Tag Archives: Ballet Russe

Fashionable patchworks

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Dressing Gown detail H5687, The Powerhouse Museum Collection

If you thought patchworks were just for Nannas, think again! The recent Erdem collection at London Fashion Week employed the use of beautiful patchwork-like prints and was received with praise by many fashion journalists and bloggers. This collection, with its harlequin prints was inspired by works in the current V&A exhibition, ‘Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet ruses, 1909-1929’. Erdem Moralioglu is a London based fashion designer, celebrated for his contemporary and elegant take on printed designs. His floral prints have graced red carpets around the world and are a breath of fresh air against the predominate use of block colours on the catwalk.

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Dressing Gown detail H5687, The Powerhouse Museum Collection

Looking at the Museum’s collection, the prints used by Erdem instantly reminded me of this fantastic patchwork Men’s dressing gown from the 1830s-1840s. Knee length with a flaring skirt it is constructed from hundreds of pieced together triangular fragments of multicoloured, plain and brocaded silks and velvets. There are florals, checks, polka dots, stripes and plain fabrics and I think the effect, like Erdem’s recent collection, is quite striking. Each piece, simple enough on its own, gives us a little glimpse into the history of fabric design and production from this period. Looking at this piece is literally like reading a history book.

Patchworking is the process of piecing bits of fabric together to form a larger design. Originally used as a means of using scraps of fabrics by those who couldn’t afford lengths of material, hence the word ‘patch’, it became popular as a middle class women’s craft in the Nineteenth Century. This dressing gown was probably made by the daughters or wife of the wearer, being a suitable pastime for women during this period.

The Museum has a rich collection of objects that employ the technique and look of patchwork in their construction and design. It’s fascinating to see how a process once used as a necessity has merged into a craft and finally graces the catwalks of London Fashion Week.

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Rebecca Evans, Assistant Registrar