Follow the Thread

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

What We’ve Been Up To


Clockwise from top left: Mekhi Granby, Michaela Day, Gabrielle Ramos, and Emily Radomski

∼ by Jade Papa

Most of the leaves have now fallen off the trees in our beautiful backyard at the Design Center. The days are certainly shorter and the semester is drawing to a close. Thinking about this caused me to reflect on all of the amazing work my staff has accomplished in the past three and a half months. I thought I’d take a moment to give you a glimpse at what we’ve all been working on. 

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you know that Emily has been hard at work identifying, inventorying, and photographing our extensive textile tool collection. Her discoveries have been fascinating and I joke with her that she’s the Sherlock Holmes of our textile tools!

Research has led her to believe that an object she encountered with three wooden gears (T&CC 1979.29.1) is likely a silk thread winder. Among the nearly 100 objects she’s worked with so far (there are hundreds more to go), she’s encountered objects that tell the story of textile production from beginning to end.

Gabby has been given the monumental task of inventorying our trims and ribbons. These pieces graced the garments and the furniture of times gone by. We’re continually astonished by their beautiful color palettes, composition, and design. Gabby has so far inventoried and photographed a whopping 482 samples!

Next semester she’ll continue this work and strategize ways to house these pieces to make them more accessible for those who are interested in perusing them. 

Gabby also created an exhibit on view in Hayward Hall focused on a selection of the bags and purses held in our collection.

Mekhi, our resident archival box maker, has been hard at work creating storage solutions for our parasol collection. These remarkable pieces were once stacked one on top of another in boxes not suited to their unique storage needs. Using his now extensive knowledge of storage methods, Mekhi crafted boxes that safely store the fragile accessories. He was also charged with photographing these pieces on a custom-built stand. The shots are so dynamic and we can’t wait to share the entire collection with you on JStor.    

Michaela is our data entry person extraordinaire. With all the work we do inventorying pieces for you to enjoy, we have to make sure that the back end of things – the data – is accurately captured and sorted. Michaela has a knack for this type of work and now has extensive experience managing this data in our Collection Management Software, Past Perfect. Michaela has also done some inventorying herself. She’s made a thorough account of our women’s neckwear and corselets.

Ann, our resident photographer, has continued her documentation of our collection of women’s wear. Having made her way through the 1990s, 80s, 70s, and 60s garments, she’s now getting to photograph some of our beautiful pieces from the 1950s. Recently, we’ve all been swooning over the amazing work of designer Claire McCardell. Ann expertly captures these pieces in her photographs. Just when I think I’ve found my favorite, a new dress appears.

Claire McCardell dresses by Townley, from the 1950 wedding trousseau of Lucy Feiden Rabin

As for me, I’m just trying to keep up with everything!  This semester alone, I’ve hosted 140+ students from ten different classes.  Architecture, textile, fashion, and anthropology students have learned from and been inspired by the rich offerings of our collection. I’ve also been thrilled to accept into the collection pieces worn by the family who walked the halls of our building when it was still a private residence. For the first time ever, the collection holds pieces that belonged to Goldie Paley and her daughter, Blanche Paley Levy.

Whew! And that’s an abbreviated version of what we’ve been up to!         

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

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