Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Cloth of Power- The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin

I have often given a lecture entitled ”Magic Clothes of Power”.  There are many instances of textiles that are reported to have special powers.  These fabrics are not merely symbols of power, such as military uniforms or religious vestments, but have intrinsic powers, which are derived from special fibers, or are granted properties from “other-worldly” sources.  Folklore and literature are sources of many tales of “clothes of power” such as special cloaks, flying carpets and ruby red shoes.  Many people have traditions that  include reverence for textiles which, they believe, can provide protection or bring good fortune.

Last Sunday the Shroud of Turin went on exhibition in Turin, Italy, which will run until June, 24th. As early as the 6th C there have appreared certain images of Jesus said to be “not made with hands”.  The earliest legend concerns the “Image of Edessa”.  The king of Edessa (Turkey) wrote to Jesus asking him to come and cure him of leprosy.   Unable to visit, Jesus sent a miraculous self-portrait imbued with curative power.  Some equate the Shroud of Turin with the Edessa story, however the Shroud bears the entire front and back impressions of an apparently crucified man.

There has long been controversy on whether this textile is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ or a medieval fabrication.  Results of carbon-dating posited the age of this textile to be no older than the 1200’s.  Others suggest that the actual date cannot be determined due to contamination by centuries of manipulation.    The 14 ½ foot of linen fiber is owned by the pope but it is in the care of the archdiocese of Turin.   The Catholic Church does not make any claims toward its authenticity and has long acknowledged that there are disagreements and questions that have not been successfully addressed.

Despite the controversy, there have been more than a million free tickets reserved by would-be visitors, and many dates for viewing have already sold out.

There are other “Miraculous” portraits of Jesus, including the Veronica Veils.  Veronica was  a wealthy woman of Jerusalem who witnessed the journey to Golgatha that Christ made with the cross.  She wiped his face with her veil and his visage was imprinted upon it.  There were many ”originals” of the textile and it was assumed that they had been painted.  The legend asserts that the image could duplicate itself miraculously

Sunday, April 19, 2015

International Fashion

The Runway

Every year “fashion week” appears on the runways of Paris, New York and London as well as other international venues.  Designers present their collections modeled by professionals looking like bored mannequins. These collections are the artistic expressions of what is considered to be the most promising talents and also seasoned textile designers. While some of the fabric creations appear somewhat “over-the-top” they are intended to present the vision of what textile fashion could become.  Amazing manipulations of fabrics, dazzling embellishments and rainbows of color combinations can be seen on the “cat walks”.

It may be compared to the reactions from the art salons when paintings from the Impressionists, Surrealists, Minimalists and other forward thinking artists pushed the envelope.  Now we view these as masterpieces which reveal windows into the public psyche.    Innovation is sometimes disturbing as it removes us from our comfort zones.

But take heart.  Couture and ready-to-wear are two different animals, and the history of their rivalry is an interesting study in manufacture, marketing and creative ambitions.

This new addition to my reference library is not “just a history of fashion from the early days of the creation of dressmaking fashion to the development of ready-to-wear manufacturing…Its ambition is to be the story of the creation, the evolution and the implosion of the fashion-related professions.” Dider Grumbach

 History of International Fashion, Didier Grumbach, Interlink Boks, Northampton, MA, 2014

There are so many factors involved in the history of fashion and design, many of which, are not widely known nor considered.  This volume explores these factors in their historical perspective and introduces us to the many people who influenced its development.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

At Last- The New Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.

The Textile Museum

The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. has finally opened  its new facility.  In 2012 there was ground-breaking for the new facility located on the Foggy Bottom campus of George Washington University. 

Formerly located at 2320 S Street, the museum was housed in the original house of its founder, George Hewitt Myers. Hewitt-Meyers was a textile expert and collector.  While the Georgian style house was lovely, there was a serious problem with sufficient storage, conservation and research, not to mention the terrible parking situation.

The long-awaited, new museum, 53,000 sq ft, opened March 21, 2015. 

The textile collection is partnered with the collection of the University, on historic Washington.  It is located at Foggy Bottom, 21st and J street NW.  An additional building for conservation and research has been constructed on the GWU campus in Loudon County, Va.

You can get information on the new museum and its scheduled calendar of events and exhibitions at
The museum hours are:
 Mon., Wed.-Fri. 11:30am-6:30pm; Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 1pm-5pm.

  The museum is closed Tuesdays and holidays.