Saturday, July 13, 2013

OMG That Stitching!

If you've done any historical clothing research, you've probably come across the omgthatdress! tumblr, and subsequently wasted several ____s (fill in appropriate time-related word) looking at all the dress p0rn (and possibly spent a great deal of time cursing the lack of references for some of the older pictures -- sure, you're telling me it's a dress from the 1830s, but I swear that sleeve looks more 1840s than anything, and you don't have any links to the original source! Curse you with curses, so foul and cursed!). Well, last week I got to check out the Resplendent Dress from Southeastern Europe: A History in Layers exhibit at the UCLA Fowler Museum, and it was like omgthateyelet! omgthatembroidery! omgthatsoutache! omgthatlace! omgthatcouching! left and right.

See that expanse of gold? It's all tiny metallic threads couched onto the surface so densely as to obscure the actual fabric surface!
Apologies for the fuzzy iPhone snaps! It was pretty dimly lit in the museum. This is a different outfit, but gives a better view of the couching. Now just picture those little loopy lines filling an entire jacket, like in the picture before this!
It's just incredible how intricate the designs are! 
Couching done with black threads instead of gold. 
How fantastic would it be to swoosh around in this full-skirted jacket!
There were some pretty fabulous examples of other handwork too. This outfit was trimmed with intricate eyelet borders.
The method used to make these textured flowers is so cool -- little strips of stiff paper are wrapped with metallic thread and sewn to the fabric, making a raised surface like embossing. 
Gorgeous lace and embroidery on a bonnet. 
Look at that cutwork!! 

It was fantastic seeing such gorgeous handiwork up close, and marveling at the tiny stitches and amount of detail that went into these festival clothes. What heirlooms they must be! I don't have the patience for this kind of thing, so I'm even more appreciative of the fact that these girls spent so much time on these garments.

I was also a fan of the simple background that the exhibit director chose. I love it when little things like that enhance a museum experience. 

And then a couple of days ago, Sandra of Brown Paper Pattern met up with me to go check out the FIDM Museum's Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Travel & Fashion exhibit. I'm always excited when I get to check out extant vintage and antique gowns, and this exhibit, though tiny, was a treat because 1) the garments weren't roped off or behind glass, so we got to examine them up close (all the while keeping in mind the Arrested Development motto "No touching!!"), and 2) Sandra was with me! I usually go to these exhibits by myself or with non-sewers, so it was a nice change to have someone to exclaim with about things like...

This 1960s coordinated traveling suit and luggage! And the very non-PC fur stole. 
We marveled at the topstitching and clever seamlines...
...the bound buttonholes made in knit fabric, and the matching custom covered buttons!
The "invisible" hem allowance was a whopping six inches! Can you imagine a modern pattern calling for that much extra fabric? 
The topstitched seam on the front of the dress continues onto the back. Lovely. 
Another gorgeous travel set. 
I know I keep saying everything is fantastic and intricate and all, but it really is! Look at that contrast piping and edge!
The suitcase has a shoe compartment and a compartment for hanging tops. It was meant to be a coordinated traveling wardrobe, with mix-and-match spotted, solid, and checked tops and skirts, plus a reversible vest.
This 1920s outfit is pretty unremarkable. It's kind of all the things I hate about the 20s, all shapeless and weird floral prints...
But! I found it extremely reassuring that whoever it was who sewed this, totally botched the bound neckline! Hah, I'm not the only person who has issues with chiffon!
They had one older garment, too! The museum labeled this as 1904, but it looks more like an earlier silhouette to me.  This is more natural form  bustle Victorian and less S-bend Edwardian-puffed-sleeves, right? 
Neat back pleat detail on the jacket. See what I mean about getting to walk all around the dresses and get up close? 
Cuff detail. Sandra and I were both of the opinion that the silk moire looked quite a bit like some awful modern polyester...funny how that was a desirable look back then! 
Nice buttonholes, darts, and bobbly buttons. 
There were a few more outfits, but most of my photos were pretty bad. Still, I had to include this one with not only the coordinated luggage, but also picnic basket and thermos!

Unfortunately, both exhibits are closing quite soon; Resplendent Dress is closing tomorrow, and Travel & Fashion is closing on July 19. I always seem to check out these costume/fashion exhibits right at the end of their run! I'll miss having the FIDM Museum so close by once we move up to NorCal, but thankfully the De Young and Legion of Honor are pretty awesome too. Still, the Oscar and Emmy award-winning costumes exhibits have been some of the highlights of my two years in TCOCC. And of course, it's sadder to leave the little sewing community down here! The ladies of Stitch in the Ditch have been wonderful and welcoming; if you're in the LA area, I highly recommend their company!


  1. We were so distracted by the pretty things we never got a pic together!! It was such fun exclaiming with you, we will miss you very much too :)

  2. I love, love, love all that handwork! That's one reason why I love visiting folk museums; they always have some awesome festival outfits. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow! Fabulous work! Thanks for showing those of us that can't make it there. I'm always blown away by the detail on the work back then. Those women did such an excellent job!

  4. How very cool that they let you walk all the way around the clothes on display AND take photos! Thanks so much for sharing! =)

    ~ Brooke

  5. Love all of the photos! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Love your blog, your phots and the opportunity to travel accross the miles, to see these amazing works of art.

  7. Awww, Cindy, we'll miss you! You will visit, right?

  8. Such intricate clothing designs, looks like a good exhibit. Although Kitty (and I) say 'Boo' to the real fur stole. :)

  9. The black thread couching! The cooridinating plaid luggage! The delightful travelling suits! What marvelous exhibits to check out :)

  10. Wow! These details are SO COOL! I can't believe it! Thanks for sharing the photos-- it's so fun to ogle at all these fabulous garments!

  11. loved your post, first part especially, cause i live in southeastern europe, and these designs are very familiar to me.. what i find most fascinating about that clothing is that in most cases it was made by very people that wore it.. my grandma used to be one of those people, every single part of her outfit (back in the 30's and 40's), or her mom's and sister's outfit were homemade, even the linen and wool were produced in their household, then spun and woven and colored in natural dyes, and knitted or embroidered.. it just blows my mind, and that's one of the reasons i want to make my own clothes, and that i try to learn from my grandma as much as possible

  12. Mm, that gold couching is amazing! And it would be so cool to recreate the collar on the second travelling suit.
    Thanks for sharing :)

  13. Embroidery on folk costumes: *drool* That yellow cutwork looks rather familiar... do you remember where it was from? (I'm in the Czech Republic, but it could also be a Slovakian style, since we used to be one country, and I'm pretty sure I saw something like that in an old book... But it could easily just be from another area that uses the same aesthetics.)
    These costumes are really expensive to ahve made these days, too. They would have been special occasion clothes, of course.

    And that contrast collar with piping. Oh, help.

  14. You made my fingers itch for some embroidery floss and a project. The seams on the 1960's suits is mind boggling to me.


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