TRC Blog: Textile Moments

New acquisitions for the TRC collection

Hand embroidered bride's dress from 19th century China, decorated with wisteria flowers woven in a delicate tapestry weave (TRC 2018.2840).

Hand embroidered bride's dress from 19th century China, decorated with wisteria flowers woven in a delicate tapestry weave (TRC 2018.2840).

Saturday 8th September. Gillian Vogelsang, director TRC, writes:

The last two weeks has seen a very diverse group of textiles and garments being donated to the TRC Leiden. These include nineteenth century Chinese garments, some of them for court officials, another for a bride, and also a number of Zoroastrian textiles and garments from Yazd in Iran and dating to the early 20th century (see below). The Zoroastrian garments are part of a donation by the Katayoun Keyani and Mehraban Bondarian family in America.

There is also a group of Peruvian hand knitted caps form the 1970’s (compare TRC 2018.2913). Some of these will appear in the TRC’s exhibition about hand knitting, planned for the autumn of 2019. And from the Indian subcontinent we received a donation of ralli quilts from Pakistan/western India, and these date from the 1960’s and 70’s (compare TRC 2018.2896, TRC 2018.2897, TRC 2018.2898 and TRC 2018.2899).

Read more: New acquisitions for the TRC collection


New quilt exhibition is up !

Setting up the quilt exhibition

Setting up the quilt exhibition

The last few weeks have been dedicated to getting the TRC’s latest exhibition ready. It is called Sherry’s American Quilts and is a ‘thank you’ to Sherry Cook for donating over 25 American quilts, tops and related items. It runs from 20th August until the 18th October 2018. On Thursday afternoon we started to take down the feedsack exhibition, which was a sad moment as we all loved this colourful and intriguing exhibition. Then we started to put up the new display with initially 25 items, but it was increased to over thirty objects as we changed position, proposed order, colours, etc.

Work continued on Friday morning and then, all of a sudden, it was there! The right objects in the right place. Highlights? Well, there is a late nineteenth century velvet crazy quilt that is made of silk velvet in jewel colours. There is also a quilt with appliqué airplanes, a design that celebrates Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927 (click here). But perhaps the quilt that is causing the most comment is a blue/white pieced quilt with a Feathered Star design. It is believed that this quilt dates to the mid-nineteenth century, or possibly earlier. It is beautifully quilted and by itself worth coming to Leiden for. But there are other quilts to see, dating from the late nineteenth century to the 1950’s, as well as items that were worked and finished by Sherry and her Amish friends.

Gillian Vogelsang, Sunday 19th August 2018



Charles Lindbergh

Detail of a quilt with airplanes, in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's first solo-flight across the Atlantic, in May 1927, USA, late 1920s (TRC 2018.2627).

Detail of a quilt with airplanes, in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's first solo-flight across the Atlantic, in May 1927, USA, late 1920s (TRC 2018.2627).

The TRC recently received another box with quilts from Sherry Cook in America, in preparation of the upcoming TRC exhibition 'Sherry's American quilts', which will open at 20th August and be on display until 2nd September.

One of the quilts (TRC 2018.2627), some two by two metres, has a patchwork top made out of blocks that are decorated with an appliqué design of an airplane. The quilt probably dates to the late 1920s. The design became popular after the historic and first solo and non-stop flight by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic. The epic flight took place on 20-21 May 1927.


Marken garments in the TRC collection: Ways to wear, and how to name them

Mengying Zhang, familiarly known as Eden, is a TRC volunteer and student at Leiden University. She has been helping with cataloguing the TRC Collection and getting to know and understand about the running of a small collection, the setting up of exhibitions, and how to come to grips with some of the many stories behind the objects. This is the second in a series of blogs she is writing about her work and the TRC collection.

She writes: I would like to bring your attention to a particular variant of Dutch regional dress, namely women's upper body garments from Marken, until recently an island in the province of Noord-Holland, in what is now called the IJsselmeer, and what used to be called the Zuiderzee.

The local dress of this village is one of the most famous regional dress forms in the Netherlands, because it has been kept and worn for centuries. My personal interest in these garments is the unique ways in which the garments are worn and their interesting structures. There are three types of upper body garment, namely the mouwen, het buisje and the borsik.

Mid-20th century mouwen from Marken (TRC 2014.0681).

Mid-20th century mouwen from Marken (TRC 2014.0681).


The mouwen are worn in the summer time, while the buisje and borsik are winter wear and are worn over the mouwen. The buisje and borsik are not worn at the same time! Twentieth century mouwen are normally made of white cotton flannel with characteristic, red striped sleeves. Mouwen generally have a high neckline. They are fastened down the front with small hooks and eyes.

Buisje made of wool and silk, from Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2012.0285).

Buisje made of wool and silk, from Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2012.0285).







A buisje is a black or dark blue garment decorated with woven bands that can vary in forms of decoration. There are seven buisjes in the TRC collection and they are all made of felted wool. Three of them have vertical, thin, white smouwen tripes woven throughout the garment. The neck opening of a buisje is normally trapezoidal, with bands sewn around it.

Borsik in red woollen flannel, Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2016.0715).

Borsik in red woollen flannel, Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2016.0715).





Borsiks are made of a similar dark material as the buisjes, but some are made of red cotton flannel. The main differences between a buisje and a borsik lie in the shape of the neckline and the use of decorative bands sewn not only onto the neckline (as in the buisje), but also along the sleeve vents and the front opening. Many borsiks are also decorated with embroidered lines on their shoulders and front sleeve seams.




These three types of garments are often called either a jacket or a bodice, which are terms derived from the West European urban dress system. However, these terms are not always suitable. First of all, I would not consider any of them as a bodice, because a bodice is properly speaking the upper part of a dress, while all three types of Marken garments are independent garments that only cover the upper body.

When considering the term ‘jacket’, only a buisje and a borsik are appropriate terms, because a jacket is worn as the outermost layer. However, the way the mouwen are worn is much too dynamic to match a term from of the West-European urban dress system, since mouwen can be worn as inner wear, as well as an outer.

We may ask ourselves why we feel the need to define garments from other dress systems on the basis of terms designed for and originating from the West European urban dress system? Mentioning a familiar term that shares similarity with the unknown element could improve the understanding of the unknown, but replacing or translating one term with another can cause misunderstandings or make certain meanings disappear.

Mengying Zhang, Saturday 4th August 2018


Horse riding and a Chinese silk skirt from Indonesia

Chinese-Indonesian skirt, pre-1930s (TRC 2012.0077).

Chinese-Indonesian skirt, pre-1930s (TRC 2012.0077).

TRC volunteer Mengying Zhang writes:

I was looking for traditional Chinese garments at the TRC Leiden and found a skirt that combines elegance and horse riding. How intriguing! It is the 馬(ma)面(myan)裙(tsyun), or mamianqun, when spelled out in the Latin alphabet.

Long wrapping skirts have been worn by Chinese men and women under a long tunic for more than 600 years, up to the mid-20th century. The occasions on which  they were worn and their gender code have changed through time, and their form has slowly evolved. The skirt in the TRC Collection (TRC 2012.0077) is typical of a mamianqun and is made up of a series of overlapping panels with symmetrical pleats. At the centre front, a split is created by two identical panels that are attached to the skirt’s waistband. These two panels are separate from each other, but come together when the waistband is fastened. A second split is formed by wrapping and fastening the skirt around the wearer’s waist, leaving an overlapping area at the centre back. Meanwhile, the pleats lay symmetrically to the sides of the wearer.

Imagine how the pleats would swing with every movement of the wearer and bring into mind the general position of traditional Chinese women, we suggest that these skirts have an elegant aura!

However, there is much more to these skirts. A number of contemporary Chinese and non-Chinese researchers believe – based on excavations – that the symmetrical pleats and overlapping splits have very practical functions. Both elements were originally meant to make it easier to ride a horse. It is easier to bend the knees, and the splits allow the two side panels to hang along the horse’s back instead of piling up on it. We could therefore suggest that the horse riding elements of the mamianqun reflect the presence and influence of the horse riding societies along the northern borders of China, clearly attested in Chinese and Mongolian sources.

The skirt from Indonesia in the TRC collection was worn by a woman of Chinese origin. She may never have seen a horse, let alone have ridden one, but her dress reflects the age-long interchange between the Chinese and the northern nomads from Mongolia and beyond.

There are actually three of these skirts in the TRC collection, all of which feature not only traces of intercultural exchange, but also elaborate decoration and structure. Should you come to the Netherlands, do not hesitate to take a look at these amazing skirts in our collection and allow yourselves to be inspired!

Mengying Zhang, 30th July 2018


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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, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 22 Jan. - 27 June: Velvet!

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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 Stichting Textile Research Centre.
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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