Follow the Thread

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

Sneak peak: embellished trims

04.08.2021

Embroidered butterfly motif, c. 1910

∼ by Jade Papa

This week, we bring you some stunning examples of a variety of trim samples held in the Textile & Costume Collection.  Our graduate student, Rojin Behroozmand, has been working on inventorying these pieces for us, but after I had a sneak peak of her work, these lovely pieces seemed too good not to share!   

Most of these pieces date to the late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century and in their former lives, these trims probably adorned women’s garments.  By the time these embellishments came into our collection, these intricately beaded and embroidered elements had long since been removed from their original context.   It was not uncommon that, as fashions shifted and dresses were adapted to new silhouettes and tastes, trims were salvaged with the thought that they could be re-used later on. 

Who knows how many lives these pieces lived before they ended up under our roof?  Now, students have the opportunity to study their materials, the techniques used in their manufacture, and of course, their beauty.

Probably dating to the 1910s, this embroidered motif evokes the wing of a butterfly and its color scheme corresponds to the shift in fashion towards Orientalism – the Western world’s reinterpretation of what was deemed the exotic East.  Paul Poiret lead this charge in fashion, drawing great influence from Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. 

The beaded trim below, that employs a color palette of mint-colored glass beads alongside red, pink, blue-ish purple and faceted black beads, certainly captures this vibrant shift in fashion.  Its motifs however, suggest a movement towards the more geometric and stylized shapes associated with the 1920s.

Then there are these pieces encrusted with leaf and dome shaped metal nail heads.  These embellishments are mounted onto U-shaped pieces of wool.  We’re still trying to figure out what their original use or placement on a garment may have been.  Interestingly, there are two other examples of similarly shaped pieces, but these are covered in round faux-pearl beads and goldwork embroidery.        

Many of the trim samples are composed of jet (or faux jet) beads.  Jet, used in jewelry and embellishments, became incredibly popular during the Victorian period as its hue and matte finish made it acceptable to wear when a woman was in mourning.    

This is but a small selection of a collection of trims that we’ve just started inventorying and photographing.  We can’t wait to see what other treasures we uncover as the work progresses. 

Jade Papa

Curator and Adjunct Professor, Textile & Costume Collection, The Design Center, Thomas Jefferson University

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