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TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Duct tape dresses

Duct tape dress. TRC collection.

Duct tape dress. TRC collection.

I’ve heard of textiles grown in test tubes from genetically engineered bacteria, and of clothing made from recycled plastic or even rare spiders’ silk. But it took my 17 year-old niece in America to teach me about a textile made from a material most commonly found in tool boxes. I’m talking duct tape. That grey-coloured industrial tape you use to wrap around a frayed electrical cord or to fix a broken lawn chair.

For several years teenagers in the States have been making party clothes out of duct tape. My niece has donated one such dress she made to the TRC, where it’s now on display. She wore the dress in May 2014 to an annual Duct Tape Costume Ball, organized by an educational programme called Destination Imagination. The event made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gathering (with 752 participants) of people wearing duct tape yet. The garment is made from a sleeveless dress found in a second hand shop and several rolls of duct tape. The top of the dress is a synthetic fabric covered in sequins, while the attached skirt is made from gold-coloured duct tape with a deliberately uneven hem. The duct tape makes the skirt somewhat stiff and heavy to wear, but the dress as a whole looks actually fashionable.

A Google search for “duct tape clothes” revealed over 650000 items, plus countless photographs and videos. The creativity shown is wonderfully surprising: from tuxedos and floor-length gowns to characters from popular movies (my personal favourite: a young woman dressed as the Death Star spaceship from the Star Wars film, accompanied by a Jedi Knight). There are tutorials in how to make duct tape dresses, and accessories such as corsages, bow ties, clutch bags and belts. Sewers are also using duct tape to make tailor-made mannequins and dress stands. The model, in bra and T-shirt, is wrapped in duct tape. When the ensemble is taken off, you have a mannequin with the right measurements to work from.

Making your own clothes from duct tape has also led to another phenomenon: the ABC party. ABC stands for “anything but clothes”. In other words, no textiles of cotton or synthetics, but more non-traditional materials. YouTube also has hundreds of videos of people making clothes out of playing cards or loofahs or, of course, duct tape. Duct tape manufacturers such as 3M and Shurtech Brands have capitalized on this trend. Not only is duct tape now manufactured in a wide range of colours and motifs; businesses are also organizing competitions for the most original or colourful duct tape garment, with cash prizes and scholarships for the winners. While I doubt duct tape will be the textile of the future, I do applaud the creativity and sense of fun people like my niece are showing in exploring new materials.

Shelley Anderson, 29 May 2016


Textile Museum Lyon, France

Portrait of Jacquard woven in silk on a Jacquard loom (1839). The portrait requires 24000 punch cards to weave.

Portrait of Jacquard woven in silk on a Jacquard loom (1839). The portrait requires 24000 punch cards to weave.

Yesterday, 21 May, a meeting of the European Alliance for Asian Studies brought me to Lyon in France and I had the chance to visit the world famous textile museum, or better the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs. Last year plans were circulating to close down the museum because no new funding could be found, but these plans seem to have been shelved.

The museum and the textiles that are exhibited are fabulous. One of the larger rooms contains a group of beautiful late 17th century tapestries, and the easy chairs that are placed opposite them invite people to sit down and look at these huge pieces at length. Lyon is, of course, famous for its silk and textile industry, and the development, in the early 19th century, of the Jacquard loom, a beautiful example of which is placed in the museum. Even after so many years it remains a marvellous piece of engineering. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the principle of the Jacquard loom, it is a mechanical instrument that is driven by cards with holes punched into them, each card determining one  row (throw) of the woven textile. Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) did not devise this loom out of nothing; he built upon earlier inventions and innovations. He became especially famous when a few years after his death a portrait of his was 'punched' and woven to order. 

The museum itself is housed in the beautiful 18th century Hôtel de Villeroy, which was the residence of the governor of Lyon in the 18th century. 

Willem Vogelsang, 22 May 2016



Mamdouh al-Damati, former antiquities minister of Egypt, speaks at the Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum, 8 May 2016.

Mamdouh al-Damati, former antiquities minister of Egypt, speaks at the Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum, 8 May 2016.

The last few days have been spent in Cairo. I was invited to attend the 2nd Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) conference about Tutankhamun and to give a lecture about the embroidered and beaded garments from the tomb of the young king. Prof. Olaf Kaper (Leiden University) and I gave lectures on different aspects of the textiles and garments associated with Tutankhamun. There were also other lectures about the textiles, notably by Issam Ezzat, Hamza Nagm and Mie Ishii, who all discussed different aspects of the conservation of the textiles. There was also a very interesting talk by Christian Eckman on the damage and repair of the golden mask. And Jan Picton (UCL London) talked about the textiles from Gurob and how some of the 'missing' garments of Tutankhamun may have looked like.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to jewellery and other items from the tomb, such as the wide variety of plants. The third day was full of fireworks as it included Nicholas Reeves and Zahi Hawas (who was in combative mood). The basic upshot was that there is no conclusive evidence that there are more rooms associated with the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Yesterday, Monday, was spent looking at some textiles and talking with colleagues at GEM, and then a visit to the Egyptian Museum to look at the Tutankhamun textiles still on display there and to talk with conservation staff about their work. Most enjoyable, and it meant I had time to look at certain textiles in detail to check facts, confirm the (minute) size of the glass beads used for various garments and to ponder how to make replica garments, and indeed that always presents the question how to pay for them (a team of specialist weavers, embroiderers, etc is already in place). There then followed a short interlude in the academic thought process via an ice cold hibiscus drink in the garden of the Marriott hotel on Zamalek (as I said life can be so hard).

Today I go back to the Egyptian Museum to check even more details about the Tut textiles and to give a talk to the conservation staff about the Tutankhamun textiles and garments in general. And then a wander around the museum to look at some more textiles and beaded garments. Later in the day I will see a friend in Cairo who has the most amazing collection of Egyptian regional dress dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 10 May 2016


Diversity and Quality of the TRC Collection

The recent donation of a large collection of European traditional dress means that the TRC Collection is growing more rapidly than expected. So for the last few months we have been looking at what we have, what we are doing and where do we want to go. The TRC Collection now includes items from about 135 countries. Since July 2011 there are officially 195 independent sovereign states in the world, with about 60 dependent areas and five disputed territories (such as Kosovo). So the TRC Collection is beginning to truly reflect the diversity of the world of textiles and traditional dress.

The further expansion of the TRC Collection is now going to be directed, even more than before, on quality and on building up the depth of the collection, in order to reflect life in its many varied aspects, including items for men, women and children (some people think our collection is just made up of women’s clothing, which is simply not the case). This would mean that more items will be available during the courses, lectures and workshops for people to see and in some cases handle, and  we would have more material available for research.

To help people understand the diversity of the TRC Collection, the database of the collection has gone online on the 1st July 2016. Not every item is described in great detail (there are over 13000 items after all), nor are there photographs of everything. But every week new details and images are added and after two years, all items will be fully described and provided with one or more photographs. Exciting days ahead as the TRC truly goes international.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 2 October 2016


Afghan 'Messi' has fled with his family to Pakistan

On 31 January, I reported on a young Afghan boy who rose to global stardom when he was photographed by his brother wearing a plastic bag as a T-shirt with the name of Messi written on it by a ballpoint. The BBC just reported that he and his family have fled to Pakistan, after threats by local criminals who demanded money from the 'famous' family. The boy, Murtaza Ahmadi, and seven of his kin now live in one room in Quetta.

Willem Vogelsang, 3 May 2016


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TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59

Gallery exhibition, 3 April - 29 June: From Kaftan to Kippa

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

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Financial gifts

The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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