Sunday, August 3, 2014
Let's Talk About: Textiles and Fashion History
The history of fashion and textiles are interdependent. At at any given moment in time, apparel and fabrics available are tied to many factors such as: the economy, technical developments, design trends, labor issues and government policies. Having a good understanding of the history of textiles, from weaving methods to innovations, will give the fashion designer or vintage collector a better understanding of the relationship between fabric the the apparel worn at any time in history.
It may seem logical that the silhouette of a fashion trend is created through the selection of a specific textile weight, weave or knit, and fiber, but what is less known is that the availability of the essential fabric is equally important for a fad or trend to become widespread.
The study of twentieth century fashion often gives textile history and development only a brief glance. When dating a garment, knowledge of fibers and weaves is an important tool towards 'guessing' the decade or date of that fashion. All too often vintage collectors or sellers will state a garment's date in error due to the fact that the fiber or weave was not available as a fashion fabric during that era.
This can go even further: the dates for modern synthetic fibers are listed, but those dates give the patent or invention date, not the era when the mills were actually able to re-tool and create that fiber into fabric. Often the practical use of a fiber comes long after its invention. Wars, economic hardship, import duties and embargoes, and labor issues also affect the use of a specific textile as a fashion fabric.
To help unravel the history of modern textiles, TextileWorld.com has posted a terrific resource by Yancy S. Gilkerson on the story of textile manufacturing and development from 1887 through 1960. This is written in seven extensive chapters available online through their website. Current events, labor and manufacturing issues are included along with fashion industry influences. This story connects the apparel industry to textile manufacturing in a meaningful way, and is something everyone who works or plays with fashion history, costume or fashion design and wants to know more about it should put on their reading list.
HISTORY of TEXTILES from Textile World.com: chapter links
1887 - 1900: Textile Industry Meets the Demand of a Booming US Population
1900 - 1910: Mills Prolifereate and Profits Grow Until 1908 Panic
1910 - 1920: New Technology, Unions and World War I Leave a Mark on Textiles
1920 - 1930: The Roaring Twenties, Recession, Boom and Depression
1930 - 1940: The Country and the Industry Pull-out of the Depression
1940 - 1950: War Effort Brings Maximum Production and Post War Boom
1950 - 1960: The Quiet 50's: Most Revolutionary Decade
The title illustration shows examples of 20th century dress silhouettes that were dependent upon the type of textile available and popular during its era. From top left: Black 'shimmy dress' c. late 1980's or early 1990's (textile: spandex mesh), Calico print dress, c. late 1930's (textile: rayon), Tropical print sheath dress, c. late 1950's or early 1960's (textile: sateen weave cotton), black dress, c. early 1950's (textile: rayon chiffon), lavender dress, c. early 1980's (textile: polyester jersey knit), brown dress, c. 1970 (textile: polyester double knit)
This original article on fashion is part 10 of an education series on Fashion Design called "Let's Talk About:" that is original to Pintucks.
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