On Teaching Fashion: Resources for Teaching Textile Design History

Six weeks ago, I wrote about the textile design history and global textile arts focus in my basic textiles course.  Several readers expressed interest in my sources for information on the wide array of topics I cover, so today I will share a few of them.

When discussing dyes, two books I like to refer to are A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield, and Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield.

On the subject of oriental hand-knotted carpets, I like to show an episode of a 1975 BBC television series called Tribal Eye with Sir David Attenborough.  Episode five, “Woven Gardens,” focuses on the nomadic Qashqai tribe of Iran and carpet-making methods and traditions.

For many years this film was only available on 16mm film, and more than one institution I have taught at had their copy of the film copied onto vhs tape or dvd to be more compatible with typical classroom technology.  Today, the 51-minute film is available for download from several sites.  Currently, you can watch the film in its entirety at Magic of Light, Mystery of Shadows, the blog of textile artist M. Joan Lintault.

For an excellent overview of all (and I do mean all) major textile techniques in one text, I recommend 5,000 Years of Textiles (Five Thousand Years of Textiles) by Jennifer Harris.  I have the 1993 hardcover edition, which is very good, in terms of depth of subject material, and quality and quantity of illustrations.  The 2004 edition is available in paperback for around US $20.  Next time around, I would choose to require this title in addition to my basic textiles text.  It would have made my work this semester so much easier.

Are there any particular eras, regions, or techniques you would like to learn more about?  Leave a message in the comments and I will be sure to share with you more of my favorite resources.

Image Credit (top):  Qashqai woman weaving, Qashqai.net.

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  • gus June 04, 2010 07.31 am

    Are there any books/dvd that you would recommend on fashion history?
    I am looking for something more in depth than the textbooks normally required at school.
    i am interested in visual timelines of costumes from pre historic times to today of all countries. For example you might get a book that briefly talks about the kimono but it doesnt really show you how its evolved through the years and the circumstances in history that have molded its changes.
    i hope that makes sense

  • Heather June 04, 2010 11.21 am

    The big Kyoto book on fashion is a great visual reference. (though it doesn’t go back quite as far as you mention being interested in). The V & A has a new 400 years of fashion book, but that won’t come out until later this year, so I can’t say if it’s any good or not. I do hope to review it for the site though, so keep an eye out!

  • Kat June 04, 2010 12.12 pm

    Jennifer Harris’ edited Anthology called 5,000 Years of Textiles is a good starting point, and Patricia Anawalt’s The World Wide History of Dress is also good…although those deal more with textiles and world dress than they do with fashion, but they are good foundations

  • Monica Sklar June 05, 2010 08.36 am

    You can also look through previous WT posts as we have done a lot with reviewing films that have strong visuals.

  • HB June 06, 2010 11.49 pm

    On the topic of carpets, I am looking for a good history which explains the different loom types for woven carpet beyond referencing jacquard. In particular, I am working with Axminster looms for design but have seen equal availability in Wilton looms and pattern-in-back velvet looms. I have not found an exhaustive source which explains not only the loom types but the resulting differences in the carpets themselves. Of course a real bonus would be research on the digitizing of these processes.

  • Mellissa June 07, 2010 07.35 pm

    Taschen’s “The Complete Costume History” is a good visual reference. It’s difficult to recommend any one book that can cover the detailed evolution of every key garment specific to western & non-western cultures–which have a tendency to be separated anyway–but they do a good job of putting together a fairly cohesive visual reference.

    I also like Boucher’s 20,000 years of Costume, for a solid foundation of Western dress. history.


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