WOMEN OF THE CLOTH

Byline: Daniela Gilbert

NEW YORK — It’s textiles with a feminine touch. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is celebrating women and their contribution to textile design with a new exhibit. On display until January 13, 2001, “A Woman’s Hand: Designing Textiles in America, 1945-1969,” features the work of 43 designers, all women.
Sponsored largely in part by textile firm Unika Vaev, the exhibit showcases 75 printed, woven and
knitted designs for both the apparel and home furnishing industries.
Accompanying these designs are small fabric samples, advertisements from fashion and interior design magazines and archival photographs that document the work of the designers.
Lynn Felsher, curator of textiles at the museum since 1990, said that putting the presentation together, which took two years, was a mixture of intensive research and good old-fashioned luck.
“While some women kept their full collections, many of them only had pieces here and there,” she said.
The era of concentration, she added, was “such an exciting time for textiles. The energy of the times is apparent in the designs.” A playsuit designed in 1952 by Claire McCardell, for instance, used a Nina Lewin-designed printed cotton created for Everfast Fabrics. Most notable about the piece, according to Lewin, was the puffed texture.
“It was very innovative at the time,” she offered, “because it was a new idea and no one knew what to do with it.”
Marielle Bancou’s collection of floral-prints, created in 1967 for The Villager, a manufacturer and retailer in the Sixties and early Seventies, incorporated clean, handpainted liberty-type flowers on a crisp ground of Dacron polyester.
Bancou, currently the executive director of The Color Association, believes that while innovations in technology have made creating designs somewhat easier and faster, a certain aesthetic has been lost. “Creating a print on a computer versus creating it by hand really changes the feel behind the work,” she said.
Eileen Mislove, a textile designer, instructor at FIT and the president of Inprints, a biannual trade fair for textile design studios, noted that compared to the Sixties, “trends have become much more important.” But she adds that at the same time, “there’s a lot more experimentation going on than in the past, when it was much more restricted.”
Some trends, however, are picked straight from the past, as illustrated with the recent spring collections. And textile design is no exception. “Many of these pieces translate well to today,” said Felsher. “Great design is timeless.”

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