sudden, it was there! The right objects in the right place. Highlights? Well, there is a late nineteenth century velvet crazy quilt that is made of silk velvet in jewel colours. There is also a quilt with appliqué airplanes, a design that celebrates Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927 (click here). But perhaps the quilt that is causing the most comment is a blue/white pieced quilt with a Feathered Star design. It is believed that this quilt dates to the mid-nineteenth century, or possibly earlier. It is beautifully quilted and by itself worth coming to Leiden for. But there are other quilts to see, dating from the late nineteenth century to the 1950’s, as well as items that were worked and finished by Sherry and her Amish friends.

Gillian Vogelsang, Sunday 19th August 2018


Detail of a quilt with airplanes, in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's first solo-flight across the Atlantic, in May 1927, USA, late 1920s (TRC 2018.2627).Detail of a quilt with airplanes, in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's first solo-flight across the Atlantic, in May 1927, USA, late 1920s (TRC 2018.2627).The TRC recently received another box with quilts from Sherry Cook in America, in preparation of the upcoming TRC exhibition 'Sherry's American quilts', which will open at 20th August and be on display until 2nd September.

One of the quilts (TRC 2018.2627), some two by two metres, has a patchwork top made out of blocks that are decorated with an appliqué design of an airplane. The quilt probably dates to the late 1920s. The design became popular after the historic and first solo and non-stop flight by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic. The epic flight took place on 20-21 May 1927.

Mengying Zhang, familiarly known as Eden, is a TRC volunteer and student at Leiden University. She has been helping with cataloguing the TRC Collection and getting to know and understand about the running of a small collection, the setting up of exhibitions, and how to come to grips with some of the many stories behind the objects. This is the second in a series of blogs she is writing about her work and the TRC collection.

She writes: I would like to bring your attention to a particular variant of Dutch regional dress, namely women's upper body garments from Marken, until recently an island in the province of Noord-Holland, in what is now called the IJsselmeer, and what used to be called the Zuiderzee.

The local dress of this village is one of the most famous regional dress forms in the Netherlands, because it has been kept and worn for centuries. My personal interest in these garments is the unique ways in which the garments are worn and their interesting structures. There are three types of upper body garment, namely the mouwen, het buisje and the borsik.

Mid-20th century mouwen from Marken (TRC 2014.0681).Mid-20th century mouwen from Marken (TRC 2014.0681).Mouwen

The mouwen are worn in the summer time, while the buisje and borsik are winter wear and are worn over the mouwen. The buisje and borsik are not worn at the same time! Twentieth century mouwen are normally made of white cotton flannel with characteristic, red striped sleeves. Mouwen generally have a high neckline. They are fastened down the front with small hooks and eyes.

Buisje made of wool and silk, from Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2012.0285).Buisje made of wool and silk, from Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2012.0285).







A buisje is a black or dark blue garment decorated with woven bands that can vary in forms of decoration. There are seven buisjes in the TRC collection and they are all made of felted wool. Three of them have vertical, thin, white smouwen tripes woven throughout the garment. The neck opening of a buisje is normally trapezoidal, with bands sewn around it.

Borsik in red woollen flannel, Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2016.0715).Borsik in red woollen flannel, Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2016.0715).





Borsiks are made of a similar dark material as the buisjes, but some are made of red cotton flannel. The main differences between a buisje and a borsik lie in the shape of the neckline and the use of decorative bands sewn not only onto the neckline (as in the buisje), but also along the sleeve vents and the front opening. Many borsiks are also decorated with embroidered lines on their shoulders and front sleeve seams.




These three types of garments are often called either a jacket or a bodice, which are terms derived from the West European urban dress system. However, these terms are not always suitable. First of all, I would not consider any of them as a bodice, because a bodice is properly speaking the upper part of a dress, while all three types of Marken garments are independent garments that only cover the upper body.

When considering the term ‘jacket’, only a buisje and a borsik are appropriate terms, because a jacket is worn as the outermost layer. However, the way the mouwen are worn is much too dynamic to match a term from of the West-European urban dress system, since mouwen can be worn as inner wear, as well as an outer.

We may ask ourselves why we feel the need to define garments from other dress systems on the basis of terms designed for and originating from the West European urban dress system? Mentioning a familiar term that shares similarity with the unknown element could improve the understanding of the unknown, but replacing or translating one term with another can cause misunderstandings or make certain meanings disappear.

Mengying Zhang, Saturday 4th August 2018

Chinese-Indonesian skirt, pre-1930s (TRC 2012.0077).Chinese-Indonesian skirt, pre-1930s (TRC 2012.0077).TRC volunteer Mengying Zhang writes:

I was looking for traditional Chinese garments at the TRC Leiden and found a skirt that combines elegance and horse riding. How intriguing! It is the 馬(ma)面(myan)裙(tsyun), or mamianqun, when spelled out in the Latin alphabet.

Long wrapping skirts have been worn by Chinese men and women under a long tunic for more than 600 years, up to the mid-20th century. The occasions on which  they were worn and their gender code have changed through time, and their form has slowly evolved. The skirt in the TRC Collection (TRC 2012.0077) is typical of a mamianqun and is made up of a series of overlapping panels with symmetrical pleats. At the centre front, a split is created by two identical panels that are attached to the skirt’s waistband. These two panels are separate from each other, but come together when the waistband is fastened. A second split is formed by wrapping and fastening the skirt around the wearer’s waist, leaving an overlapping area at the centre back. Meanwhile, the pleats lay symmetrically to the sides of the wearer.

Imagine how the pleats would swing with every movement of the wearer and bring into mind the general position of traditional Chinese women, we suggest that these skirts have an elegant aura!

However, there is much more to these skirts. A number of contemporary Chinese and non-Chinese researchers believe – based on excavations – that the symmetrical pleats and overlapping splits have very practical functions. Both elements were originally meant to make it easier to ride a horse. It is easier to bend the knees, and the splits allow the two side panels to hang along the horse’s back instead of piling up on it. We could therefore suggest that the horse riding elements of the mamianqun reflect the presence and influence of the horse riding societies along the northern borders of China, clearly attested in Chinese and Mongolian sources.

The skirt from Indonesia in the TRC collection was worn by a woman of Chinese origin. She may never have seen a horse, let alone have ridden one, but her dress reflects the age-long interchange between the Chinese and the northern nomads from Mongolia and beyond.

There are actually three of these skirts in the TRC collection, all of which feature not only traces of intercultural exchange, but also elaborate decoration and structure. Should you come to the Netherlands, do not hesitate to take a look at these amazing skirts in our collection and allow yourselves to be inspired!

Mengying Zhang, 30th July 2018

Multitasking: Reading a book on fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli while knitting a jumper from a 1940s pattern. Photograph: Nelleke Honcoop.Multitasking: Reading a book on fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli while knitting a jumper from a 1940s pattern. Photograph: Nelleke Honcoop.Nelleke Honcoop, a former TRC volunteer, writes about her MA studies in London:

In January 2016 I became a volunteer at the Textile Research Centre. Although my undergraduate course was in Religious Studies, I have long been fascinated by dress and textiles from the early twentieth century. As a young teenager, I enjoyed spending time at my grandmother’s attic rummaging through the late 1960s, early 1970s clothing worn by my mother and aunts when they were my age. I started to collect and wear clothing from these decades, and subsequently developed this love for dress from bygone times via the 1950s, 1940s, and 1930s, back to the 1920s...

Working as a volunteer at the TRC, I started to realise it is my vocation to continue in the field of dress and textile history. Therefore, I applied to a postgraduate History of Art course at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The special option I enrolled into is called ‘Documenting Fashion: Modernity, Film and Image in Europe and America, 1920-1960’. Obviously, the focus and timeframe could not be more perfect to me!

During nine busy months in London, I followed theoretical and thematic classes in dress history and fashion studies, visited the dress collections and archives of, among others, the Museum of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and spent hours at the British Library leafing through Vogue and other (fashion) magazines. My first assessed essay focused on home dressmaking and the advertisement of ‘Simplicity’ sewing patterns in Harper’s Bazaar, while my second essay addressed the promotion of rayon as a modern fabric in the interwar period.

Finally, I wrote my dissertation on the London-based, female-run textile printing workshop called ‘Footprints’ and its retail outlets in London’s fashionable West End during the 1920s and 1930s (You can read more about my dissertation on Documenting Fashion’s dress history blog (download here). After a formative, inspiring academic year in London, I graduated with distinction. However, I am not quite done with studying and working with dress and textile objects and hope to continue developing my knowledge and skills in the future.

Nelleke Honcoop, 25th July 2018


The TRC has just acquired a piece of embroidery (TRC 2018.2582) that is attributed to a Jain community from Mandvi, in Kutch, in the modern state of Gujarat, western India. It is a small band, perhaps for a sari or from a sleeve. It depicts paired parrots flanking a tree, and stylised flowers. It is a counted thread embroidery worked in cross stitch using multi-coloured floss silk thread. The motifs are basically Hindu, but they have a European feel to them, which is not surprising considering the influence of cross stich counted thread embroidery propagated by Christian missionary schools from the nineteenth century. Please click here to see a PdF version of the chart

Chart of an embroidery from Mandvi, Gujarat, India.Chart of an embroidery from Mandvi, Gujarat, India.


A quilted shirt for a Pashai man, Afghanistan (TRC 2018.2581).A quilted shirt for a Pashai man, Afghanistan (TRC 2018.2581).Gillian Vogelsang writes about a recent trip to Cambridge:

Willem and I have just had a textile weekend in Cambridge, England. It was meant to be a mixture of holiday and work, but embroidery dominated the time. We were there to talk with Caroline Stone and John Gillow about the Encyclopedia of Embroidery series (Bloomsbury), Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent embroidery in particular. It was intensive and hundreds of photographs were made, notes taken, embroideries examined and ‘new’ stitches identified. Not so surprising, perhaps, a number of textiles were acquired so that further technical analysis could took place at the TRC in Leiden.

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TRC Gallery tentoonstelling, 6 febr.. t/m 25 juni 2020: Amerikaanse Quilts

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