Fashion, Jewelry, Textiles & Armor at the Philadelphia Museum

As some may remember, this past December I traveled from California to Philadelphia for the American Anthropology Association conference. While there, I spent an afternoon exploring the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Museum had a lot to offer those interested in historical clothing. Not only were there a number of special exhibitions to tempt viewers, but its permanent exhibitions held a number of examples as well.

100_6650wtmk

Portrait of a Lady and Her Child, c. 1625 by Jan Anthonisz. van Ravesteyn (Dutch)

When I arrived at the museum, the first special exhibition I came upon was “Wrought and Crafted: Jewelry & Metalwork 1900 to the Present” ending February 7, 2010 (Curated by Elisabeth Agro). Philadelphia’s history is strongly tied to the history of metalworking, though the majority of this exhibition offers more contemporary examples. The exhibition also has a nice online feature, whereby visitors can leave comments if they’ve seen it in person.

Torque, 1972. Gilded SIlver and Polyester. By Stanley Lichtzin.
Torque, 1972. Gilded SIlver and Polyester. By Stanley Lichtzin.
Brooch, 2007. Silver and Topaz. By Georg Dobler
Brooch, 2007. Silver and Topaz. By Georg Dobler

An Enduring Motif: The Pomegranate in Textiles” ending February 21, 2010 (Curated by Dilys Blum) was the next exhibition on my trek through this marvelous museum. This small, but well executed exhibition provides a brief and beautiful history of the cultural significance of the pomegranate in textiles (not only their image, but also the use of the plant). It includes objects from as early as as the 15th Century (a silk velvet chausable dating to 1450) through  the 20th Century (a Jack Lenor Larsen piece of hand-painted fabric from the 1970s). Examples are from various countries including, Uzbekistan, France, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and the United States. Techniques such as ikat (resist-dye), block-printing, needlepoint lace, lampas weave, and embroidery are also represented.

selection from Fragment, C. 1760. Block-prnted cotton plain weave, Bourger, France

selection from Fragment, c. 1760. Block-prnted cotton plain weave, Bourger, France

Boarder, c.1650-75. Linen; needlepoint lace, Made in Italy (Venice)

Boarder, c.1650-75. Linen; needlepoint lace, Made in Italy (Venice)

Quilt Facing, 17th-19th Century (Ottoman), Linen plain weave wilk silk embroidery in surface darning stitch, Made in Turkey.

Quilt Facing, 17th-19th Century (Ottoman), Linen plain weave wilk silk embroidery in surface darning stitch, Made in Turkey.

"Pomegranate" Fabric From the Afghan Colletion, 1974, Hand-printed silk plain weave Designed by Jack Lenor Larsen, Made by Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company

"Pomegranate" Fabric From the Afghan Colletion, 1974, Hand-printed silk plain weave Designed by Jack Lenor Larsen, Made by Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company

Inspiring Fashion: Gifts from Designers Honoring Tom Marotta” ending Summer 2010 (Curated by Kristina Haugland) is presented in the new Perelman Building. This exhibition is also small, but very focused. It presents designs from 17 designers, in honor of the late Tom Marotta, a retail executive at Saks Fifth Avenue who was much respected in the industry. The garments on display here were obtained directly from the designers for the museums permanent collection. The exhibition includes a video of interviews with each of the designers to offer insights into the pieces, and their relationships with Marotta.

Tom Marotta

Tom Marotta

An overview of the exhibition

An overview of the exhibition

Carolina Herrera gown

Carolina Herrera gown

Zac Posen, 2009 gown

Zac Posen, 2009 gown

Finally, “Horse and Man Armors” curated by Pierre Terjanian (ongoing) was a welcome new distraction from what I might readily consider fashion history. As I walked in to the Arms and Armor gallery the connection between fashion and armor suddenly dawned on me. The Metropolitan Museum of art has an in-depth article on the connections between armor as it relates to historical styles and trends, and an article by Stephen V. Grancsay from the 1930s traces these connections more specifically. The most recent writing on fashion and armor, comes from Ruel A. Macaraeg, “Dressed to Kill: Toward a Theory of Fashion in Arms and Armor” published in Fashion Theory, March 2007 (Berg), though the focus of this article is more on arms specifically.

Armor for the Field c.1520 (Germany)

Armor for the Field c.1520 (Germany)

Cuirassier Armor, 1612 (Italy or France)

Cuirassier Armor, 1612 (Italy or France)

But while standing agog in these galleries, amazed at the craftsmanship, it occurred to me that current designers often use armor and military concepts to inspire and design their creations. Thierry Mugler, Gareth Pugh, and a number of others seem fascinated with the idea of an armored female figure (see Tove’s post yesterday on Lady Gaga’s armored exoskeleton).

From the Armored body section of the Superheroes exhibition at the MET, CI

From the Armored body section of the Superheroes exhibition at the MET, CI

Most memorable in my mind, however, is the work of costume designer Eiko Ishioka (her films include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Fall, and The Cell). Her use of armor-like designs for modern and futuristic fantasy films can’t help but influence fashion designers in their work.

Eiko on Stage

In the spirit of inspiration to designers and historians alike, I have these additional images from the arms and armor galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to share:

Kneeling Knight in Prayer, C. 1470 Southern Germany.

Kneeling Knight in Prayer, C. 1470 Southern Germany.

Boy's Armor, 1500-1540 (Germany)

Boy's Armor, 1500-1540 (Germany)

Hauberk (shirt) of Mail c. 1600 (Persia, now Iran)

Hauberk (shirt) of Mail c. 1600 (Persia, now Iran)

Hauberk (shirt) of Mail for Ceremonial use c. 1550-1600 (Transylvania now Romania)

Hauberk (shirt) of Mail for Ceremonial use c. 1550-1600 (Transylvania now Romania)

100_6702wtmk

100_6745wtmk

Related Articles

2 Comments

  • Christina Johnson January 06, 2010 11.13 pm

    Oh! What a great tour!

     
  • chamilia August 06, 2010 12.13 pm

    the designs in that suit of armor are absolutly amazing, that would take so much time i bet, thats very cool. i also like the silver and topaz piece . very cool article.

     

Leave a Comment

Monthly Archive

Affiliations

Available now: Punk Style by Worn Through founder, Monica Sklar, PhD. Find it at : Amazon.com, Powell's Books, or a bookseller near you.