Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Silk Exhibit and Silk Confession

Meridian International Center

Hand-Painted Dress

The Meridian International Center, across from Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park on 16th St. NW, is having an exhibit on silk from China through April 14.  The exhibit is free to visit.  I never even knew this place existed but it is a really lovely space--almost on a par with the Hillwood mansion (and, bonus, a 15 minute walk from my house).  Nikki found out about it and we visited after the DC meetup.

Closeup of Hand Painted Flowers

The dress above is made of hand-painted fabric.  The perfect detail is pretty breathtaking.  I can barely draw stick figures.  I like the cuffs that are part of the ensemble.  They are an interesting, avant garde touch and yet somehow don't scream "trying too hard."

Paper Cutout Closeup

The exhibit starts with folk art displays on the silk-making process.  This paper cutout--part of a set of four--kind of blew my mind.  There are also some brightly-colored folk art pieces, which are sort of in a naive style but have a sophisticated grasp of color.  I adored the blue-green piece.

Based on Ancient Embroidery

Then come the silk samples.  There are reproductions of pieces that show Chinese silk-making techniques over millenia.   Nikki and I could not decide whether this reproduction embroidery had been done by hand or machine.  It is in a split stitch, and the stitches are so perfectly precise and even it seems impossible that a human could accomplish it!


The depth on this silk tapestry is astounding.  The tiny, perfect length fibers!  The shading and coloration!

Silk Dresses

The last room displays several evening gowns of the "more is more" school of design.  There was a lot to look at on each piece.

There is also a can't-miss video playing on a loop in this room.  It's worth watching the whole thing.


Nikki and I were mesmerized by this heavily embroidered Pop-Art-Meets-Tradition gown.  The pieces of the dress had been embroidered individually and then assembled, which I thought was curious.  We decided this means it was probably machine embroidered, as a machine would need flat pieces to work with.

I was so pleased that Nikki had found out about this exhibit.  What a gem.  And I couldn't believe it was free!  The docent was incredibly kind.  She seemed very excited to have us there and made sure we knew about the upcoming Festival des Artistes, which will be held this weekend at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.   The Festival will feature artists from China, Iraq, Israel, Peru, Brazil, the Gambia, and many other countries around the world.  So if you don't have weekend plans yet...

All photos are here.


Silks 2-2013

A while back BadMomGoodMom mentioned finding some silks at her local jobber for $2.99/yd.  It was so entirely tempting that I asked her if she'd be willing to get some for me.  She was kind enough to oblige and found these three beautiful pieces for me.  The two on the left are ombres.  The print on the right is so Downton Abbey, right?  Though I don't normally go for pale colors, I just love it.  I think Burda 03-2013-113 may be just the ticket.  It's evocative of a vintage look without being costumey.  I am normally highly skeptical of a dropped waist, but this one doesn't look like it would be too tummy-terrible.

Fabric Mart 3-2013

Fabric Mart, you are my downfall!  For the turquoise cotton damask, I think I will finally tackle Vogue 8576 (now out of print).  I really like the style but it has a thousand pattern pieces so I've been putting it off.

The wool might become formal shorts.  Is this crazy?  I mean, the idea of me in shorts is crazy anyway, but wool seems to defeat the purpose of shorts.  But I like the look of this wool, with a slight hint of sparkle, for dressy shorts.

You've already seen the silver damask.  You can see that I again used the "wrong" side of the fabric, as with my Oscar de la Renta knockoff (which was also a Maggy London fabric).

The last piece is what prompted the order.  I need to make a rule against ordering anything online after 10 pm.  For some reason, this gold pleated knit grabbed me and wouldn't let go.  I don't know.  The boyfriend will LOVE it in a body-conscious summer date night dress, and the pleats will feel a bit camouflaging of the belly.  Whether I actually have the guts to wear a body-conscious dress made out of this stuff is a whole other question.  Though it is a knit, it has very little stretch because of the gold metallic coating (which I will wear on the inside, using the lighter non-metallic gold as the right side).  The pleats came out of a prewash completely intact, which was a pleasant surprise.


Peggy said...

Great photos of the exhibit. Wish I was close enough to go see it. I read your blog via Feedly so rarely comment. Thought I should actually show up today and let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. It's nicely done, I usually learn something and you take great pics! Thanks!

Seraphinalina said...

The exhibit looks amazing. I can see it taking time to really appreciate properly.

I have joked about putting a limit on my husband's credit card after 2am. We refer to it as "drunk dialing Amazon" when packages arrive on a Monday or Tuesday and he says "I remember looking at that...". Sigh. Believe me, there are worse things to order after 10pm than fabric. Say... the 80's animated Dungeons & Dragons series.

McVal said...

The exhibit sounds like so much fun!!
Love the details.

Trumbelina said...

Cool exhibit. We don't have much in the way of interesting sewing/fabric related exhibits so I always enjoy your posts about such things.
I can't wait to see the Burda. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be fabulous on you (I love me some torso-rouching). The Vogue looks like torture to me. Don't get me wrong, it's going to look great in the torquoise, I just can't imagine fitting it. I'm sure you will do an amazing job.

Marita said...

What a great exhibition, such beautiful costumes:)

I think I'd like to do my hand embroidery on a flat surface too since one might need a fair bit of manouvering done before all the details are sewn.

I love those silks, have you already planned something for them?

Little Hunting Creek said...

Great exhibit-also great silk!

Venus de Hilo said...

Lovely exhibit, thanks for sharing your photos and commentary!

Have fun turning that gold pleated terror into something wearable.

Anonymous said...

I love the museum exhibits--so pretty! Lucky you for being so close to that sort of stuff!

Also, I love your ombres from badmomgoodmom!! And I think I just need for you to do some fabric purchasing for me--you always find the most gorgeous stuff! How do you do it?!

meli88a said...

I love the ombres you got and am looking forward to seeing what you do with that pleated stable knit (I just bought some and have no idea of what to do with it... I just know that I will immediately covet whatever you make with yours!)

kbenco said...

I enjoyed your exhibit photos and review, it does look lovely.
Your silk on the other hand had my fingers itching. I will not buy silk, I will not buy silk....
We have a no-internet-order-after-a-glass-of wine rule at our house. It does not work very well ;)
Perhaps a dinner date at home would work for the body conscious metallic pleated dress?It sounds like a fabulously glamourous idea that should not be wasted.

Karin said...

At those prices, you'd be mad not too! The price of fibres is going up all the time. A healthy stash is just going long in the textile market! he he he:-)

decapod said...

Some years ago I saw a charmeuse ombre blazer-type jacket at Neiman Marcus online, but with the ombre running vertical instead of horizontal so that the color blended from dark on the right side to light on the left. It was actually pretty neat, and different from the usual light-on-top to dark-on-bottom ombre usage...

Sufiya said...

It is absolutely possible that the Chinese embroidery was done by hand; they simply can't be equaled! i have seen Chinese "double-sided embroideries", hand-done, with, say, a white peacock embroidered on one side and a full-colour one on the other, done on sheer fabric. BREATHTAKING!

And the dress you mentioned that was embroidered flat, then assembled: Lesage (the famous French couture embroidery house)does its incredible hand embroidery flat (tambour embroidery has to be stretched on a frame)on the pattern pieces, and then the dress is assembled afterwards.