Fashionable Luxuries: French and Italian Textiles

August 18, 2008—February 15, 2009

Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery P6

Even 200 years ago, fashion changed quickly, often radically. To make their fabrics more alluring to a wealthy clientele, designers created innovative patterns that reflected the latest trends by incorporating sumptuous metallic threads, brilliant colors, exotic influences and elaborate weaving processes. This exhibition displays silk fragments spanning the 16th-18th centuries which once adorned the elite and their furnishings.

Often called "bizarre" silks, textiles with exotic patterns of fanciful flowers were created in France in the late -17th to the early-18th century. They were inspired by imported Asian wares, such as Chinese porcelains, Japanese lacquers and Indian painted and printed textiles. Brocaded fabrics from the mid-18th century are splendid examples of a technically complicated weaving process which includes myriad colors, each of which is introduced through new wefts, or horizontal threads. Well-suited for upholstery and clothing, velvets were made throughout Europe and could be lavishly embellished with metallic threads—a luxurious touch for the affluent and fashionable consumer.

Image: Fragment, ca. 1710-1720. French. Silk and metallic threads. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 31-126/271.A.

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