Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

About Us


The Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

The Textile & Costume Collection at the Design Center is a diverse and wide-ranging museum-quality collection used for teaching, inspiration, and research. Its holdings reflect a broad spectrum of techniques, designs, cultures, and historic periods.

Among the earliest objects are Coptic textiles dating from the 4th century A.D. and Pre-Columbian textiles from the 12th to 14th centuries. European chasubles, lace, and European and Persian textile fragments represent our holdings from the 15th to 17th centuries. The remainder of the collection dates primarily from the 17th century to the present, with the majority of garments, accessories, Western and non-Western textiles dating from the mid-18th century onward.

Other highlights of the collection include:

  • European silk embroideries and brocades
  • Kashmiri and Paisley shawls
  • 18th and 19th century quilts and coverlets
  • hand and machine-made lace
  • 19th and early 20th century Chinese imperial court robes and Japanese kimonos
  • American and European garments, undergarments, and children’s wear from the 18th to 21st centuries
  • designer clothing from the Victorian era to the present
  • traditional costumes from around the world
  • a wide range of accessories: stockings, shoes, hats, gloves, parasols, bags, and fans
  • textile industry swatches
  • textile tools
  • interior furnishing samples
  • over 300 hand-carved textile printing woodblocks

 

Unique to the Design Center is its collection of objects related to Philadelphia’s rich textile manufacturing history. These artifacts range from a John Hewson quilt block (c. 1790s) and an 18th century stocking knitting frame to early 20th-century upholstery samples from the Orinoka mills, 19th- and 20th-century carpet samples from Joseph Lomax and Hugh Nelson, and 19th-century furnishing trims and braids from F.W. Maurer & Sons of Germantown.

At left: pre-1752 French-built wooden stocking frame, one of a few surviving examples in the United States.

View the collection online

 


Our Staff

Jade Papa, Curator and Adjunct Professor

Jade Papa is a costume and textile historian.  She brings to her work not only extensive experience in object preservation, identification, and research, but an intense curiosity about how these objects shaped and were shaped by the people and cultures who wore the garments and created the textiles.  This interest sprung from her experiences as a theatrical costume designer and maker.  She has contributed to a number of books, journals, and magazines and is an experienced lecturer.

Jade earned a BA in Theater Design and Technology from the University of Northern Iowa and an MFA in Costume Production from the University of North Carolina. She currently teaches History of Costume & Textiles and 20th Century Fashion Designers. Contact her at:

jade.papa@jefferson.edu or thedesigncenter@jefferson.edu

Ann Wilson, Collections Assistant

Ann Wilson specializes in photographing and digitizing the objects in the Textile and Costume Collection. She also assists in the day-to-day management of the collection, including preservation, inventory, special events, and publicity (including this blog!). When she’s not at the Design Center, you’ll find her at the Paul J. Gutman Library, where she works at Circulation and Technical Services. She received her BA in English and Piano from Catholic University and is a non-matriculated student in the Textile Design Program at Jefferson, where she has studied Print Design and Weaving. Contact Ann at:

ann.wilson@jefferson.edu

Our Student Assistants

Each academic year, the Design Center typically employs a graduate research assistant and several undergraduate student assistants. They play a huge part in helping us care for and manage the collection. A typical day might involve inventorying objects, measuring, cleaning and storing objects, constructing archival mounts, and research.


Goldie Paley House

Goldie Paley House, designed by Early Bolton, Jr., built 1955

 

The setting for the Design Center is the former residence of philanthropist Goldie Paley (1882-1977). Designed by Philadelphia architect Early Bolton, Jr., the house was built in 1955 and is a wonderful example of a mid-20th-century “Hollywood ranch” style home. The house was originally built for Ike and Rita Levy, the in-laws of Goldie’s daughter Blanche Paley Levy. Goldie acquired the house in 1965, and after her death in 1977, Blanche donated the house to the Philadelphia College of Textiles (now Thomas Jefferson University). Perched at the edge of our East Falls campus, the main living area, now converted into gallery space, features floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the woods of the Wissahickon Valley.

 

Goldie Drell Paley was born in 1882 in Russia and came to the United States as a child. In 1898 she married Samuel Paley, also an immigrant (from Ukraine). A few years prior to their marriage, Samuel had founded the Congress Cigar Company, which included the La Palina brand. Samuel named the “La Palina Goldie” cigar after his wife and her image still graces its labeling (image: Cigar Aficionado). Samuel was very successful, and he and his son William S. Paley invested in a small network of radio stations in 1927. William went on to build that network, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), into one of the largest broadcasting networks in the world. He served as the chief executive of CBS until 1983, when he was 82.

 

Herself a painter, Goldie’s charitable interests focused on the arts, as well as programs for underserved children and children with developmental disabilities. The impact of the Paley family’s philanthropy is far-reaching, and has included support for the Paley Police Athletic League in Germantown, Philadelphia, the Paley Center in Jerusalem, and the Goldie Paley Gallery of Art at Moore College of Art.

Further reading: “His Father’s Son,” by Joseph Guinto, Washingtonian, February 13, 2013; “William S. Paley,” Wikipedia.

 

 


Origins: America’s First School of Textiles

The roots of our East Falls campus trace back to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, when local textile manufacturers noticed that Philadelphia’s textile industry was falling behind its rivals’ capacity, technology, and ability. In order to fill this gap and educate new generations in the textile sciences, Theodore Search founded the Philadelphia Textile School in 1884.

The school would expand and start granting baccalaureate degrees in 1942 when it became the Philadelphia Textile Institute. Internationally recognized as a premier institution for the study of textiles, it was known as the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science from 1961 until 1999, when it was granted university status and became Philadelphia University. Click here to learn more about our institutional history, and the combination of our legacy with that of Thomas Jefferson University in 2017.

At left, students in front of Hayward Hall, built 1946 (photo c. 1960)

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Images of objects in our collection are copyrighted by Thomas Jefferson University. For inquiries regarding permissions and use fees, please contact: thedesigncenter@jefferson.edu.