One of the more interesting items on display are these two textiles, shown side by side to demonstrate how block-printed textiles were used to mimic luxury woven silk brocades. The block-printed cotton was created for a lower-price market that wanted the fashionable visual impact of the brocade without the costly price. To the upper left is a sample of a woven silk brocade. To the right is a block-printed cotton that attempted to copy a similar look, and in the lower left is a detail of the same block-printed cotton. (As always, click on the images to enlarge them.)
Here's the information from the exhibition's placards:
"Designs for printed textiles came from a variety of sources. Sometimes the inspiration was the more expensive and less washable textiles such as patterned silks [left]. "The pattern for this block print [right] was taken from fashionable and expensive woven silks intended for women's gowns. Compare this piece with the silk panel. The horizontal lines and other textural effects in the background imitate woven ribbed grounds frequently used on brocaded silks. "The design defect caused by mismatching of the blocks and the somewhat coarse ground suggest that this textile was an inexpensive product aimed at audience that desired fashionable patterns without the cost.
"The blue was brushed on quickly after printing the other colors, a technique known as 'pencil blue.' The rapidity with which the work was done is evidenced by the imprecise application and stray drips from the blue brush."
This kind of imitation continues today. Though the reproduction methods and technologies have changed, the fashion world is filled with examples of printed brocades, faux fur, vinyl handbags embossed to resemble alligator, and "leatherette" jackets.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.