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TRC Blog: Textile Moments

New online textile catalogue

Publishing an on-line digital record of a collection allows the public greater access. That’s why the TRC has its entire collection of over 14,-0 textiles, garments, accessories (headgear, footwear, jewellery, walking sticks, etc.), plus textile tools involved in hand spinning and weaving, on-line. While not every item has a detailed description or photograph yet, it does allow the interested public, including researchers and collectors, access to our international collection. This includes fragile items that might be damaged by light or moisture if put on public display.

Twelve Dutch museums for these same reasons joined hands in 2015 to share their collections via the on-line platform www.Modemuze.nl. A small but interesting display of real-time textiles and fashion accessories from this collaboration can be seen in Amsterdam’s Central Public Library (OBA). The handful of dresses chosen for display range from the traditional to the futuristic. The ‘traditional’ includes an evening gown of Queen Juliana (1909-2004), made in 1948 by the Swiss designer Erwin Dolder. It was worn on several occasions by the Queen, including during her first official visit to France in 1950. What intrigued me was that Princess Margaret wore the same gown in 1983, during a visit to Canada.

A more futuristic dress was made in 2015/2016 for the ‘Velero’ collection by designer Jef Montes, in cooperation with the Textielmuseum Tilburg. This was a floor-length, voluminous garment made with a mix of gold metallic thread, carbon and glass fibres. My favourite is a dress designed in 2002 by Dutch textile artist Claudy Jongstra. This is an elegant, strapless floor-length dress, made of felted wool and silk. It was commissioned by a Japanese woman for her wedding dress. It’s an off-white colour, which makes the vivid red phoenix stitched on the back even more striking. The large felted bow on the back is reminiscent of the obi on a traditional kimono. Interspersed between the dresses are displays of purses and hats—and lap tops where the visitor can access thousands of more textiles.

The exhibit is on until May 31. A series of lectures has also been organized: see www.oba.nl for more information. And don’t forget to look at some of the textiles in the TRC’s on-line collection at www.trc-leiden.nl/collection/. Every week new information is added to the database by a team of dedicated colleagues.

Shelley Anderson, 4th April 2017

   

Opening of the Kaftan to Kippa exhibition, 1st April 2017

His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), talking with one of the young guests.

His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), talking with one of the young guests.

Yesterday (1st April 2017) His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), opened the TRC’s latest exhibition, From Kaftan to Kippa: Dress and Diversity in the Middle East. This crowded, colourful and varied exhibition is one of the most complicated (and full) exhibitions ever attempted by the TRC.

And it works! The exhibition is based on the PhD thesis of Tineke Rooijakkers (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), who has been a TRC volunteer since she was a first-year archaeology student. It also forms part of a larger scale project (Fitting in / Standing out) of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The aim of the project, and the current exhibition, is to show how people use clothing to express their desire to stand out in a crowd, and in some cases the exact opposite, to blend into a crowd.

The exhibition includes historical pieces, modern Islamic dress, Coptic outfits for the laity and clergy, Druze, Palestinian, Samaritan, Jewish, Syriac Orthodox Christian, as well as Bedouin and Kurdish garments. There are over eighty outfits for men, women and children, as well as accessories and textiles.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by over sixty people, who mingled among the mannequins to create an even bigger crowd. The opening welcome came from Dr. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, who was followed by Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny, who gave details about the history of the main project and how Tineke’s work fitted into the research programme.  Tineke subsequently gave a more personal view of her work on dress and diversity in Egypt and, more specifically, among the Coptic community. Prof Romeny presented His Excellency Mor Polycarpus with the first copy of the booklet accompanying the exhibition. His Excellency spoke some warm words of appreciation and expressed the wish to work with the TRC again in the near future. He thereupon officially opened the exhibition.

The Kurdish part of the exhibition was partially organized by the 'Federatie Koerden in Nederland' and it was only fitting that following the official opening Kurdish snacks and sweets were provided for the guests. The snacks were made by a Kurdish baker here in Leiden and were greatly appreciated by all.

The exhibition is open until the end of June 2017. It is then available to other institutes or museums for loan purposes. Every Wednesday afternoon at 14.00 there will be a guided tour of the exhibition. This will cost €7.50 pp (inc. tea/coffee) and will take about one hour. It is not necessary to book in advance, but if you are coming with a group it would be appreciated if you ring to make sure there are enough spaces free on the tour.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 2nd April 2017

   

Genghis Khan in Soest

It is not often that you see the entrance to a military museum covered with hundreds of colourful cotton Buddhist prayer flags (see a previous blog, dated 16 August 2014). But that is what first greets the visitor to the latest exhibition of the National Military Museum (in Soest, the Netherlands). The prayer flags are not the only textiles in the exhibition “Genghis Khan: World Conqueror”. There are some 800 objects on view, most of them on loan from the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot, China.

The bulk of the objects relate to Genghis Khan (1162-1227) himself or to the Mongol Empire he created during 21 years of constant war. The objects include iron arrows from the Liao Dynasty (circa 907-1125 CE); quivers of birch bark or leather from the early 13th century; an 800-year old iron helmet; and a silver saddle and stirrups used today in ceremonial sacrifices to Genghis Khan. There are also beautifully preserved garments from China’s Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368 CE), the period when Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, united and ruled over China.

The first Yuan garment is a pair of baggy silk trousers, excavated in 2010. These trousers would be worn by a wealthy Mongol man, under a long sleeved silk robe that would reach above his ankles. The Chinese had been spinning and weaving silk for over 2000 years by this time; in some parts of China bolts of silk had been used as currency. Wearing silk was a public statement of wealth and power that the Mongols eagerly adopted.

Also on display is a government official’s robe made of hemp and cotton, in what looked to me like damask. Kublai Khan had decreed that all official uniforms had to have the right side of the robe folded over the left. This was a reversal of tradition. Interestingly, this man’s robe had a left lapel. A subtle sign of resistance to Mongol authority? Or some lower level bureaucrat who could not afford a newer robe?

Another Yuan robe, also a man’s, is similar in shape but of much better quality. This robe is woven with gold thread (nasij) in a pattern of sphinxes with crowns on their heads. Nasij is a brocade. The word comes from the Persian for ‘gold thread’. This type of weaving was highly prized by the Mongols, who reportedly moved whole villages of weavers from Central and Western Asia to China, in order to teach Chinese weavers how to make this cloth of gold.

In another part of the exhibition there is another Yuan-period garment. This is a Barag Mongol tribe woman’s dress, a silk brocade robe with long sleeves and puffy shoulders. Two modern garments are also on display. One is a modern Sunit man’s robe and trousers, the other a modern Mongol wrestler’s outfit, with a leather harness, baggy trousers and high leather boots.

There are other interesting objects pertaining to dress. One is a shaman’s robe (Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911), a gown covered in long, broad, multi-coloured silk ribbons, some of which end in red tassels. The ribbons are thought to symbolize feathers, indicating that the shaman (who could be female or male) could turn into a bird and fly. Bells, arrows and animal bones are also sewn on the garment, as are differently sized bronze discs, used as mirrors. A mask is also worn with the dress during ceremonies.

One other object deserves mention. This is a gugu crown, worn by upper-class married Mongol women. This one, too, is from the Yuan period. It is a tall, cylindrical object, made from bamboo and covered in silk and jewelry. It’s bifurcated at the top. Given the bamboo frame, such high status objects are fragile and rarely found intact.

“Genghis Khan: World Conqueror” is open now until 27 August 2017.

Shelley Anderson, 26 March 2017

   

Some exciting new acquisitions for TRC collection

Leila Ingrams, 1940-2015

Leila Ingrams, 1940-2015

Among the recent acquisitions to the TRC Collection are several unusual and interesting groups of objects. These include a small number of Yemeni garments given by the family of Laila Ingrams, who died recently. She was the daughter of Harold and Doreen Ingrams, the famous British writers and explorers of the Arabian Peninsula. The garments include items for both men and women. One of the more intriguing items is a dress from the island of Socotra, which lies to the south of Yemen. The TRC already has a comparable garment, also from Socotra. We are still very puzzled about exactly how these garments were worn, so if you know and/or have photographs could you please let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ?

In complete contrast, Pepin van Roojen of Pepin Press (Amsterdam) has donated a collection of textiles and garments that include Islamic fashion, Chinese clothes, as well as, yes, cowgirl outfits and garments from the USA. The latter are especially welcome as they will help to build up our North American collection. We are going to create various digital exhibitions about these items.

As part of the Pepin donation there was also a large number of old postcards that are going to be scanned and put online for all to enjoy. These include Dutch costumes as well as many from the Middle East. In addition, there are a number of swatch books (from the USA, France and The Netherlands) as well as hundreds (literally) of textile samples dating to the 20th century, which were the property of an art expert in Paris, who worked with various Parisian fashion houses. Many of these samples are printed and represent typical and atypical textiles from the 20th century European/Western fashion market.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 19 March 2017

 

   

“1917: Romanovs and Revolution”

Impression of the Hermitage exhibition, "1917: Romanovs and Revolution"

Impression of the Hermitage exhibition, "1917: Romanovs and Revolution"

“1917: Romanovs and Revolution” is the newest exhibition at the Hermitage in Amsterdam. It’s a timely exhibition, marking the centenary of the two revolutions that rocked Russia in 1917. The first revolution began on International Women’s Day (March 8) when women textile workers marched in the streets of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) for an end to food shortages. Within days there was a general strike, and demonstrators were also demanding an end to Russia’s involvement in World War 1. It was this February Revolution which ended the 300-year-long Romanov monarchy.

A visitor learns this and much more from the excellent information texts (in Dutch and English) and the accompanying free audio guide. What is perhaps surprising is the substantial number of textiles on display. This includes a beautiful silk and wool wall hanging; and over a dozen garments worn by Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra (who was a granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria), their five royal children, and other wealthy Russians of the time. Elite fashion was strongly influenced by the Art Nouveau movement, with multiple layers of rich, often semi-transparent fabric in strong colours, decorated with lace, beads and sequins. Hem length aside, many of the evening gowns could be worn on the cat walk today. Wealthy Russians had access to leading French fashion houses, as the green crepe-de-chine and silk atlas summer dress designed by couturier Paul Poiret shows. But the Romanov’s court also wore the creations of Russian designers, such as Anna Gindus’s silk and chiffon evening dress, decorated with glass beads, lace and fur; or the silk dresses on display by Nadezhda Lamanova.

There were several textiles that stood out for me. One was a red, short sleeved evening gown made of gauze, faille and tulle, with a beautiful floral beaded trim and fringe. Many Russians decorated their clothes with traditional peasant motifs during World War I, as a sign of patriotism. The beading reflects this. There is also a white cambric dress from the same period, decorated with Valenciennes lace, elaborate cutwork and English embroidery. Most evocative of all, however, were three day dresses, mostly of pink silk and gauze, worn by three of the Romanov princesses. This was displayed alongside a boy’s velvet military jacket worn by the Tsarevich.

“1917: Romanovs and Revolution” is not a fashion exhibition. But among the glassware, Faberge jewelry, military samovars and cooking pots (also made by Faberge for the war effort, along with hand grenades and artillery shells) are many photographs and prints, which illustrate the clothing worn by both ordinary people and the elite. There is also a collection of 32 porcelain figurines, given to the Tsar as a birthday gift, which show some of Russia’s minority communities (e.g., Mongol, Ainu, Armenians, Kazachs) in traditional dress. There is much to see for anyone interested in dress.

“1917: Romanovs and Revolution” is on until 17 September 2017.

Shelley Anderson, 10 March 2017

   

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TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428   info@trc-leiden.nl

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
 
Financial donations can also be made via Paypal: