Nothing lasts forever?
Something else that caught my eye in the V&A.
An embroidered skirt (or perhaps an underskirt or petticoat?) from Greece, made of “five loom widths of a mixed cotton and linen” and embroidered in black silk. The pleated top edge of the skirt is designed to be worn high under the arms, and is held up with straps:
What grabbed my attention, apart from the beautifully worked blackwork stitching, is the fact that the name of its wearer and maker has been stitched into the design, Maria Papadopoula. And the date- 1757. I think if I’d put as much love and time into a garment, I’d stitch my name and date into it too, in the same way that an artist might sign a painting. The signature and the date fascinate me- they tell me Maria knew she was creating a garment to be cherished, a family heirloom. If only she’d known that one day it would find its way into a museum!
Nowadays, apart from very special occasionwear like wedding dresses and christening gowns, this long-term view of our clothing is not something that we really take. Even if we’re sewing our own clothes. Yes, we want our clothes to last, but our expectation of the period they will last for is probably considerably shorter than 300 years. Nowadays, by the time you’ve worked hand embellishment on a scale like this, fashion has begun to move on- silhouettes are changing, proportions are altering. Unless, of course, the garment you embellish is absolutely timeless- a blank canvas, such as this linen skirt.
(And then there’s the old impermanency/beauty contradiction: Clothing doesn’t last for ever; it deteriorates unless conserved in strictly controlled environmental conditions that only museums can achieve. But does the fact that that such beauty is impermanent mean it is even more beautiful/valuable?)
So all this is what I’m pondering today- making garments with an eye to the longterm. Definitely not the easy option for a creator, a designer, or a store. (And part of the reason I’m so admiring of artisans and stores who do bring an heirloom perspective to the everyday- like SmockingGun over on Etsy. I am eyeing up the blouses….)
I don’t own much actual vintage/antique clothing, but, thinking about it now, the few pieces I do have I was drawn to for their detail. They’re all basically canvasses for embellishment, and mostly by home sewers. But maybe I should get them out and take some pics?