Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Break

Spring Break

Well, I’m just back from a short spring vacation: 10 days in Malaysia and 10 days in the South Pacific.  A long way to travel for a short time.  I will share textile adventures with you as soon as I Photoshop some pictures.  This vacation I didn’t concentrate on buying vintage textiles as I have a very large collection of vintage batiks, ikats and songhets from trips to Indonesia.  Instead I hit the markets for clothing for me and for gifts.  Nothing can beat the selection (and prices) of markets.  In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the Central Market was the place to bargain and was conveniently located a 20 minute ride on the city “hop on” free bus from our hotel.  Although I had vowed to purchase only for others, I couldn’t resist purchasing a “few essentials” for myself.  Also visited were KL’s Chinatown markets and the various markets of Penang (an island off the coast which we also visited).  My only restraint was the thought of the over-weight baggage fees for the return flights.  For caftans, scarves, tee-shirts and batik fabrics the markets could not have been better.  However, for shoes, that is another matter.

If you have followed this blog you know I really, really love shoes.  The selection of gorgeous, reasonably priced, footwear is astounding in Malaysia.  So a trip to the large city malls was in order.  Store after store of shoes, sandals, flip-flops, boots of every description.   And talk about bling!!  Crystals and rhinestones are the usual embellishments in Asia, but this was simply over the top.  It was as if a thousand workers manned with those “bedazzler” tools went  berserk and decorated every surface of silk blouses, scarves, tee-shirts and, wait for it, shoes.  Displays of jeweled shoes sent light beams across the stores.  Encrusted flip flops called my name.  Unfortunately I am not expecting an invitation to a royal wedding and here in Santa Fe they might be considered over the top.  Therefore I begrudgingly settled for a pair of coral and tan leather loafers and one pair of lovely sea-foam green suede flip flops with suede flowers.

The great misfortune of this trip was missing the Malaysia International Shoe Festival.  I cannot even begin to imagine what wonders one might have encountered.  But rescheduling our home reservations seemed excessive (besides, I was outvoted).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum

In my work I have visited many, many museums.  In general, I nearly always leave with a feeling that something was lacking.  Museums should not be only repositories of objects but a source of education.  These institutions are a perfect venue to provide educational opportunities in which the public can attend lectures, examine collections and experience the actual exhibits.  Textiles are perfect subjects for such a learning experience.  Sadly, many institutions have a very poor record when it comes to their textile collections.  Today, many objects are poorly stored, the extent of the collections unknown (as many textiles remain uncatalogued) and the curatorial staff not experts in textiles.  The public deserves better, but the public is generally unaware of this situation.  So it is up to us, textile lovers, to spread the word and request more opportunities for public inspection and interaction.

There are, of course, many institutions that do a very good job of presenting their collections to the public.  One of my very favorite museums is the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, England

Over many years I have had the opportunity to visit their galleries and examine their textiles.  Their galleries are extremely user friendly with educational didactic panels.  A policy that  is becoming more routine in many museums, photography (without flash) has been permitted in the V&A (with a few exceptions) for the many years I have been visiting.  Costumes are displayed on mannequins in vignettes of daily life so that it is apparent that these are articles of daily life, or articles for formal occasions.  In the textile galleries there are hundreds and hundreds of fabrics in glassed flat panels that can be taken to study desks to be leisurely examined.  The lighting is good , the chairs comfortable and the staff well informed.  It is a pleasure to study there.

The history of the V&A began with a committee appointed by Parliament in 1835.  The Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures set about to determine the best methods to extend knowledge of arts and design. . In1851 a Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations selected their exhibits on the basis of their workmanship or art quality.  These exhibits were then  acquired with government funding and combined with collections of various schools of design to become The Museum of Manufactures under the patronage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Victoria opened the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) to the public in 1857.

The V&A is considered to be the largest museum of decorative arts and design with the largest collection of textiles in the world and the most comprehensive collection of costumes and fashion in Britain.  This massive museum has 145 galleries and a collection of over 4.5 million objects. 

The V&A has a large list of publications featuring the collection.  I have several of their textile books which feature lovely plates of the textiles, an educational introduction, glossary and additional specific information (for example, in volume Embroidery In Britain from 1200 to 1750 there is included a technical illustration of embroidery stitches).

If you are fortunate to be visiting London, you really must include a lengthy visit to the V&A.  Their website will acquaint you with their current and upcoming exhibits as well as a list of their publications.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

An Important Fashion Accessory - Shoes!


If you read my blogs you will note one of my favorite inspirations is the Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal.  In an article regarding Fashion Week, Wednesday, Feb. 12, Elizabeth Holmes wrote her headlines ‘The Season of the Shoe” and “Shoes Go From Runway Prop to Style Influencer”.

Well, I could have told you that years ago.  You see, I LOVE shoes and must admit to owning dozens of pairs.  I mean that includes winter boots, casual clogs, hiking boots, gym shoes, sandals and flip-flops in all colors and styles.  Also, I must add a few pairs of dressy shoes, and, I forgot, many pairs of slippers. To my chagrin, I have donated many pairs of “trendy” shoes when they weren’t “trendy” any longer, only to have the circle of design have them re-emerge years later. 

When I travel, I find I check out my fellow travelers’ wardrobes, especially their footwear.  There are those folks who need to wear sturdy shoes for medical reasons (their podiatrists would be proud).  But, honestly one can surely find comfortable footwear that is more attractive than those huge sneakers!  Even athletic shoes are more stylish now, in bright colors and lightweight to boot (no pun intended).  Does everyone really need to go clomping around in shoes the size of a shoe box?  And when was the last time they were really white? And talk about heavy…when you must pay for the weight of over-loaded luggage! No wonder carry-ons are the size of steamer trunks.

Traveling, aside, have you noticed what is worn around town? Please…Actually, cloddy sneakers are the best part of some outfits.  It doesn’t take a boatload of cash to purchase  attractive, fashionable clothes and accessories.  So look down!  And see if you can do a bit better for this Season of the Shoe.

I found these ads in Standard Mail Order Co. catalog, July-August, 1915.
 Very trendy for their time and note the prices!