The homespun look of the patchwork trend is stitched to the global tradition of quilt making. Offering warmth, protection, symbolic meaning, and personal significance, quilts have always conveyed a sense of comfort. Usually consisting of three layers, their pieced together nature was born out of resourcefulness, as the women who sewed them could use fabric scraps or old garments to create quilts. It eventually turned into an art form as quilting patterns became more complex and specific styles were established, such as the log cabin and flying geese block. Quilting soon became a staple of interior design and fashion alike. Its geometric look became a source of inspiration for designers who embraced the crafty look of quilting and experimented with their own ways of sewing seemingly disparate swaths of fabric together.
Before contemporary applications of quilting techniques applied to fashion, quilted clothing appeared as far back as ancient Egypt. A carved ivory figure of a pharaoh from the Egyptian First Dynasty dated from 3400 B.C. displays the earliest known quilted garment. However, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages in Europe that quilted clothing became a prevalent style. Unlike decorative, pieced together quilts, these garments were constructed from the same textile, but consisted of multiple layers sewn together. Knights would wear quilted garments under their armor for comfort and further protection.
By the 18th century, quilted clothing had become fashionable in Europe. As clothes were still handmade, it took a lot of skill and craftsmanship to create high-quality, quilted garments. For men, waistcoats and jackets could be quilted with decorative stitching. For women, dresses with open front panels would reveal quilted petticoats with elaborate designs beneath.
Quilted fashion also became popular in colonial America, but the techniques were first used on traditional quilts. Quilting became especially significant in the U.S. as they were created by people who had limited agency in society. Women in early America could use quilt making as an outlet to express themselves and show their intelligence through the puzzle-like process. Moreover, enslaved African American women had to be particularly resourceful as they and their families did not have the means to buy materials themselves. Instead, they would use old clothes to create their quilts. Later on, black women used quilts to secretly indicate escape routes along the Underground Railroad and the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have become renowned quiltmakers with a centuries-old tradition. Because of these women, quilt making became an engrained part of American history and the visual identity of the Americana.Marked by its nostalgic feel, folk aesthetic, and artisanal look, the Americana style has recently been revived by current designers. Many have drawn inspiration from the look of patchwork, which also attracted designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Christian Lacroix during the ’90s. While these designers did not take on the Americana, their influences expressed the folk style in reference to the 1960s and ’70s. Similar elements carried into the current resurgence of quilt-inspired fashion, which first appeared on the Fall/Winter 2018 runways of Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, and, most notably, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC.
At the latter, then-Creative Director Raf Simons used physical quilts as well as quilted clothing as the focal point of the collection, building on references to quilting that he had been making at the American fashion house since 2016. Through quilting, Simons rooted the Fall/Winter 2018 collection around American identity, sometimes underscoring this through embroidery reading “Designed in America.” In addition to designing quilt-inspired pieces, Simons sourced handmade, vintage quilts from across the U.S. to use as lining for outerwear in the collection or to re-brand as Calvin Klein. Recognizing the artistic value of quilting, the designer used some of these vintage quilts as an installation at Calvin Klein’s flagship in collaboration with artist Sterling Ruby.Simons’ patchwork pieces used a mix of prints to create an abstract and haphazard effect, playing on the appearance of early quilts that used scrap fabric and the vintage quilts he sourced. The following year, other designers also found inspiration in quilting. Loewe presented an elegant scarf cut dress for Spring/Summer 2019, and Coach 1941 and Prabal Gurung featured patchwork pieces for Fall/Winter 2019. In June, Emily Adams Bode, of the menswear label Bode, brought quilting to attention when she won the CFDA Emerging Designer of the Year Award. Her label, which was founded in 2016 and has become a favorite of Leon Bridges, utilizes vintage fabric sourced from around the world, including New England quilts. Through creating menswear designs from surviving textiles originating from traditionally female-driven crafts, she gives new meaning to the Americana ethos.
As an expression of traditional crafts, patchwork and quilting add a rustic element to fashion. Designers have found new ways to incorporate the look, elevating the style to reflect the level of handiwork and technical skill that has always been involved in quilt-making.
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createdAt:Tue, 27 Aug 2019 19:19:37 +0000
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