Exercise 1.2: Substance and Story

The three textile samples I chose to look at in Worthing Textile Archive were:

  1. A paisley coat c. 1920s (1968/573)
  2. A straw hat early-mid 1950s (1982/173)
  3. A pair of suede shoes c. 1927 (1963/2430)

The Paisley Coat

I chose this piece as it is a good example of early 20th century recycling/upcycling.

Substance

What is the textile made from?

The coat has been constructed from a paisley shawl c. 1840s. The shawl was constructed from wool but is incredibly fine and soft. There is a silk lining and what appears to be a tortoiseshell button. The archive label lists that there was an accompanying brown fur collar however this appears to have been filed separately by a previous curator. The donor is listed at Miss Starke from Portslade. The archive cares for the textile by protecting it from light (particularly UV) by storing it folded in a box. The archive also watches for any sign of moth infestation.

What methods have been used in its production?

The original shawl would have been woven on a loom. The large shawl was cut up much later (c.1920s) to create the coat. This seems most likely to have been done by an owner as there are no maker’s marks. The inside is made from a silk lining which appears to have been quilted on a machine. In the 1920’s this would possibly have been a treadle machine? Much of the rest of the coat was likely constructed on the same machine with the buttons and loops constructed and added by hand. Edwardian Paisley shawls similar to this were usually very large eg 170x180cm which allowed the tailor to pattern match the garment.

Where is the textile from?

Though the paisley designs were originally produced in the 17th century in Kashmir and India, by the 1840s there was a large manufacturing industry of Paisley in Edinburgh. If there was a maker’s label on the shawl it was removed when the coat was constructed so it is impossible to know where the textile was made. According to Victoriana Magazine, after 1820 Jacquard looms were introduced in Paisley (Scotland). A Jacquard loom allows more complicated designs to be woven as it is controlled by a series of punched cards, much like an early computer. The shawls were large to keep women warm as it was difficult to wear a coat over the large crinoline skirts that were fashionable at the time.

What problems have you encountered trying to find out this information?

The details above were gleaned from archive notes and records as there are no labels on the item as its conversion into a coat is likely to have been done by hand.

Story

What other visual indications can you glean from closely examining the textile samples? If the textile has been made into a product, what can you learn from further visual examination?

The coat is in good condition given its age however closer inspection shows that there have been a couple of repairs over the years which suggests that the coat was well worn. The textile is durable and most likely would have been warm. There is little variation in colour and there did not appear to be any piling under the arms etc so it possibly was worn with care. The paisley textile would probably have been made around the 1840s and refashioned into a coat in the 1920s, this means that the shawl would have to have been kept for nearly 100 years in good condition and suggests that there was an emotional connection or nostalgia associated with the item.

Are there any elements of the design, detail, decoration or construction of the textile sample that indicate a story behind the textile or product?

Close inspection shows that a lot of care has been taken to choose which parts of the pattern to use and to pattern match which suggests that the item was intended to show off its quality rather than make most efficient use of fabric.

Nostalgia is a recurring theme in textiles and within the broader spheres of design and art. Textiles have a special role to play, as we can attach memories, experiences and sensations, particularly to the wearing of textiles or their close proximity. Can you build up a story of the users or wearers of the textiles? Do you feel any sense of nostalgia?

This piece appears to have been much loved as the original shawl was kept safe and in good condition for almost a century before it was refashioned. The person who turned the shawl into a coat appears to have wanted to showcase the Paisley design as they have taken much care to pattern match the fabric. The coat appears well looked after in general but there are a couple of repairs at the neckline on both sides so perhaps this was a weakness in the design. These tears have been repaired and from a distance are not noticeable suggesting that the person cared for the coat.

I was drawn to this coat as it is an example of reusing fabric from a time when perhaps we do not think of people being very environmentally conscious. When there is a lot of information in the media about pollution and waste of resources I am keen to reuse and recycle material in my work whenever possible. Seeing how old garments can be refashioned and much loved by another generation is inspiring.

 

The Straw Hat

I chose this hat as it is highly textured and the weave texture produces much of the interest.

Substance

What is the textile made from?

The hat is made from braided raffia and straw with a silk chiffon georgette band. It has 8 bee beads made from straw and raffia across the band which have tiny glass beads for eyes and noses. The head elastic on the inside of the hat is likely to be a repair as it is not standard millinery elastic.

What methods have been used in its production?

The straw and raffia have been dried and then braided (and possibly blocked?) into its shape. The bee shaped beads have been woven and raffia used to suggest wings. These beads have been sewn on over the silk chiffon band that has been draped over the straw base.

Where is the textile from?

There is a label on the inside of the hat which says “Pissot and Pavy Ltd 22 Davies Street W1” The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne has a hat with the same label here¬†which is dated 1938-1945 but it appears that they were only running from the 1920s-1940s.

What problems have you encountered trying to find out this information?

There is not much information in the archive or online about the milliners Pissot and Pavy Ltd which has made it difficult to find out much more.

Story

What other visual indications can you glean from closely examining the textile samples? If the textile has been made into a product, what can you learn from further visual examination? Are there any elements of the design, detail, decoration or construction of the textile sample that indicate a story behind the textile or product?

This hat seems to have had significant wear as the elastic is unlikely to have been original as it is not typical millinery elastic. The pale colour of the elastic could suggest that the wearer had light coloured hair. It is now relatively fragile as the weave is coming apart in places. The raffia on many of the bees’ wings has broken off and one bee appears to have been stitched back on at some point as the stitching does not match. The design of this hat is wonderfully quirky and looks as though it has been much loved.

Nostalgia is a recurring theme in textiles and within the broader spheres of design and art. Textiles have a special role to play, as we can attach memories, experiences and sensations, particularly to the wearing of textiles or their close proximity. Can you build up a story of the users or wearers of the textiles? Do you feel any sense of nostalgia?

The irreverent style of this hat suggests someone that liked quirky items, possibly someone who was young. It appears to have been much loved and there is a feel of nostalgia around this hat as hat wearing fell out of fashion after the 1950s. The 1950s and the New Look style of clothing is a strong influence on the way I dress today and I wanted to look at at least one item from this era. I chose a hat as I have recently been playing with redesigning the hats I own and it gave a completely different set of textures. The hat wasn’t donated to the archive until 1982 which suggests that possibly the owner or a family member kept it for the emotional connection.

The Suede Shoes

I chose these shoes as the patterning reminded me of the Paisley coat and was made around the same time however the processes used are very different.

Substance

What is the textile made from?

The shoes are made from leather and suede. The suede has been printed with a floral design. The shoes also have a high, thin Louis heel and pointed toes.

What methods have been used in its production?

The button appears to be enamelled metal. The leather would have been tanned and coloured. The suede was printed with a floral design.

Where is the textile from?

There are no labels (including no size) on the shoes and a search online does not bring up anything similar so it is impossible to know where they were made.

What problems have you encountered trying to find out this information?

Story

What other visual indications can you glean from closely examining the textile samples? If the textile has been made into a product, what can you learn from further visual examination?

These shoes have been worn as the base of the soles and the tips of the toes are scuffed. The shoes are still durable and sturdy and you can imagine them being worn today. Given much of the construction seems similar to shoes made today, without the archive label it would be hard to tell how old the shoes are particularly with the resurgence of vintage and retro designs.

Are there any elements of the design, detail, decoration or construction of the textile sample that indicate a story behind the textile or product?

The floral pattern seems to have similar design traits to the paisley jacket though less busy. Made in the 1920s as well it is possible that these floral patterns became popular again to match the many coats that were made from Edwardian shawls at the time (Worthing Textile archive have a few different examples). The shoes are well made and designed to last. They look like they would have been expensive to purchase at the time due to the high quality materials and variety of processes involved in their construction such as the delicate printing onto the suede. These do not appear to have been customised or repaired.

Nostalgia is a recurring theme in textiles and within the broader spheres of design and art. Textiles have a special role to play, as we can attach memories, experiences and sensations, particularly to the wearing of textiles or their close proximity. Can you build up a story of the users or wearers of the textiles? Do you feel any sense of nostalgia?

These shoes could possibly have been displayed at some point as one shoe is more faded than the other (most obvious on the dark burgundy leather). The wear suggests that they were worn probably more than once but most likely not often as there is not excessive damage and little marking on the inside. It is possible to imagine them being worn dancing perhaps with a flapper dress and the scuffing on the toes could indicate dancing wear. This dance association is possibly what drew me to these shoes as I used to ballroom dance and they give me the nostalgia of the fun of dancing. I am also fond of unusual shoes and have my own collection of heels.

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